Graphic novel sparks Ontario-wide conversation about violence against women

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Graphic novel sparks Ontario-wide conversation about violence against women Four stories written by immigrant women on topics such as rape, sexual abuse and harassment, offer support to other immigrant women enduring similar experiences.

To mark annual International Women’s Day, The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) & Le Mouvement Ontarien des Femmes Immigrantes Francophones (MOFIF) launched the graphic novel "Telling Our Stories: Immigrant Women’s Resilience". The graphic novel is part of a public education campaign to prevent sexual violence in Ontario.

On March 2nd, the first of several launches across the country took place in Toronto. The bilingual event brought in a crowd of more of than 150 people eager to learn more about how the novel was developed, meet many of the writers, and to support the initiative that is already impacting lives in the province.

Copies of the graphic novel at the Toronto Launch

The event included speakers and poets and readings of the novel and sparked a conversation about the prevention of violence against women in immigrant communities. The launch featured two special guest speakers; The Hon. Marie- France Lalonde, Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs and Nathalie Des Rosiers, MPP, who both spoke about the importance of the graphic novel and the positive impact the stories will have on the community.

“We recognize that immigrant and refugee women who are survivors of sexual violence have unique barriers in seeking support due to fear of stigma, lack of support, victim blaming and lack of knowledge of supports available in their mother tongue” said Fayza Abdallaoui, President, MOFIF.

“We decided to use a graphic novel because it’s a creative way to tell stories that can introduce new audiences to significant social issues in a visual, accessible and engaging way and add to the conversations in our communities to end violence against women” said Debbie Douglas, Executive Director, OCASI.

OCASI Board members and staff at the Toronto launch.

During the fall of 2016, 40 women gathered in three cities to participate in workshops to create the novel.

“We created a graphic novel that reflects directly on the real experiences of immigrant and refugee community members. That’s why we held a series of creative writing workshops to get different ideas,” said Coco Guzman, the content developer and illustrator of the graphic novel. The graphic novel also includes discussion questions for educators appear at the end of the novel to help lead and spark important conversations about workplace harassment, marital rape and racism that immigrant and refugee communities can face.

Amal’s story:

Manuela’s story:

The graphic novel will be launched in other cities and regions across Ontario during the months of March and April. They include Hamilton, London, Markham, Kitchener, Oshawa, Ottawa, Peel Region, Sudbury, Toronto, Welland and Windsor. Besides English and French, it will also be available in Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Tamil, Spanish, Urdu, Dari, Punjabi and Somali.

"Telling Our Stories: Immigrant Women’s Resilience" is available free of charge, and will be distributed in newcomer communities through settlement organizations, reception houses, organizations working with newly arrived refugees, as well as universities, places of worship, and other venues in Ontario. To order a copy of the novel, send an email to [email protected]

To support and to find out where the next launch will be, follow us on social media at hashtag: #4ImmigrantWomen 

OCASI and MOFIF staff and volunteers celebrating at the Toronto launch event.