Ending the Silence

“Domestic violence is not a private issue – it’s a community issue. And it takes a community to end domestic violence”

Immigrant and Refugee Communities, 2020

Ending the Silence is a project that is hosted by the Newcomer Students’ Association in collaboration with the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) under the 2020-2021 Immigrant and Refugee Communities Neighbours, Friends and Families (IRCNFF) Campaign. 

This 3-part digital series focuses on addressing and responding to gender-based violence in immigrant and refugee communities. With this project, we are aiming to raise awareness about gender-based violence and provide tangible solutions on how we can address and respond to domestic violence in immigrant and refugee communities across Ontario by running informative public forums and community educational events. 

The need to discuss the issue of gender-based violence has never been greater. According to data released by Statistics Canada, during the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic, police services reported a 12% increase in domestic disturbances and domestic disputes calls. Ending the Silence will be hosted to build knowledge, action and leadership in response to domestic violence in the community. This project is our initiative to promote action against domestic violence by empowering immigrant and refugee communities. 

Policy Brief – Ending the Silence

This policy brief discusses seminal issues and trends related to gender-based violence in the Canadian context both generally, and particularly in relation to the impact of COVID-19. More specifically, it highlights inter-related policy gaps that emerged both from a desk review of recent GBV literature and a series of webinars conducted by the Newcomer Students’ Association.

Read the full policy brief and download below.

3rd session: March 1st, 2021

Ending The Silence: Reimagining Cross-sectoral Responsive Support for Gender-Based Violence Survivors

The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled careful consideration of post-COVID recovery planning in all sectors, we can take this as an opportunity to address existing systemic and institutional challenges in Canada. Gender-based violence has been noted as a growing “parallel pandemic’ that is plaguing women in Canada, as such the final webinar in the Ending the Silence series hosted by the Newcomer Students’ Association (NSA) and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) will focus on critical analysis of a few key questions including:

  1. Why efforts in addressing gender-based violence so far have failed in Canada?
  2. Why has the situation necessitated a cross-sectoral response for efforts to end domestic violence?
  3. What are the systemic and or institutional barriers to achieving this goal?
  4. What policies are needed in each respective sector to have an impact in ending gender-based violence against women in Canada

Jasmine Hawamdeh

Jasmine Hawamdeh is a proud Palestinian-Canadian from Scarborough, TO. She is an independent artist, communications specialist and housing worker.

Jasmine has extensive experience engaging community members in policy through education and decision making opportunities. She lead a province wide student strike against the cuts to education, mobilized and rallied students to vote in the federal election and uses her art as an avenue for advocacy. She currently works as a housing worker at an Emergency Women’s Shelter.


Arezoo Najibzadeh, Founder & Managing Director at Platform

Sector: Women Capacity Building

Arezoo is a social innovator, communicator and a curator of powerful conversations and spaces. She is the founder and Managing Director of Platform, a non-profit organization that builds civic leadership capacity among Black, Indigenous, and racialized young women and gender-diverse youth. Platform enables young women to take on active roles within their community through local initiatives and civic engagement by strengthening young women’s leadership capacity within their respective communities, enabling active engagement within the Canadian politics. Through her work at Platform, Arezoo is advancing the conversation on gender and politics beyond representation to promote meaningful inclusion and prosperous futures for marginalized communities. Arezoo is recognized as a civil society leader and is the 2020 YWCA Toronto Young Woman of Distinction and a Women Deliver Young Leader.

Jessica Ketwaroo-Green, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce

Sector: GBV Advocacy and Public Policy 

Jessica holds a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Governance from Ryerson University focused on social justice, gender equity and policy studies. Throughout her professional career she has worked primarily in the non-profit sector coordinating programs to advance the social, political and economic position of women and gender diverse peoples in Canada. As a principal consultant, Jessica has supported private, for profit organizations and the public sector to strengthen individual and organizational capacity addressing racism and gender inequity. She is the Director of Advocacy and Public Policy with the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Her work has spanned a from sexual violence, intimate partner violence and women’s economic security.  As an independent consultant, she has delivered keynotes, workshops, and training on anti-black racism, gender, equity, and inclusion to strengthen individual and organizational capacity.

