Windsor Women Working With Immigrant Women has been a Positive Spaces Initiative (PSI) partner since July 2011, after an invigorating and informative two-day PSI training presented by OCASI. When WWWWIW identified and recognized the need to address the gaps in knowledge and skills amongst staff and clients at the agency on LGBTQ newcomer issues, two of WWWWIW staff began looking for formal LGBTQ newcomer welcoming and inclusive communities’ workshops. They soon came across OCASI’s Positive Spaces Initiative training.
The training proved to be very rewarding, as some staff had the opportunity to ask some very sensitive questions and engage in dialogue on LGBTQ newcomer positive space issues. It helped recognize and address many barriers and challenges on creating a positive space within the agency. Since the training, WWWWIW have been trying to facilitate a welcoming and inclusive space. PSI posters and postcards are visible at the entrances of offices on every floor, and available in a variety of languages. They also encourage questions and dialogues from clients to better facilitate positive communication and education. On WWWWIW’s central intake form, they have taken out the ‘identify as male or female (sex)’ question, and replaced it with a more inclusive gender and/or gender expression question with a blank space to allow the client to self-identify. In their database, they also have a field for same-sex relationships, be it marriage, common-law partnership, or others.
The WWWWIW website http://www.wwwwiw.org/ also includes one of the PSI postcard to ensure that those who view it know that we are committed to positive and inclusive spaces. They have incorporated sexual orientation and gender orientation into their Statement of Philosophy as an equal opportunity employer, as well as in their Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression policies. These are in their Employee Handbook’s and are thoroughly reviewed with new hires, and restated in organizational policies. In hiring procedures, job postings and interviews, WWWWIW always mention that they are committed to employment equity initiatives and encourage Internationally Trained Professionals and members of ethno-racial, aboriginal, immigrant, refugee, LGBTQ and disabled community groups to apply and self-identify. WWWWIW is grateful for the opportunity to have received the PSI training. The training provided better awareness on positive spaces issues, and have started massive strides in the implementation of equitable treatment for our staff and clients who identify with the LGBTQ community. WWWWIW has since attended and marched on their first pride event as an organization.
“The training has not only helped us to identify and eliminate barriers within our organization, but also within ourselves, and it has allowed us to grow as human beings,” - WWWWIW staff.