Leading the Settlement SHEcovery


Leading the Settlement SHEcovery: Advancing an intersectional pandemic recovery by investing in women-serving-women-led organizations in Ontario’s refugee-and-immigrant-serving sector

OCASI Women’s Caucus Research Report (2021)

Research Purpose:

The OCASI Women’s Caucus conducted this research in 2021 to study the impacts of COVID-19 on Women’s organizations in Ontario’s refugee-and-immigrant serving sector:

  • Identify promising practices
  • Analyze key issues and challenges
  • Understand what organizations need to build capacity and resiliency


  • Reviewed 150 sources as part of an environmental scan
  • Consulted with 23 women’s caucus member organizations as part of a qualitative study

Findings Highlights:

Pandemic Response at the Intersections

  • Quickly pivoted operations in response to COVID-19 public health measures
  • Used their specialized knowledge to respond to critical gaps in public health measures
    • Analysis of systemic barriers and intersectional needs
    • Networks and relationships of care
    • Lived experience

Pre-existing systemic inequities intensified impacts of COVID-19

  • Like other social service organizations in Ontario, member organizations experienced direct impacts on organizational capacity and staff mental health
  • However, pre-existing systemic inequities prolonged and deepened the COVID-19 crisis for Women Serving Women Lead settlement organizations:
  • Direct impacts on staff from equity-seeking groups
  • Vicarious impacts of care work with vulnerable communities
  • Systemic inequities in funding allocation, lack of GBA+ analysis, pay inequity and succession planning concerns.

Implications for government funders, policymakers, and sector leaders

  • Recognize and support the specialized knowledge of WSWL organizations
  • Where calls for proposals are focused on improving women’s social and economic empowerment, give weight to women’s organizations that primarily serve women
  • Create meaningful opportunities to lead and participate in decision-making
  • Build systemic resilience through long-term investments and core operational funding.
  • Create policies that build the long-term capacity of women’s organizations, including HR, technological and administrative infrastructure supports.
  • Invest in women’s leadership and succession planning; investigate and address inequities in funding allocation and salaries; use a GBA+ lens to adapt and transform how services are organized.

To further disseminate this research in a meaningful way, the Women’s Caucus recently created an infographic to capture and summarize the purpose, methods, and key findings of the study.

Access the Infographic here.

Access the full research report.

The report was written by Dr. Salina Abji, Ashley Major, and Roshni Kemraj.

In addition to this qualitative study, OCASI conducted a quantitative survey of OCASI Women’s Organizations with the goal of collecting data on their baseline conditions to better know who these organizations are, who they serve and how they serve them, and to identify the specific impacts of COVID-19 on women's organization in the settlement sector. Findings from this quantitative survey can be found in the power point presentation below:
Leading the Settlement SHEcovery - Presentation [PDF]