Sara Asalya, Advocate for Newcomers

Toronto, Canada

“When I came to Canada nine years ago with zero connections, I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams to be awarded Canada’s Top 25 Immigrant or Top 25 Women of Influence. I am a Palestinian immigrant who witnessed first-hand the impact of violence and displacement on war refugees. My husband and I decided to immigrate to Canada, with our two-year-old son, after we brushed shoulders with death and survived two wars on the Gaza strip. When you restart your life in a new country, with no family or friends, the journey is an uphill battle. Even though my husband and I are both educated, our international credentials were not recognized and we couldn’t get jobs. (I have a BA in English language & literation and my husband is a trained physician). Volunteering is a possible pathway to gaining ‘Canadian experience,’ but that wasn’t even an option for me as we couldn’t afford daycare. Women generally face many barriers to access, remain and advance in the workplace. For immigrant women of colour, those barriers are compounded. Immigrant women often face underemployment, deskilling and downward mobility. I turned to education as a pathway to the job market and to gain Canadian credentials and ended up earning a certificate in community engagement and leadership, immigration and settlement and a master's degree in higher education. Through my experience, I identified gaps in the way we approach newcomers and adult immigrant students in post-secondary institutions, particularly around creating a robust and accessible transition system. That drove me to found the Newcomer Students’ Association, the first platform of its kind at Ontario post-secondary institutions to empower immigrant and refugee students. I have spent the past eight years working tirelessly to amplify the voices of immigrant women and challenge stereotypes around them. I became a prominent voice on immigration and settlement issues and received many awards. I attribute my success to my own settlement journey and experience living in a war-torn country. Those lived experiences have taught me to be fearless and resilient and to stand up to injustice and oppression. They also taught me to never give up on my dreams. If I were able to create a life and a successful career from scratch, so can you." - Sara Asalya, Advocate for Newcomers

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