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It Takes A Community To End Domestic Violence

Too often, domestic violence is seen as private "family business" - something that happens behind closed doors. But domestic violence is not a private issue - it's a community issue. It takes a community to make sure that women and children can live safe and free from abuse.

That is one of the reasons why it is so important for community members to know the signs of domestic violence and how to offer support. If the neighbours, friends or family members of a woman who is being abused know how to support her, her situation can change.

How do we create communities with the knowledge and skills to support survivors of domestic violence?

The Immigrant and Refugee Communities - Neighbours Friends and Families Campaign aims to do just that. By running informative community education events, the Campaign spreads useful knowledge on responding to domestic violence in immigrant and refugee communities across Ontario. The main strategy of the Campaign is to have passionate community members - who we call Peer Champions - take on this issue. These Peer Champions hold events in their communities to build knowledge, action and leadership on domestic violence.

If you are interested in hosting an educational event with a Peer Champion for your community or at your agency, please contact Nira Elgueta at nelgueta@ocasi.org

Meet our new Peer Champions

Meet the 2021-2022 Peer Champions for the Immigrant and Refugee Communities - Neighbours Friends and Families Campaign.

We've selected an amazing group of Peer Champions for the 2021/2022. They will be hosting events across Ontario this year! Let's meet them now:


Cathy Zhao

Photo of Cathy Zhao

As a dedicated community service provider, Ms. Cathy Zhao has worked as a community animator, community-based project coordinator, community researcher, life skills coach, program leader, admin assistant, settlement worker and youth leader since 2007. Being a part of decade local community service organizations, universities, schools and institutes, she has complete over 20 community projects targeting on child abuse prevention, Chinese elders abuse research, domestic violence prevention, environmental conservation and public education. She has trained and supervised hundreds of volunteers with the age from 13 to 85 to organize over 20 big community public education events, forums and exhibitions successfully. She has also facilitated hundred group activities and meditations to improve people's self-management skills, leadership development skills and self-care skills. The participants include students, adults and seniors from local schools, universities, libraries, senior buildings, and community centres. She is very experienced in project planning, team building, group facilitation and individual mentorship. She was the Co-chair of Chinese Parents Council of Agincourt Collegiate Institute from 2011 to 2015, board member of Bloor Information and Life Skills Center between 2014-2016.

赵燕梅个人简介

赵燕梅女士自2017年起先后在多伦多不同社区服务机构、高校和从事过社区项目协调员、社区项目研究员、人生技能教练、专项组负责人、行政助理、安居辅导员等工作。通过实施超过20多个旨在于防止儿童虐待、华人虐老研究、防止家庭暴力、环境保护及发展领导力等社区项目,她先后培训和督导过数百名13到85岁的义工,带领他们成功地组织和实施了各种不同主题不同形式的大型公共教育活动、论坛和展览。赵燕梅女士拥有乔治布朗学院颁发的人生技能教练证书、老年痴呆管理证书。她先后在本地高中、大学、图书馆、老年大厦和社区中心里主持和带领上百个学生、成人与长者,通过展开小组活动和冥想,以提高大家的自我管理技能、领导力和自我关照能力。她在项目计划与义工管理、团队建设与管理、个人指导方面拥有丰富经验。她曾于2011-2015年期间担任艾静阁中学华人家长会共同会长,于2014-2016年期间担任布鲁尔信息与人生技能社区中心董事会成员。


Adebola Adefioye

Photo of Adebola Adefioye

Adebola Adefioye migrated to Canada from Nigeria 5 years ago. She is very passionate about supporting marginalized immigrant women and youth. Adebola holds a Bachelor's degree in Child Development and a certificate in Advancing Women's Leadership in Conflict Transformation, Peacebuilding, and Community Development from Coady Institute. She is the founder of the Afro Women and Youth Foundation.

