Hani Rukh E Qamar is the Founder of Canadian Advisory of Women Immigrants (CAWI) and a student in BSc. Psychology and International Development Studies, Economic Development and Living Standards, at McGill University. Hani is a member of the Board Directors of SOFIA House, which is a second-stage transition home for women escaping domestic violence. She also works at the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation as a Program Assistant. and is a part of the UBC Women’s Health Research Cluster, as well as a research team at the University of Regina.
Hani founded CAWI after noticing the increasing need for social support for immigrant women, especially in areas like Saskatchewan. CAWI aims to provide social, healthcare and employment support through advocacy efforts and promoting resources designed for immigrant women. Hani recently received the Scarlet Society Key Award, one of the most prestigious awards at McGill University, for her work founding CAWI.
How has the pandemic impacted your work? If you could get Canadians to understand one thing about your work during the pandemic, what would it be?
Tha pandemic has taken away potential opportunities to host in-person events for CAWI. Being the Founder and Director of a nonprofit that promotes a sense of sisterhood among immigrant women, it has been incredibly hard to fulfill our mandate due to lack of funding opportunities and the pandemic’s restrictions. Shifting to a 100% online setting has been remarkably difficult for CAWI’s team.However, we have planned and hosted amazing events and programs that help immigrant women find proper resources during these difficult times.
How has the pandemic impacted your personal life?
As someone who enjoys social interactions and talking to colleagues, classmates and friends, this has been one of the loneliest times of my life. Constantly being in my room and office space has definitely negatively impacted my mental health and I can only imagine how hard these times may be for someone who has just immigrated to Canada. In response to my declining mental health, I had to make major changes in my personal life to overcome these uncertain times, one of them being changing my diet and sleeping schedule, as well as meditating more frequently.
Have you been vaccinated? If so, how did you feel when you found out that you were scheduled to get the vaccine? If not, how has the wait impacted your mental health?
I have been vaccinated recently as I work at a shelter and I could not be happier. It was a huge sense of relief knowing that I had some protection against the virus and that I could stay healthy to help my parents with their daily tasks. This has definitely improved my personal well-being as I feel more safe.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to students during this time?
Take 10 minutes each day and do something to enhance your personal well-being. I understand that grades and work matter a lot in the long-run but your mental health matters the most! If you are not mentally healthy, you will have a lot more trouble retaining your notes or working, so please focus on yourself before you burn out doing all your tedious tasks. The pandemic has been hard for everyone, especially students and it is crucial that you perform some sort of self-care or take mental health days for yourself. If you are pursuing a healthy lifestyle already then I would advise you to help other students who may be struggling with their mental health or contribute to a cause you are passionate about. I assure you, it pays off.
It has been a long and hard year. What keeps you going? Are there any hopeful stories that you can share with us?
Something that keeps me going is my nonprofit work with CAWI. It is amazing to hear the feedback from our projects and hear the support as well. Since I am a first-generation immigrant myself, it is so rewarding to be a part of a cause that I am directly connected with. I am most proud of our Women’s Day Mini Conference held in collaborations with other organizations. It was amazing to hear the stories of other immigrant women doing amazing projects across Canada. I am also extremely excited to launch CAWI’s Sexual Health Campaign and Video Series on Influential Immigrant Women this year. My work is definitely one of the reasons I have managed to stay mentally healthy during the pandemic.