Women’s and Gender Studies provided me with a space where I belong. I am an Assyrian woman, born in Iran, and raised in Sweden. Needless to say, I know what it is like to be an outsider. I was the dark-haired, brown-eyed blemish in a pristine blond-haired and blue-eyed society. It was clear to everyone, including me, that I did not belong. I became angry, frustrated and lost. I could not understand why I had those feelings.
Women’s and Gender Studies helped me think critically about these issues and enabled me to understand how social factors affect and influence the lives of women. I was provided with the tools to conceptually understand my personal experiences and feelings. For instance, my physical appearance differed dramatically from my peers, making me acutely aware of the cultural and ethnic differences that separated me from other young women. Women’s and Gender Studies enabled me to explore the politics of differences and educated me about the unique factors that contribute to this thinking.
What I learned from my peers and professors is invaluable knowledge that I could not have gotten from anywhere else. When I think of Women’s and Gender Studies, I think of equality, social justice, activist, freedom of choice, and community participation.
Today, one year after graduation, I am working as a settlement caseworker at Adult Language and Learning in Chatham, assisting newcomers in achieving equal participation in Canadian society, and trying to reduce the systemic barriers that prevent them from doing so. My personal experiences as a newcomer in both Sweden and Canada, combined with the knowledge gained from Women’s and Gender Studies, has equipped me with the skills and confidence to perform my job.