Adebola was a finalist of the 150 Women of Inspiration™ 2020, winner of Seneca HELIX Female Entrepreneur 2019, winner of 2020 United Way Greater Toronto's Black Community Leadership Award, and the recipient of the 2020 Stephen E. Quinlan Award.

She currently supports survivors of Sexual/Gender-Based Violence as a Crisis Line Counsellor at the Women Support Network of York Region and Toronto Rape and Crisis Centre. She is very excited to be a 2021 Peer Champion, providing support to women experiencing Gender-Based Violence within Canada's immigrants and refugee communities.


Fozia Tanveer (she, her; elle,la)

Photo of Fozia Tanveer

Immigrant Women’s Information Network (I WIN).

Fozia Tanveer is the founder and director of Immigrant Women’s Information Network (I WIN). She is the manager of CATIE’s Ontario Hepatitis C Immigrant and Newcomer Program.


Jaspreet Kaur

Photo of Jaspreet Kaur

Jaspreet has a background in social services. She received her Social Service Worker diploma with High Honours from Sheridan College. She came as an international student from India, and has always been passionate about supporting and empowering community members. Currently, Jaspreet is working as Youth Influencer-Community Health Ambassador with Dixie Bloor Neighbourhood Centre (DBNC). Additionally, she is volunteering as a Teaching Assistant at Sheridan College for the Helping Process course. She also volunteers as the Manager, Programs and Events with Newcomer Students’ Association (NSA), where she works to empower newcomers and their allies to build fellowship, capacity, and community. She held multiple roles at her college, including President of Sheridan International Students’ Association, Students Admission Representative, Peer Mentor, Student Leadership and Engagement and International Students’ Ambassador, where she was able to offer various services and support to students. Jaspreet has been recognized with the Newcomer Resilience Award and contributed as a Research Assistant to a project called ‘Domestic Violence in Immigrant Communities: Case Studies’. She is skilled in understanding one’s social location with an Anti-Oppressive lens. Jaspreet is approachable and always ready to aid others. Jaspreet works from an anti-oppressive, intersectional, anti-racist, LGBTQ- and feminist-positive framework, and believes in diversity, equity and inclusion and works toward making a difference in others’ lives by providing them with appropriate support and services. Jaspreet has joined the Peer Champion program because she wants to make an impact by advocating for the elimination of domestic violence. She understands the challenges of being in a new country and how all those challenges worsen the situations of women in abusive relationships. By becoming a Peer Champion, Jaspreet is aiming to promote awareness among the immigrant communities to end gender-based violence and empower survivors of GBV.


Jiwon Kang

Photo of Jiwon Kang

My name is Jiwon Kang. I was born in Korea, and my parents are in Korea now. It has been 4 years since I came to Canada to study, and now I am working after graduating. I studied Christian Counselling at Canada Christian College and focused on social work. My first language is Korean, and English is my second language. I am currently working with For You Telecare Family Service, a non-profit organization for immigrants in Canada, as a community service worker. This institution provides not only individual counselling, but also family and group counselling. Currently, I am helping the progress of all programs and workshops and the participants to participate well. Currently, during COVID-19, our organization mostly uses Zoom, Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Counseling education for volunteers workshop is currently in progress for free, and this program aims to help many participants develop the mindset to be a volunteer. And children's camps are also running free of charge. I make programs for camps and lead all teachers. The reason why our organization applied this campaign is because Korean society has a culture of hiding itself. In this culture, even when experiencing difficulties in domestic violence, they do not readily seek help. Canada's Korean population is large, but it's also a tight-knit society where rumours can spread. Women who are subjected to a lot of violence or hardship have to live in hiding. As long as many Koreans immigrate to Canada, I think this campaign is needed to allow them to live a better life. This is my first time making a program on domestic violence, but I know that our organization has done it several times. I am honoured to be part of the Peer Champion initiative. I think this campaign is essential for Korean women living in Canada as many may not even think that they are experiencing domestic violence or abuse. I want women to get away from thinking that patience will solve it. Our organization will prepare for these events, we will do our best to make good events.


