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DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society joined Mental Health and Addictions Minister, NISA Helpline, NDP MLA Rachna Singh to discuss the importance of lifting women up

City Centre Branch of the Surrey Public Library, Feb. 29. Missy Johnson Photo
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By Missy Johnson

In light of International Women’s Day, activists in Surrey are encouraging more people to support women who have arrived in the city from a foreign country and are vulnerable to social issues such as loneliness.

Sonia Andhi, founder of the Shakti Society, hosted an Awards Gala on March 7 to honour women in the city who are doing inspiring work. The Shakti Society hosts wellness days and community cafes. Andhi says they want to bring women together who might otherwise be isolated and give them community.

“When women are feeling like they’re a part of the community, they will contribute more,” she said. “If they feel that what they’re saying matters, of course, they’ll speak up more, so for us it’s really about creating those safe spaces and showing women that what you say really matters.”

Andhi knows first-hand how immigrating to a new country can cause loneliness.

“I was one of them, where you come here, you don’t know anyone, you just know your husband,” she said. “It can be very intimidating.”

Neelam Sahota (left), CEO of DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, joined Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy, NISA Helpline CEO Tanweer Ebrahim and Surrey-Green Timbers NDP MLA Rachna Singh discuss the importance of lifting women up at the City Centre Branch of the Surrey Public Library Feb. 29. Missy Johnson photo.

Neelam Sahota, CEO of DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, was one of the Shakti awards recipients. She said Surrey benefits from women being lifted up in many different ways.

“Once they feel like they have a sense of belonging that anchors them, that encourages them to be individuals that can contribute in many ways from their areas of strength.” 

Founded more than 40 years ago, DIVERSEcity was one of the first organizations of its kind in Surrey to offer immigrant and refugee women support to become integrated members of society.

Tanweer Ebrahim, CEO of NISA Helpline, which women can call to talk about their issues and seek support, immigrated to Canada over 10 years ago. She says although there have been changes, women in Surrey are still facing isolation.

“We have one woman who called the helpline every day just because she’s lonely,” she said. “That proves that this platform is needed.” 

Between 2011 and 2016, Surrey welcomed over 36,000 immigrants and is home to 25 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s recent immigrants.

“We each have our part to play, and from the government, to the city and in our local communities, we complete each other by doing our share,” Ebrahim said.

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