Jasmine Rezaee, YWCA Director of advocacy and policy 

Sector: Health & Community Services

Jasmine is an experienced public affairs leader. She is the Director of Advocacy & Communications at YWCA Toronto—one of Canada’s leading women’s organizations— and a Board Member at Access Alliance Multicultural Health & Community Services.

Jasmine has more than 12 years of nonprofit advocacy experience in gender equality, racial justice and poverty reduction in progressive leadership roles in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. Jasmine is committed to working with government, media and community partners to advance social change. She holds an MA in political science from the University of Toronto. Her work has been published in NOW Magazine, Ricochet Media, Policy Options, This Magazine, The Toronto Star, and Rabble.ca.

Blessings Timidi Digha, Community Facilitator at Family Service Toronto

Sector: Family Services

Blessing is Community Facilitator at Family Service Toronto. She is a feminist, advocate, storyteller, public speaker and Community Based Researcher in Gender Based Violence, Sexual Reproductive Health and human rights. She has 15 years of experience in counselling and Crises Prevention and Intervention work in girls and women’s Sexual Reproductive Health and rights addressing issues such as Teenage Pregnancy, Menstruation, Rape, Female Genital Mutilation among others, highlighting the blurred lines between Culture, Religion and Gender Based Violence. She volunteers with the End FGM Canada Network.Blessing is committed to leveraging research and storytelling to enable community mobilization and engagement to address broader social hierarchies, power identities and existing structures that impact black, brown, indigenous, and racialized immigrant girls and women.

Deepa Mattoo  Executive Director at Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic

Sector: GBV Legal 

Deepa Mattoo is the executive director of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic. Previously, she was the Clinic’s director of legal services. Before joining the Schlifer Clinic, Deepa was the project co-ordinator, staff lawyer and executive director at the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario. 

In her role as the executive director, Deepa oversees the Clinic’s strategic direction and provides leadership to the legal, counselling and interpretation departments. Deepa is directly involved in critical projects related to the criminalization of women, sexual violence and the precarious status of women, the risk assessment of gender-based violence, and inter-disciplinary case management. Deepa also provides leadership for the Clinic’s intervention and advocacy work and has appeared before parliamentary committees and UN civil society meetings on a wide range of social justice and human rights issues. She has also represented hundreds of clients at multiple tribunals and courts in numerous jurisdictions including the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Deepa is an Adjunct Professor and Visiting Faculty at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School where she is the co-director of the Feminist Advocacy Program, hosted at the Schlifer Clinic. Deepa was the Law Foundation of Ontario’s 2017 Community Leadership in Justice Fellow at Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto. She has trained thousands of service providers for best practices and legal education to work with forced marriage survivors, racialized non-status women, and immigration law clients in the context of gender-based violence.

2nd session: February 5th, 2021

Ending The Silence: Responsive Community Support & Resources for Gender-Based Violence

“Domestic violence is not a private issue – it’s a community issue. And it takes a community to end domestic violence.” (Immigrant and Refugee Communities, 2020). Ending the Silence is a project that is hosted by the Newcomer Students’ Association in collaboration with the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) under the 2020-2021 Immigrant and Refugee Communities Neighbours, Friends and Families (IRCNFF) Campaign.


Dr. Mojgan Rahbari-Jawoko

Dr. Mojgan Rahbari-Jawoko (Ph.D.) is an academic scholar with interdisciplinary expertise in Social/ Public Policy and Administration and specialization in Immigration and Settlement; race and ethnicity studies; and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) issues. She has 18+ years of postsecondary teaching and applied research experience in Canada and England. She has been an Adjunct Instructor at Ryerson University since 2013. She is a passionate advocate for application of intersectional lens of analysis in understanding diversity, equity and social justice issues in Canada. She advocates for elimination of systemic and institutional inequalities; champions labour market integration of internationally skilled immigrants and civic engagement and representation of marginalized groups in Canada.