Manar Nasser

Photo of Manar Nasser

My name is Manar and I have been a settlement counsellor for more than 6 years. My work is to help newcomers settle in Canada.

This is my third year as a Peer Champion with the IRCNFF campaign. I am glad and thankful for this chance. Being a Peer Champion gives me the power and strength to support women that need all kinds of help.


Marwa Gebeil

Photo of Marwa Gebeil

My name is Marwa Gebeil. I am a social service worker and I have been working within the community since 2018 as a worker and a volunteer. I used to volunteer with the Women Wellness group where we had a group of women who came as refugees and this group was helping them to adopt new culture as well as educational sessions about domestic violence and how they can get help from.

I also worked with newcomer youth to assist them in different programs as well as supporting minority groups. I also worked with Ryerson on different research to enhance the services around newcomers and refugees.

Right now, as a Youth Newcomer Engager, I am working with newcomer youth from different backgrounds with their families. We offer programs to support youth as well as their families with the referral process. We host different information and educational sessions. I am involved with a diverse newcomer community who need help in terms of everything while they are new to Canada. We offer services to engage with them and try to create a sense of belonging to newcomers’ groups in Cambridge. I wanted to register and be part of the Immigration and Refugee Communities’ Neighbour, Friends, and Families Campaign to support minorities in different topic/ I also want to educate myself in order to educate other groups especially about the different understating of domestic violence especially in our culture and how we address solution to the best interest for the service users.

I want to train and work together with the community to create a community free of domestic violence space with our communities. I want to be part of supporting all women and minorities groups who are experiencing domestic violence especially for women who have a language barrier to explain or being out in the community because of the need of Arabic language as well as building a trusting environment.


Parmis Mirabdolbaghi

Photo of Parmis Mirabdolbaghi

Parmis Mirabdolbaghi is a community advocate with over 20 years of experience supporting vulnerable populations against gender-based violence and oppression. Her areas of interest include the rights of refugee/migrant women and children; gender-based violence/sexual assault; diaspora/transnationalism. She is currently focused on researching the intersecting experiences of diasporic Iranian women as immigrant settlers on Turtle Island and promoting Iranian artists to the global stage at large.


Patricia Saenz

Photo of Patricia Saenz

My name is Patricia and I feel very excited to be part of The Peer Champion Program for the IRCNFF campaign and advocate for stop violence against women.

Violence against women is violence against society. I've experienced and witnessed the deep effects of violence against women and their kids within the Latinx community. Stealing women's power by their partners, lost of individuality, pain and suffering move my heart to work in stoping violence against women, and in supporting women in my community with information and other resources that may open doors of hope to stop violence. I had the opportunity to facilitate programs that supported women's survivors of domestic violence while working with North York Women Centre (NYWC), an organization that offers hope to women faced gender based violence. I also had the opportunity to gain skills during my back to school time while enrolled at the Assaulted Women and Children Counselor (AWCCA) program at George Brown College. I strongly believe information and knowledge allows women to understand their experiences better and to be the owners of their individual process of healing. I had the chance to witness and experience women’s transformation while supporting and empowering them. In my personal experience, community was key within my process of healing and I could see the importance of this support in other women too. That is another reason why I feel being part of the Champion Program is essential in creating and building community support networks that offer strong ways to face violence and to support each other in the process of healing. I am thankful for being part of this team!


Puneet Dhillon

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Puneet Dhillon received her Doctorate in the field of Journalism and Mass Communication, the key leitmotif of her PhD research was how men’s perception of women’s roles change or ossify and consequently influence men’s treatment of women.

Dhillon has served as Head of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at a renowned University in North India and has successfully completed various Research Projects pertaining to active feminism. Presently, she works as Communications and Research Analyst at Punjabi Community Health Services, PCHS, GTA Canada. She is responsible for sharing knowledge generated through case studies and analytical papers and maintaining external key relations.

