CASSA’s national gender-based violence (GBV) project is a study that seeks to understand how service providers served women experiencing GBV in the Canadian South Asian community during and after the pandemic. According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, GBV is “the type of abuse that women, girls, and Two-Spirit, trans and non-binary people are at highest risk of experiencing. It can take physical and emotional forms, such as name-calling, hitting, pushing, blocking, stalking/criminal harassment, rape, sexual assault, control, and/or manipulation”. CASSA acts as the main lead on this project and works in collaboration with the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO), Punjabi Community Health Services (PCHS) – Calgary, Progressive Intercultural Community (PICS) – British Columbia, and the South Asian Women’s Rights Organization of Ontario (SAWRO).

Dinoba Kirupa, the Project Manager, along with a team of Outreach Coordinators throughout the country representing various regions, examined the methods of service that provided the most effective assistance for the survivors visiting South Asian serving agencies. Dinoba and her team also looked into how the service providers met the needs of the women, even as they were required to shift to a skeletal model themselves during the pandemic, and what they could have done to fill any gaps in meeting the needs of their clients. The team spoke conducted many focus groups to speak with women across British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario about their experiences with GBV. Alongside the women, they also looked into other compounding factors, such as demographics, past literature reviews, as well as previously created toolkits on the matter. Additionally, Dinoba interviewed around 10 executive directors to research the top-down perspective of service providers.

The project is divided into five phases. Phase one entailed strategizing about the type of data that will be collected, coordinating efforts, and putting documents together to gather the needs of the women attending the focus groups. Phase two consisted of community outreach. Through this phase, the team connected with other agencies to coordinate efforts to seek out participants who were willing to share their stories. At every step, the anonymity of the participants was a priority. Dinoba ensured that the survey was inclusive so that no valuable information would be missed. A preliminary survey was created to identify the needs of the women before they attended the workshop to reduce the exclusion of women of particular demographics. For example, the preliminary survey looked into whether the women were comfortable using a computer or Zoom, if there were any language barriers they might face, or if transportation was an issue should a virtual session not be possible. Alternative options were provided to include everyone. Phase three consisted of conducting the focus groups, data collection, and interviews with the executive directors. They worked with three data sets: 1. The agency/executive directors’ input. 2. Focus group data – the lived experiences and stories of the women. 3. Demographic information.

Part of the analyzed data has proven that any woman can be a victim of GBV, regardless of education level, income level, or age. At the moment, they are in phase four of the process, which is the content creation and drafting phase. Some of the materials will be translated from English into Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Bengali, and Punjabi. The fifth and last stage of the project will be the dissemination phase. The project’s goal is to disseminate the analyzed data to various platforms where South Asian women and service providers may make use of it. The team plans on launching a national awareness campaign, which will shed light on GBV in the Canadian South Asian community. The reason this is necessary is that women may be unaware of what GBV is, and its forms, and lack knowledge of their rights in addressing it. This becomes even more pertinent for vulnerable populations such as newcomers. Additionally, the team is working on developing a toolkit for South Asian serving and mainstream service providers, which will help provide useful information from the women themselves. From January to March of 2023, Dinoba and her team plan on conducting a few training workshops for service providers in each of the three provinces.

Bearing in mind the systemic challenges and barriers that may compound vulnerability to GBV, the team identified how immigrant status might influence who is more at risk of GBV and whether a person’s immigration status may further enable their abuse. They found that many men have threatened newcomer women with deportation if they are not complacent to the abuse, when in fact the women may not be deported by authorities. The team thus aims to disprove such myths and misunderstandings as part of the national awareness campaign.

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