Supporting the integration of immigrant women

Like all women, immigrant women in Québec and Québec women living abroad have to reconcile various aspects of their professional and personal lives. However, they must also meet specific challenges associated with their status as migrant women. "In fact, in some cases, these women may spend up to six years experiencing situations of transition and adaptation that can give rise to profound transformations in the development of their identity, their world vision and their present and future commitment to their family and society", observes Lucille Guilbert of Université Laval, head of the Équipe de recherche en partenariat sur la diversité culturelle et l'immigration dans la région de Québec (ÉDIQ) [Québec Region Cultural Diversity and Immigration Research Team]. In addition to having to make choices regarding their career, their education and motherhood, migrant women have to deal with questions concerning their culture, their identity and the desire to return to their country of origin.

For her research project, Lucille Guilbert first identified the strategies that these young women must develop to reconcile mobility, studies, work and motherhood in their host country, according to their personal resources and the resources of their social environment (networks, organizations, etc.). This allowed her to set up a space for reflection (including a series of four workshops) and cooperation that allows these women to come together and discuss common problems, with an emphasis on the similarities that exist between the situation of immigrant women and that of Québec women. These regular exchanges have created bonds and a sense of solidarity between the women. One of the innovative aspects of this research is the involvement of eight migrant women as co-authors and participants of the project. These women took part in the different workshops and contributed, through stories – written and oral –, discussions and drawings, to a collective production that took the form of a presentation at the Québec Metropolis Centre symposium.

This type of space for reflection could be set up by local communities to facilitate the integration of immigrants, in particular young female immigrants.

This type of space for reflection could be set up by local communities to facilitate the integration of immigrants, in particular young female immigrants. The project has already received a positive reception at the various symposia and conferences at which it has been presented, in Québec and Ontario. A video capsule of the research project will be presented to the 2013 ACFAS Conference and will be available on the ÉDIQ website in autumn 2013. It will also serve as a guide for organizations that want to implement this type of space.

Accompaniment organizations such as Jeffery Hale and Les Accompagnantes de Québec have already begun to use the concept with their clientele. Widespread dissemination and upcoming training sessions should allow a growing number of organizations and communities to implement Lucille Guilbert's innovative approach. Let us hope that this approach will contribute to facilitating the social and economic integration of young immigrant women to Québec. In addition to providing direct and immediate assistance, this research project is stimulating new reflection on integration policies for new arrivals.