She has been actively working with the South Asian community and leading PCHS campaign ‘Why are Good Men Silent’ which is aimed at providing South Asian men with self learning resources where they can explore the opportunities to help themselves in learning social skills and play a significant role in ending violence against women. self learning resources for South Asian men where they can explore the opportunities to help themselves
in learning social skills.


Rihanat El-Alawa

Photo of Rihanat El-Alawa

Rihanat currently works as a community outreach worker at Kinbridge Community Association in Cambridge Ontario. She is the Senior’s Newcomer Engager with the Cambridge Newcomer Outreach Program. She migrated to Canada 11 years ago and is very passionate about building relationships and helping people who are vulnerable. She has attended various leadership and community workshops/trainings.

Rihanat holds a Bachelor’s degree, and is currently pursuing an Associate degree in Education at the International Open University. She is an active community member and is engaged in various volunteer work at different capacities. She was a Peer Leader at the Healthy Eating, Healthy Living in Canada program for new Canadians at the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Center (KDCHC). She has been involved in the Neighbours Friends and Families Campaign for three years as a Peer Champion with the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI).

Rihanat enjoys spending time with her family and reaching out to her friends. She also likes to research on current and past issues that interests her and clears her mind by writing in her spare time. Her passion in working within the community has led her to take on the role of the Peer Champion this year. She feels it is important to raise awareness about issues that affect individuals who are faced with Gender-based violence in her community. She sees the need to continue in persistently educating the community on issues that affect immigrants, and to fight against domestic violence and GBV and to foster a vibrant, loving and caring community for everyone.


Shaista Fakhri

Photo of Shaista Fakhri

My name is Shaista Fakhri, I identify as Afghan-Canadian. My hobbies are hiking, biking, reading and planning events. I am currently a full time student at York University. I am working towards a double major in Political Science and Criminology. Prior to my transition to University, I graduated Seneca college with a Social Service Worker Diploma; where I received the opportunity to work for Times Change Women’s Employment Services. The reason why I decided to return to school is because I had a lot of unanswered questions about how the Criminal Justice System works in regards to Domestic Violence cases. After studying at York for the past two years, I have realized that my mission in life is to work in a non-for profit organization/agency that supports and advocates for victims of abuse. I have a passion to create awareness and a safe space for survivors of abuse. As a survivor, I know there are many reasons as to why individuals stay in abusive relationships. There’s a lot of misconception and victim blaming when it comes to the topic of domestic violence. Especially, in the Immigrant and Refugee communities, the topic of domestic violence is usually swept under the rug and women are told that it is “normal.” Women are not informed of their rights and the support system that is available in a country like Canada. Therefore, they end up staying in abusive situations because they fear the unknown. I am truly humbled to be selected as one of the Peer Champion of the Immigrant and Refugee Communities initiated by OCASI. The reason why I have chosen to join such an amazing program is that it will allow me to be involved in advocating about violence against women. I look forward to getting involved in the East-Asian community since there is a lot of stigma surrounded around violence against women. I believe this program will empower women and create a safe platform for those in need of support. A little change comes a long way.


Sinthu Srikanthan

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MSW, BSW, BA (Indigenous Studies & Sociology).

This is Sinthu’s third year as a Peer Champion in the Immigrant and Refugee Communities – Neighbours Friends and Families Campaign campaign. She continues to participate in the campaign as a form of advocacy against racism, poverty, gender-based violence, and other forms of oppression. Sinthu was born to refugee Tamil parents. A second-generation immigrant, Sinthu feels a strong connection with others from newcomer communities, especially those who have also experienced war. Sinthu completed both a Bachelor's degree of Social Work and a Bachelor's degree of Arts in Indigenous Studies and Sociology at McMaster University. She later completed a Masters degree of Social Work at York University. At present, Sinthu is a social worker at the Red Blood Disorders Clinic University Health Network. She is also a Research Assistant at Youth Research and Evaluation Exchange (YouthREX).


