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CC Shoes and Stories of Immigrant and Refugee Women

Abstract for Katherine Govier:

In 2010 Katherine Govier started a writing and public speaking workshop for immigrant and refugee women. By 2022 the Shoe Project has grown to have chapters in 8 Canadian cities and to have seen 350 women write and perform their ‘immigrant stories’. In her presentation, Katherine will describe how that all came about, from inception, to growth, to today’s situation. She will show two short videos of performances by The Shoe Project alumnae and will then introduce an alumna Sheila Qayumi, from Afghanistan.

Bio: Born in Edmonton, Katherine Govier now divides her time between Toronto and Canmore. An award-winning author, she has published 11 novels, 3 short story collections, and 2 anthologies of travel writing. Her most recent novel is The Three Sisters Bar and Hotel. Past President of PenCanada, she has been recognized by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association for Excellence in the Arts and in 2019 was inducted as a Member of the Order of Canada. Founder of The Shoe Project, a nation-wide writing workshop and performance initiative for immigrant and refugee women, she served as its director for 10 years.

Abstract for Sheila Qayumi:

When the Taliban took power, Sheila Qayumi was evacuated from Afghanistan by a military flight. The shock of leaving suddenly and without a prior plan, the multiple losses of leaving behind a good job, a good life, and the recognition she had for the work that she had done, meant that she arrived in Canada stressed and traumatized. Uncertain where and how to start, she felt like an anonymous person and was very disappointed.

Sheila’s mental state began to change after a woman introduced her to The Shoe Project. As she heard from immigrant women who came from different countries that they had gone through all the same problems and were able to start a new life, she was inspired not to give up. Now she tells others that The Shoe Project was the starter of her life journey in Canada. Happy today that she has the same job as she had back home, has made a network of women and established the Afghan Society of Calgary, her goal is to do more for Afghan women who live in Calgary and women who were left behind in Afghanistan.

Bio: Born in Kabul, Sheila Qayumi fled Afghanistan on August 23, 2021. She holds a master’s degree in Education and TESOL from Indiana University. Prior to her arrival in Canada, she worked as a university lecturer and as Manager for Equality for Peace and Democracy (EPD), an organization that supported women’s provincial networks in 20 provinces to implement Resolution 1325 and ensure the meaningful participation of women in the Afghan peace process.

By October 2021, she had a job as an interpreter and counselor with the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society. Now at the Centre for Newcomers as a Case Manager-Afghan Specialist, she works to resettle Afghan newcomers and to help them in the integration process. She has also formed the Afghan Society of Calgary (ASC), an association designed to mobilize Afghans, help new Afghan immigrants, and preserve Afghan culture and traditions. In addition, she continues to be an activist for peace and the defense of women’s rights in Afghanistan.

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