When refugees started arriving in Canada following the Taliban’s forceful takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, YWCA Metro Vancouver’s employment team immediately saw the need to create a program to support Afghan women.
In March, we launched the Afghan Women's Employment program (AWE) to help Afghan refugee women understand and navigate the Canadian job market, and pursue further opportunities to build stable lives in Canada.
AWE is a six-week program offered in Dari and Pashto, the two official languages of Afghanistan. The first four weeks of the program are designed to build awareness about the job market and inform participants of their rights as an employee in Canada. The following two weeks are for one-on-one sessions, where career advisors familiarize themselves with participants' needs and ambitions, and help them look for jobs or education that suit their background, experience and previous education.
"These women are coming to Canada with strong backgrounds in study and work. We have many talented women like judges, doctors and those who worked with human rights and women's rights in Afghanistan. We want to make sure we connect them to the right places and resources and that, at the end of the program, they are happy with their new jobs," said AWE Career Advisor, Nargis Tanai.
The program has been gaining media visibility due to its trauma-informed approach, which considers participants’ backgrounds and helps them learn how to cope with the challenges of starting a career in a new country. There is a high demand for the program – AWE has supported 35 women since it started, with 89% of clients gaining employment, training or relevant volunteer opportunities.
“I was new here, and I didn't know anyone or any communities,” said Zakia, an AWE program participant. "This program helped me find education, classes and job opportunities. I feel like I'm not alone; I learned many things from the program, and now I know which way to go and how to find the resources."