Sureya Ali

Photo of Sureya Ali

Sureya Ali is a passionate youth advocate in her community. She is committed to community building and advocating for youth participation, mental health, and the rights of immigrants and refugees. She has been involved with initiatives such as Apathy is Boring to co-create a community project that tackles the issue of gender inequality as an ambassador for the RISE program. Sureya was a previous member of the Etobicoke North Youth Council, where she has raised issues in her constituency through community engagements. Additionally, she has recently served as a delegate for the Daughters of the Vote program to participate in a political leadership summit. Sureya is excited to be a part of this year’s Peer Champions team and looks forward to raising awareness of domestic violence against immigrant and refugee women within her community.


Suyeon Jin

Photo of Suyeon Jin

Suyeon has over 30 years professional experiences in clinical practices in individual, group, couple and family settings as a clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and psychotherapist. Suyeon has previously coordinated successful community projects involving and identifying common interests and goals. She has experience in counselling individuals, couples, and families in the Korean-Canadian community related to Domestic Violence and abuse and Mental Health sectors. She also has experinece in educational settings in preventing from racism, discrimination injustice, and vicious traumatic system. Through her work, she developed excellent teaching skills as a facilitator and trainer in counseling, education, and training practice.

Suyeon aims to promote equity, equality, personal integrity and the ability to maintain confidentiality and work with moral issues for the court and legal system.She is also committed to advocating intercultural competences, inclusion and diversity at multicultural Canadian society.


Suzan Manaa

Photo of Suzan Manaa

My Name is Suzan Manaa, I have been living in Canada for the last 15. Since my arrival, I have been very involved with my community through various community agencies and initiatives. I am a leader and advocate for refugees in the region. I was a board member of the Halton Islamic Association for 12 years, coordinator of the Arabic Crisis community, and coordinator for the Syrian refugee committee in Burlington for many years. I have assisted Churches and Mosques in their efforts to sponsor families and settle refugee families in Canada.

Through my work, I became well-connected with the Middle Eastern community in Halton. I brought the Food for Life program to Halton Mosque as a site to serve the Muslim community and broader community. I have developed partnerships with many community groups to assist our refugee families to find employment, education, settlement and integration in Canada. I have been a community mobilizer for over 18 years assisting newcomers to settle and grow. I have 5 years of experience as a Crisis Manager with the Halton Multicultural Council, an immigrant services agency based in Halton, where I provided assistance to immigrant and refugee families from diverse backgrounds in crisis facing domestic violence, homelessness, and family breakups. For more than 3 years I have delivered workshops in the GTA area covering housing, domestic violence, legal aid services, education, etc. When Canada opened the door to welcome Syrian Refugees, HMC along with regional funding supports developed a program to help them settle in Canada. I was the volunteer coordinator to help the newcomers with transportation, food, translation, and anything they needed when they arrived. I have a teaching diploma from Palestine, an Administrative Assistant Certificate from George Brown College, and recently completed a 12-hours online training to address Human Trafficking. I’m committed, outgoing, very active in the community, and my focus in my career has been on helping people. I consider myself an experienced and dedicated professional focused on helping newcomers in my experience to settle and integrate into their local community.


Yusuf Al-Harazi

Yusuf Al-Harazi

Yusuf currently works as the Mentorship Coordinator / Communications for the Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre. In this capacity since 2013, he has had the opportunity to meet, serve, and work with individuals and families, young and old, from all over the world. Through his work and travels to 40+ countries around the world, Yusuf has developed a global mindset and can therefore look at an issue from many diverse angles. Domestic violence is real and is impacting immigrant and refugee communities just as it affects long-standing Canadian families. To address the underlying issues, cultural sensitivity / humility is ever more crucial and relevant. With his community and professional involvement in Niagara, he looks forward to learning from OCASI and fellow Peer Champions as they move along in the Peer Champion Program.