Sidrah Ahmad-Chan

Sidrah Ahmad-Chan is a public educator, researcher, and writer who focuses on the topics of gendered violence, migrant justice, and Islamophobia.  Sidrah is also the author of the Rivers of Hope Toolkit (www.riversofhopetoolkit.ca) – a community-based resource for survivors of Islamophobic violence.  Her work has been profiled by the Toronto Star, CBC, OMNI Television, Global News, CTV’s The Social, MuslimGirl, and BBC World Radio. Her writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, TVO, CBC Docs, and Broadview. Sidrah is pursuing her PhD in Adult Education and Community Development and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto.  

jaspreet-my NSA

Jaspreet Kaur

Jaspreet received her Social Service Worker diploma with High Honours from Sheridan College. As an international student from India, she held multiple roles at her college, including President of Sheridan International Students’ Association, Peer Mentor, Student Leadership and Engagement and International Students’ Ambassador, where she was able to offer various services and support to students. Jaspreet has been recognized with the Newcomer Resilience Award and contributed as a Research Assistant to a project called ‘Domestic Violence in Immigrant Communities: Case Studies’. She believes in diversity, equity and inclusion and works toward making a difference in others’ lives by providing them with appropriate support and services.

1st session – December 10th, 2020

Ending the Silence – A Double Pandemic: COVID-19 and Gender Based Violence

This event is part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which is  an annual international campaign that starts on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ends on December 10th, Human Rights Day.


Sara Asalya

Sara is the Founder and Executive Director of the Newcomer Students’ Association. She has a long track record of developing, managing, and evaluating different programs and projects targeting immigrant and refugee communities internationally and in Canada, with a particular focus on immigrant women settlement experiences, and social and economic integration. Sara was recognized as Canada’s Top 25 Canadain Immigrant for her leadership, and for being a champion for immigrants and refugees civic engagement, and political participation. 


Cheyanne Ratnam

Cheyanne is a founding member, and lead, of the Ontario Children’s Advocacy Coalition, and is on the board of directors of both Scarborough West Community Legal Clinic and the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, as well as a member of the Children in Limbo Taskforce. Cheyanne is also an Advocate regarding Childhood Sexual Abuse, and is a survivor herself. Previously, Cheyanne was the founder and co-manager of the “What’s The Map?!” project, mobilizing young people with lived experience of homelessness from the global south to nurture a more coordinated system through multi-governmental policy circles and cross-sectoral community engagement. Cheyanne holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work, and has appeared on The Agenda with Steve Paiken, Global News, and other media platforms. Some topics she has experience in (lived experience and professional), and is highly passionate about include: youth homelessness, youth in/from the child welfare system, Intimate partner violence and gender based violence, educational outcomes of vulnerable populations, and  childhood sexual abuse.

Salina Abji

Salina is a sociologist who studies the politics of gender, race and immigration status. She has published extensively on migrant rights activism in Canada in response to border enforcement, immigration detention, and access to citizenship for migrant women survivors of gender-based violence. She holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto and an MSt. in Women’s Studies from Oxford University.

Salina currently provides strategic research support to NGOs primarily in the immigration and anti-violence sectors. She has also been an active member of the Rights of Non-Status Women’s Network, a grassroots advocacy network, for the past ten years.

Margarita Pintin-Perez

Margarita is Senior Coordinator of the Initiative to End GBV against Immigrant and Refugee Communities at OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. Margarita earned a PhD (2019) in Sociology from El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Mexico and a Master of Social Work (2011) from the University of Toronto.  Her research is interested in violence, specifically examining the role of discourse and space in securing racial and gendered violence against migrant communities. She has completed research in Canada and Mexico with published work on feminist research methods and different forms of symbolic and structural violence. Returning to Canada in 2019, she started her position at OCASI coordinating a national project focused on supporting an infrastructure of advocacy leadership among survivors of GBV and communities long time working to support non-status, refugee and immigrant women.  

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