A holistic program supporting the integration, empowerment and employment goals of Immigrant women

The Pathways to Leadership program is holistic and cost effective.  It is accessible to women with varying levels of ESL and immigration status, and the participation of women with young children is facilitated by the provision of childcare on-site. In Pathways the participants are encouraged to take risks in a safe and supportive environment, build a commitment to life-long learning, and become more empowered in their personal and family relations, in their neighbourhoods and communities and in relation to their career and employment goals.

Pathways is 18 weeks in length with weekly three hour group sessions.  Participants are expected to do community and employment research in-between the weekly group sessions; women with limited language skills are supported through a buddy system; and everyone is encouraged to build their social networks and to practice speaking in front of the class.

The evaluation results from the pilot for this program are very impressive. At the end of eighteen weeks:

  • All of the participants had completed a civic engagement project in their community that included leading workshops and organizing community events on a topic of current interest (e.g. bullying in school, an environmental issue, diversity, etc.).
  • Each participant had an individual career goal and action plan and since the program many have found employment.
  • More than a year and a half after the program, many of the participants continue to describe the program as life-changing and transformational. They talk about having more self-confidence and capacity to pursue their dreams, being more able to respond to family and/or racial conflict, connect to different cultures and communities, and use their strengths and values to pursue full participation in Canadian society.

There are several reasons why this program was able to accomplish so much in such a short time. They include:

  • The focus on providing participants with many different strength-based learning opportunities that built their confidence and helped them to discover the kinds of work or community engagement activities that they felt passionate about and were motivated to pursue.
  • The emphasis in the program on creating opportunities for participants to address deeply challenging personal issues and systemic barriers, such as the experience of migration and loss, and issues of gender and/or racial discrimination. These discussions helped the participant to verbalize, often for the first time, some of their most difficult experiences as immigrants and then to learn new strategies to challenge, negotiate, and navigate these barriers.
  • The commitment of the host agency to the values and philosophy of the program and in particular to promoting grass roots leadership and providing community development opportunities for the participants.
  • The very experienced educator/facilitator who designed the program and worked with two students from UBC and the staff of the host agency to deliver the program.

A curriculum for the program has just been completed. If you are interested in learning more about the curriculum/program, Priti Shah, the educator/facilitator who designed the program, is available to:

  • Do an introductory workshop or presentation.
  • Meet with your organization to discuss how this program could be incorporated into your current service delivery model.
  • Provide the staff at your organization with a one day in-service training on the philosophy and approach of the program and/or three day training on how to use the curriculum.
  • Provide you with a copy of the evaluation for the pilot program.

By participant; Lizette, showcasing her creativity                  By participant Daniele; highlighting her hidden talent


“I had a great experience at Pathways. It gave me a platform to learn about advocating for myself in whatever capacity, exposed me to some professional resources and of course I met some amazing women along the way. I particularly enjoyed having a mentor and working on a personal project. My mentor was there to support me as I tried to get into the workforce and she held me accountable towards completing my project. As a new immigrant into Canada. Seeing my project through to completion gave me a sense of accomplishment as I was able to reach women across the world, and I would not have thought of embarking on such a project if it was not for the Pathways Program, and for that I am grateful and highly recommend it.”

-Stella Ofodile