Exploring the gifts and dreams of sewing circle members: skills mastery and peer support as vehicles for increasing self-efficacy among women who are newcomers (immigrants and refugees) to Canada

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Williams, Judith
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Linus Learning
The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of women who have migrated to Canada and were members of a Sewing Circle in Central Park, Winnipeg. It was aimed to discover if involvement at the women’s centre increased levels of self-confidence and perceived self-efficacy for members. The study involved conversations and interviews with twelve women. The study was conducted between March and November 2012. Using qualitative research methodology, questions were asked to shape a better understanding of the circumstances that led participants to seek membership with a sewing circle and what membership in such a program had meant for them. The interview design included identifying some of the gifts, assets, resources, interests, skills and abilities the women had pre-arrival to Canada. Participants were asked to share goals and dreams they held for themselves in this new country. The feminist approach used for the study’s framework set the tone for a conversational style interview process, with time set aside for the interviewer and participant to exchange ideas. The collected data identified that all of the participants who had migrated as adults had skills-specific training, careers they enjoyed and/or were entrepreneurs in their home countries or countries of refuge. The main themes that emerged from the data described how the economic realities of learning and mastering the skill of sewing were of value to participants. Peer support, feeling like a part of something and finding a sense of family in the host country were also reasons for membership. The findings from the study show a need for policies that support interventions focused on building more inclusive communities and societies. Communities where academic qualifications, skills specific training, employment and entrepreneurial experience accumulated in other countries provide trajectories to a more direct path forward for people as they transition into the Canadian economy and integrate into Canadian society.
Newcomer, refugee, immigrant, women, sewing circle, skills mastery, career assessments, untapped skills, self-efficacy, social capital, social inclusion, integration, women's centres, isolation, protean career, trades training for women, women and entrepreneurship, English for specific purposes
The prelimanary findings were published