Calgary Immigrant Women's Association

We are a settlement agency that focuses on the unique needs of immigrant and refugee women, girls and their families. We offer programs in the areas of settlement and integration, literacy and language training, employment support, and family services.

5 CIWA Staff smiling for photoOur Story Why We Exist

Olua (not her real name) moved to Canada in 2011 with her husband and three young sons from Nigeria. In her home country, Olua had a successful career as a school administrator, but in Canada due to her qualifications not being recognized, she decided to become a Licensed Practical Nurse. She was trying her best to juggle her responsibilities in raising three young boys and a full time class load. Shortly after starting her studies, Olua was required to be at her school thirty minutes earlier one day for a class photo which meant she would not be home to send her eldest son Michael (seven years old) off to the school bus. Olua made a decision that her son was responsible enough to catch the bus by himself and left him with instructions. However, her son missed the bus as he was watching cartoons and decided to stay home. When the school called Olua’s house to inquire about Michael’s absence, Michael answered the phone and shared that he was at home alone. The school staff called the police and had them pick Michael up and drive him to school and also reported this to Child and Family Services.

Olua was referred to Cross-Cultural Parenting Program at CIWA by a case worker from Child and Family Services. Due to Olua’s busy school schedule, the CCPP facilitator met with her one-on-one after her she finished her classes for the day. The Program Facilitator worked around Olua’s schedule and went over the entire course curriculum with her within four sessions. Olua learned about child abuse laws, the Canadian school system, positive discipline, institutional pressures, parenting styles, and healthy child development.

After several weeks of participation in the Cross-Cultural Parenting Program, Olua felt she had a much better understanding of how to be a successful parent in Canada. She felt more confident to advocate for herself with her son’s school and Child and Family Services. Her file with Child and Family Services was closed, which brought her huge relief and allowed Olua to refocus on her family and her studies.

CIWA exists for women like Olua. CIWA is a culturally diverse settlement agency that recognizes, responds to, and focuses on the unique concerns and needs of immigrant and refugee women, girls and their families. CIWA’s uniqueness is based on having a narrow gender related mandate, which has provided best practices in developing customized female focused initiatives.  These initiatives always include children and their well-being as important outcomes of our engagement.CIWA is empowering immigrant women and their families to integrate in the community.

Women and children holding hands in a circleOur Impact What We Do

CIWA takes a holistic and wraparound approach to addressing integration challenges immigrant women and their families face when settling in a new country. CIWA’s mandate is as follows:  

  • VISION: 
  • Empower Immigrant Women. Enrich Canadian society.
  • To engage and integrate immigrant women and their families in the community.
  • VALUES: 
  • Integrity. Equity. Empowerment. Relevance. Collaboration.

During its 30 year history, CIWA has developed innovative programs, entered into partnerships and become an organization that is truly responsive to the unique and diverse needs of its constituency. Over the years, CIWA has made the transition to Canada a more comfortable, pleasant and successful one for more than 80,000 immigrant women.

CIWA focuses its financial strategy on strengthening core programs in the areas of settlement, language training, employment skills, and family services. We also respond to tenders for new pilot initiatives by developing innovative program ideas to compete with other agencies for government funding. We feel confident that our funders value the good work that we do for clients and our adherence to standards of professional accountability.

A key component to CIWA’s financial growth and sustainability involves the enhancement of fund development strategies through research, consultations, networking and development of strong partnerships. We will continue to work towards expanding funding for enhanced language training projects, skills training, and other projects aimed at supporting clients with basic needs and/or family violence issues. We hope that our effort to connect with the corporate sector will provide further stability for the organization through small projects that will benefit our clients and the entire Calgary community.

Over the years, CIWA has been locally and nationally recognized for our commitment to serving immigrant women and their families through collaborative and innovative approaches to service delivery. Most recently, CIWA programs, volunteers, staff and clients were the recipients of the following:

  • Council of the Federation Literacy Award for the province of Alberta.
  • The Heart of Calgary award 2014
  • The Community Partner of the Year Award from Goodwill Greatness Awards in September 2013
  • The 2013 Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life Literacy Innovation Award.
  • The 2010 Literacy Alberta Award of Excellence in the Student Category for Pebbles in the Sand
  • The 2010 recipient of Canada’s Citizenship Award

Two women making notes on a bulletin boardOur Programs How We Do It

CIWA programs and services are offered in the following four core areas:

Settlement and Integration Services provide support in meeting immediate basic needs of clients as well as support for women dealing with family violence and abuse.

Language Training and Childcare Services provide language and literacy classes to clients in order to help them achieve proficiency in English at any level. Childcare is provided for our students’ children.

Family Services provide support for parents and families adjusting to a new culture and life in a new country.

Employment Services offer bridge to work programs, counseling, networking opportunities, training and workshops for women searching for meaningful jobs in our community.

Woman received the learning and support offered by CIWAOur Requests What You Can Do

There are many ways to get involved at CIWA.

Whether you purchase a membership, donate to our programs, volunteer a few of hours of your time, work at CIWA or refer an immigrant woman, your support is invaluable to us.

You can help us achieve our mission to engage and integrate immigrant women and their families in the community.

Work with us:  CIWA’s extensive programs and services are coordinated and facilitated by dedicated staff members who appreciate the diverse environment within which they work. They are committed to providing their best, and bring experience, expertise, passion and focus to their roles each day.

CIWA seeks individuals who are community minded and can understand the needs of the clients we serve. In turn, we offer a career experience in an environment that is collaborative, innovative and supportive.

Volunteer:  CIWA truly believes in volunteerism and the potential of all women. Volunteers are a precious resource to our agency and allow us to promote and enhance our services. The mission of the Volunteer Program is to empower immigrant women through volunteering and recruiting exceptional volunteers to support CIWA’s programs and services.

Become a member:  For a small annual fee you can contribute to CIWA as a member of the society.

Donate:  CIWA serves a wide range of clients from low literacy to professional immigrant women. Almost 30% of CIWA clients have 12 years of education or less. These women face issues related to self-esteem, health and poverty, attitude towards education, learning disabilities, family violence, and an inability to support their children in school. It is important for CIWA to support this highly barriered and isolated client group.  CIWA values inclusion and strives to support all immigrant women in their integration process.  Due to the lack of formal education, these women are missing foundational learning skills and are not equipped to function fully in a text driven society. By donating to CIWA, you will be supporting the integration of these multi-barriered clients into our community.

Calgary is a diverse city and we invite you to set an example of inclusion and tolerance by contributing a small amount to our services that will support newcomers in their ability to co-exist with you and your family and contribute to our community.


Beba Svigir
Chief Executive Officer
Charitable Number: 118823657RR0001

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