Immigrant Identity and the Nonprofit: A Case study of the Afghan Women's Organization

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By: Rob Norquay
Org: Joint Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement – Toronto (CERIS)
Date: 2004

This paper (CERIS Working Paper Series #29) focuses on immigrant identity theory and its application to actual lived experience, using the Afghan Women's Organization (AWO) as a model.

The paper functions on two levels. First, it attempts to "bring theory to life" by using a case study approach with women connected as staff, volunteers, and clients involved with a Toronto-based community service agency, the AWO. Using both assimilationist and retentionist approaches, the paper creates a dialogue between these theories and the lived experience of seven Afghan Muslim women.

Second, the paper investigates the ways in which this nonprofit organization has leveraged Citizenship and Immigration funding, to deliver assimilationist services such as English language acquisition to a multi-ethnic client base, and created spaces where retentionist activities for Afghan women and youth take place. The paper examines a number of themes that developed during the course of the interviews.

These included:

  • Afghan ethnic identity in Afghanistan and its 'translation' in Canada
  • Cultural gaps experienced by Afghan Canadian youth as a result of the Canadian public school socialization processes
  • Transnational identity and an exploration of these women's identities centred in their roles as wives and mothers, but who, through the AWO, also have taken on roles as individuals serving their community as citizens.
This report is available for download in Adobe Acrobat PDF format (415 KB, 69 pages).