Immigrant Women's Advisory Committee Profile
Immigrants are Critical to Economic Growth in Small Canadian Communities
Immigrant Women's Advisory Committee | Meet AISHA KHAN
I acknowledge the land of the Coast Salish peoples (Squamish and Musqueam )Nations.
MEET AISHA KHAN
Aisha, her husband and three small children (her fourth to be born later in Canada) first settled in Meritt, BC. Being Muslim in a small town in Canada came with a unique set of challenges and to add a compound effect, Aisha arrived right after 9-11, a time when discrimination against those of the Islam faith had reached a climax. Although arriving in Canada on skilled worker visas, Aisha and her husband learned that their credentials weren’t recognized. They opened a business as a way to make a living for their family, but were no settlement services or support in the small community to help them understand the intricacies of doing business in Canada, such as 'due diligence'. When they closed the business, Aisha and her husband found they were still bound by contracts and had to work for many years without taking home income because they had to pay off the interest attached to these contracts. This is just an example of challenges they faced and Aisha comments that her first decade was a struggle to stay afloat.
For Aisha, her settlement journey “means resilience, self-reliance, tapping into inner strength and gaining wisdom along the way.”
WHAT IS THE GREATNESS THE LEARNING JOURNEYS PROJECT HAS HELPED YOU TO BEGIN TO UNPACK?
Being a member of the Immigrant Women’s Advisory Committee (IWAC) provided Aisha with “a sense of belonging and unity” and it helped her not only to contribute in important ways but it gave her critical emotional support when she needed it.
“I am one of the long-standing participants of the Learning Journeys research project. The two-year project was not only educational but also an emotional journey for me in many respects as I put my heart and soul into designing the Peer Guides project."
"I didn't realize I had unrealistic expectations for myself and was striving for perfection in the many things I was working on at the same time such as completing my Instructors diploma program, looking for employment, taking care of my household recently expanded due to COVID and my work with Peer Guides. However, with the support of the Learning Journeys team and IWAC, I was able to bounce back.”
Aisha is a fearless leader, and, with compassion and fortitude, guides us in our times of greatest uncertainty. She faces her own fears, and move into frank conversations and difficult moments with courage and determination. A community builder and a changemaker, she is paving a better way for newcomer women, and women in her community. Embracing indigenous worldviews and holistic approaches, she is encouraging us to embrace and be our best selves.
- Andrea Solnes, Learning Journeys Co-Lead
WHAT IS THE LEARNING - BOTH FOR YOU AND FOR ALL OF US - TO BE AWARE OF AT THIS TIME?
When Aisha and her husband were immigrating to Canada they both completed Masters education programs and her husband even learned French for 2 years in advance to increase their likelihood of immigration approval. But then, upon arrival learned that their qualifications weren't recognized and they weren't able to practice in their respective fields.
Aisha has seen improved professional pathways for recognizing some international credentials since she arrived in Canada 20 years ago. She still sees gaps in other areas and points to a specific lost opportunity. "Immigrants can be important to economic development and growth in small communities in Canada, but there needs to be supports to help them settle in these places. Now I understand why immigrants gather in larger urban centers but there is opportunity for both immigrants and community in smaller towns."
WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOUR JOURNEY IS TAKING YOU NEXT AND WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE US TO KNOW ABOUT THAT?
“Most of the 20 years I've been in Canada, I lived in a small town. I learned about First Nations history and wisdom. Indigenous worldview really aligns with my Eastern worldview, so I could relate to the perspective." Aisha describes this Eastern worldview as: holistic, relational, process-based, non-linear thinking and collective. For Aisha, this is in many ways opposite to the Western worldview that the colonial Canadian culture is based on, which she describes as individualistic, outcomes-based, problem-solving focused, linear thinking. Holding a different worldview from that of the dominant culture affects our sense of belonging.
Aisha is now pursuing her dream of becoming a trainer, facilitator and adult educator. As she is learning the technology to build and develop adult education courses and programs she continues her vital work with IWAC.
“Based on my Learning Journeys experience in developing the Peer Guides project, I would like to further develop it, to better support newcomer immigrant and refugee women in alleviating their feeling of isolation and gaining awareness of how different worldviews affect their sense of belonging upon arriving in a new country.”