Zahra Mohammadi

Photo of Zahra Mohammadi

My name is Zahra . I am a newcomer from Iran. I used to be an English teacher back home. Now, I am a student of Assaulted Women’s and Children’s Counsellor/Advocate program at George Brown College. I am also a single mother of a wonderful 12-year-old girl.

I am here to be a Peer Champion of the immigrant and refugee communities to make Canada a safer place for women and children. I was a victim of domestic violence and patriarchy for almost all my life, and I am familiar with how theses systems of oppression work among immigrant families from my country, Iran and also the Middle East because of sharing many common cultural /religious backgrounds.

What I have learned from being in contact with my own community in Canada is that many immigrants still hold on to the same patriarchal, racist and sexist views they used to have back home, and this could mainly affect women and children in the families. I have seen husbands and fathers in my community who still want to dominate and control their wives and daughters through psychological/ emotional and financial abuse because they know physical violence wouldn’t be tolerated in Canada. However, their emotional or financial abuse is no less than physical violence. As a newcomer, I tried to connect with other immigrant women in my community (my daughter’s friends’ mothers) by having English teaching sessions before the pandemic and realized that such sessions could be a great opportunity to talk about women’s issues in our community.

I do believe that we can’t put an end to domestic violence unless we empower the violence survivors by helping them access the right resources and support. Community education would be a very powerful medium through which we can raise awareness about various forms of domestic violence among immigrant and refugee communities.

I am deeply honored to be a part of this campaign to help end domestic violence in immigrant communities and looking forward to learning from everyone in this campaign and sharing the knowledge with my own community members .


Zakieh Zarabi

Photo of Zakieh Zarabi

My name is Zakieh Zarabi. I have been a settlement advisor at the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario in Windsor for more than fifteen years. I am currently running a number of anti-gender based violence initiatives with the YMCA and other community partners in Windsor, ON.

I am from Afghanistan. In 1991, I Immigrated to Iran due to military conflicts in Afghanistan. In 2002, my family and I immigrated to Canada. In my lifetime, I have immigrated twice and am well-versed with the challenges of immigration. I am married and have six adult children. I am proud to say they all hold professional careers.

My educational background includes my English studies at the American Studies Language Centre in Afghanistan. In Canada, I graduated from a dental assistance program. I also hold an Ontario interpreting (OCCI-ACI) certificate which makes me an Accredited Community Interpreter. I speak Pashtu, Dari and Farsi.

I first began working in immigration in Iran when I was part of the United Nations projects geared towards Afghan refugees. When I moved to Canada, I wanted to continue working with immigrants. I began as a volunteer with the YMCA. I was then hired by the YMCA as a Settlement Advisor. I have assisted hundreds of newcomer immigrants with their settlement needs to ease their integration within a new country. One of my main areas of focus is to empower immigrant women and to this end I have facilitated workshops to identify challenges and solutions.

Being a settlement advisor, I have also assisted many clients who experienced gender-based violence. I have listened to them attentively and connected them to resources.

In my work I have had the opportunity to work with front line workers, the police, women’s shelters, settlement organizations, family services and various government offices. In all these interactions, I continue to raise awareness about gender-based violence and how these community stakeholders can assist victims.

I choose to be part of the Peer Champion program to learn from other peers who are also dedicated to ending domestic violence in immigrant and refugee communities.

Why a campaign that focuses on Immigrant and Refugee Communities?

The Campaign focuses on immigrant and refugee communities because women from our communities face more barriers when we look for support for domestic violence - we face language barriers and financial barriers. Some of us also face racism when we look for support - our whole culture or community is blamed for the violence, instead of the abuser.

But immigrant and refugee women are powerful - we can recover, heal, and go on to thrive after abuse. This is especially possible if we have support from our own ethnic, cultural, religious, or linguistic communities. That is why it is so important to have a Campaign that is run by and for our own communities.

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