Calgary Cultural Responsiveness Training

The Cause

We, at Nisa Homes, propose to design and provide a series of cultural responsiveness training sessions for front-line staff and management of social service agencies and organizations that serve women survivors of violence, in Calgary. Our goal is to facilitate cultural awareness, sensitivity, and best practices in social service providers and managers who regularly interact with culturally, religiously, and linguistically marginalized communities. In delivering this training, we intend to help create more safe and inclusive social services spaces, where women from any background feel heard, understood, protected, safe and supported by the industries meant to be serving them.

The systemic barriers experienced by racialized women and women from cultural minorities when attempting to access public social services are well documented and the suggestion for this training came from round table discussions among our own Nisa Homes clients. They spoke about the language barriers and lack of cultural understanding, of course, but also about being shunted from one agency to another without warning or explanation, facing judgements and stereotypes about religion or culture, and hearing disparaging, discriminatory and victim-blaming language which further alienated them from seeking help from institutional systems. Nisa Homes is in a unique and optimal position to deliver this training initiative due to our first-hand experience engaging and working with the very people who have identified the problem.

Our sessions will be developed with an intersectional lens regarding the topics of violence against women and gender-based violence, in accordance with the experiences of communities of colour and ethnic-minority peoples. During the workshops, we will offer participants:
- Time to reflect on their workplace practices, internal biases and gaps in current service models
- An opportunity to learn about best practices, cultural nuances and alternate approaches to client interactions
- Materials and content to take home and refer to
- A forum to interact, discuss and collaborate with peers
- And a safe space to practice using a culturally responsive model of service provision

By training staff on how to better recognise and address the needs of these populations, we hope to make it safe for women forcibly disconnected from their identity, to rediscover security of their culture—specifically through anti-racist, trauma-informed, and gender equity principles.

Who Will it Benefit?

Through our examination of the GBV social services sector, we saw that many front-line services have had limited innovation when it comes to service delivery and responding to instances of racism, oppression, and discrimination. A common sentiment among shelter workers, and other social service sectors, is that their desire for better cultural sensitivity training isn’t being met. Currently, there are few quality training opportunities available that are created and administered by agencies and facilitators with lived experience. This lack of awareness regarding cultural, religious, and linguistic needs has further cemented the systemic barriers that minority women face when attempting to access social services. As the Ontario Association of Interval & Transitional Houses explains, “systemic racism can result from doing things the way they have always been done.”

In response, our Cultural Responsiveness training sessions will be developed through consultations with Nisa Homes clients and service provider agencies to ensure that we address the service gaps relevant to each participating industry sector without compromising on the cultural sensitivity content. It will directly benefit violence against women (VAW) service providers, front-line staff and their management. The expected participants would be members of organizations or agencies responsible for the delivery or management of client-facing programs such as case workers, case managers, supervisors and directors. This includes, but is not limited to, staff and personnel of transitional shelters, victim services, helpline and crisis lines, settlement agencies, police forces, paramedics, hospital staff, child welfare workers, and second-stage housing.

Specific examples of target agencies include the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA), Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter (CWES), Children’s Cottage Society, Immigrant Services Calgary, Calgary Police Service, the YWCA, Brenda Stafford Foundation, Child and Family Services, Discovery House, Alpha House, Sonshine Centre, Sheriff King, Awo-Taan Women’s Shelter, etc.