Working Women

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By the mid-1970s, immigrant women in Toronto were beginning to organize, and new groups began to emerge.  Among these were Women Working With Immigrant Women, the Immigrant Women’s Health Centre, and the Women’s Community Employment Centre, which became the Working Women Community Centre (Working Women) in 1976.

Starting with a small grant from the Secretary of State during the 1975 International Women’s Year, a small group of women did action-research on the employment needs of women from the Portuguese, Latin-American, Caribbean, and African-Canadian communities.  The group worked out of St. Stephen’s-in-the-Field church in the Kensington Market area doing extensive outreach and learning of the many ways immigrant women were exploited on the job as domestics, factory workers, and cleaners. Educational degrees and experience from other countries were often not recognized in Canada.  Immigrant women were also unable to access language and other training programs because of government policies on eligibility, as well as the lack of access to child care.

In 1976 Working Women obtained funding from a federal government job-creation program to set up a service to address the pre-employment and employment needs of immigrant women. “Its objectives were the following:

  • To establish a community centre to deal with problems faced by women in the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, with particular emphasis on immigrant women and their special employment needs;
  • To help women initiate changes in their lives to achieve social and economic independence;
  • To cooperate with other agencies and organizations in the community to deal with the problems faced by women;
  • To provide facilities for counseling and educating women with emphasis on employment; and
  • To provide referral for women with regard to other services needed in the community.”

Over the years, Working Women continued to grow and to adapt to the changing needs and demographics of immigrant women.  By 1996, while the Centre continued to address employment needs, it had expanded its mission to more widely “to provide immigrant women with opportunities to improve the quality of their lives through self-development and community action.”  This included acting as a resource, facilitating participation in the community, and advocating for changes in policies affecting the lives of immigrant women.

Adapted from the Commemorative Issue  – 1976-1996 -Working Women Community Centre

Working Women Documents

Title Date Region
Working Women Community Centre 1976-1996: 20th Anniversary Commemorative Issue 1997 Ontario

Related Organizations

Women Working With Immigrant Women

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Immigrant Women & Feminist Activism

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