HISTORY OF IWS
IWS was formed in 1985 to address the unique needs and issues that affect immigrant, refugee and visible minority women, which remained outside the perimeters of the mainstream service organizations. The provincial organization, Immigrant Women of Saskatchewan (also called Immigrant, Refugee, and Visible Minority Women of Saskatchewan) was the first organization in Saskatchewan, to undertake an extensive study to identify various needs of immigrant women, including that of employment. Thus, at the local level in Saskatoon, our organization was created by a group of women from around the world, some displaced from their home countries, to address the concerns and issues of immigrant and refugee women as they strive to integrate into the Canadian society, and promote a better understanding of their needs and aspirations within the mainstream society.
We continued to do this and more but complex issues and challenges in the lives of immigrants and refugees keep emerging. We simply cannot stay silent. Natural disasters and man-made atrocities continue around the world robbing people of their both personal possessions and personal dignity. We observe the effects of these calamities in our midst as so many displaced people try to make Canada and Saskatoon their new home. New problems and issues result out of these displacements, forcing us to re-examine our values and our roles in the aid of the affected people, especially that of women and children. As an organization, we have also witnessed the tremendous capacity of these people to survive the odds and rebuild their lives. By sharing their stories and experience, we feel empowered to work in this rebuilding process.
For over 30 years, IWS has been providing support and services to immigrant/refugee women and their families. We have grown as a group with a strong voice for the women in the community. However, the lack of regular and continuous funding for gender-based programs pose a serious challenge to our ability to provide the needed services for the target group. At the same time, there is now a recognition of new realities among all—that Canada and Saskatchewan need more immigrants and to achieve this, there is an urgency to look at the larger issue of immigrant settlement and integration processes and services. We want to play a part in resolving all the external and internal issues in order to better the lives of all immigrants and refugees and the community at large.
As one way to signal our commitment to this broader agenda, we revised our organization's bylaws, and changed our name. We wish to include the larger community as our partners and be more inclusive and effective in responding to the changing needs of immigrants and refugees. The recognition of the above concerns and values led the Immigrant Women of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon Chapter to adopt a new name— International Women of Saskatoon (IWS) - in November 2005, in order to make it more inclusive and broad-based. It is an equality-seeking women’s organization managed by a volunteer board of directors that is elected by the general membership at an annual general meeting. Our membership is now open to all women who believe in the philosophy and support the mandate.