Bridging the Gap: CAWA’s Commitment to Supporting Arab Women and Families in Canada

This SDG story was developed in collaboration with students in the MGMT*3500 Design Thinking course in the Department of Management at the University of Guelph. For this project students were partnered with a community organization or business to support their SDG storytelling efforts, using design thinking as a primary tool. You can learn more about the student project, and the connections between design thinking and SDG storytelling here. SDG Cities would like to extend deep gratitude to the community partners and to the students who crafted compelling stories to help us share SDG impact from our community. Thanks also go out to Dr. Elizabeth Kurucz, who has been a wonderful collaborator helping to connect students with SDG work happening in their community!

Everyone deserves the chance to foster community in Canada. Too often Arab immigrants and refugees in Canada are forced into isolation, whether it be language barriers, xenophobia, trauma, or feeling lost in an unfamiliar place. The Canadian Arab Women’s Association (CAWA) seeks to provide support, uplift and address these barriers through targeted programming and services. 

Newcomers, especially women, often face unique challenges, experiencing insurmountable stress as they try to navigate everything on their own. Therefore, women newcomers need programs and more resources tailored to their specific needs.  Social networks can empower and integrate newcomers in Canada, particularly benefitting women. Despite systemic challenges faced by newcomers, such as limited resources and narrow service mandates, social support programs play a crucial role in the settlement of immigrants and positive impact on their overall health and wellbeing (Simich L, et al. 2005). CAWA prevents social isolation for marginalized newcomers as it is crucial for their integration into Canadian society by providing culturally sensitive programs and resources to self-identifying Arab women with their unique experiences in mind. 

CAWA, established in 2016, is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to connecting, supporting, and empowering Arab women in the Waterloo Region and Guelph. Over the last two years, CAWA has served as a bridge that connects Arab women to each other and to the wider community through the facilitation of engaging events and relevant programs while also providing Arab women the resources they need to thrive in their own ways. 

“When immigrants from our community come to Canada, they often lack information and resources about settling here, particularly regarding unfamiliar aspects, such as taxation, schools, and employment.These are significantly distinct from what is experienced back home “

Yolande Lansing – Projects Director, CAWA

CAWA focuses on tackling crucial issues faced by Arab immigrants and refugees in Canada, such as isolation, language barriers, and the challenges associated with navigating a new environment. These challenges may affect many Arab immigrants on a daily basis and the aftermath of the pandemic has only worsened these challenges especially for women. In 2021, CAWA served over 275 program participants and connected with over 1800 women in the local community. 

“After the pandemic and the transition to online and virtual platforms, many faced difficulties adapting to this new setup. Some immigrants arrived during the lockdown period, experiencing a challenging situation where everything was closed, including schools. Honestly, addressing their well-being became a complex necessity to address”

Yolande Lansing – Projects Director, CAWA

CAWA’s Impact 

In addition to the numerous women they support along the way, a notable initiative is CAWA’s Mother to Mother program, which facilitates connections among Arab women and encourages the sharing of experiences through mutual support. This program eases the transition and navigation of the new environment while addressing language barriers through weekly sessions facilitated by a guest speaker. CAWA also supports women by equipping them with the tools they need to strengthen their families and support themselves through its Strong Families Together program. Guest speakers are invited to this program to discuss topics related to domestic violence, economic abuse, healthy relationships and family law. 

The impact of CAWA’s efforts aligns with several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through their initiatives, CAWA ensures that Arab women and their families have access to the necessary resources and support, thereby reducing the barriers associated with integrating into their local communities.


CAWA’s work is critically important and continues to provide pathways into happy and productive lives in Canada for Arab women and their families. Their work connects to a variety of interconnected SDGs promoting inclusivity, equality, and enhancing individual and community well-being. Over the last two years, CAWA has reached thousands of individual women, and hopes to continue supporting more women into the future. 

To learn more about CAWA’s work, check out its website for more information,


Newcomers, especially women, face challenges beyond language, says Dalhousie prof

Simich L, Beiser M, Stewart M, Mwakarimba E. Providing social support for immigrants and refugees in Canada: challenges and directions. J Immigr Health. 2005 Oct;7(4):259-68.