“I want women to have a voice.”

NYWC's Program Manager, Edna Anger

NYWC’s new program manager, Edna Anger, shares what drives her.

I’m Edna, and I’m delighted to be starting this new role at North York Women’s Centre because I love supporting women and empowering them to speak up.

I grew up in Nigeria, and even though my family was very close, overall society was very patriarchal. Men made most of the decisions. I can remember that during gatherings at my house, my mother was always in the kitchen working. At the time I was thinking, “She should be enjoying the conversation!” Plus, I heard kids at school talking about how poorly their dads treated their moms. I couldn’t comprehend that – it didn’t seem right for humans to treat each other like that. So from an early age, I knew I wanted to be that person who said, “Don’t be afraid to talk.”

In my twenties, I worked at a Catholic organization, and I saw that the women who came in for counseling were often told to focus on keeping their family together. Nobody was listening to what they needed. Whereas I would ask them, “What do you want?” So that was a big eye opener for me. Likewise, when I worked as a relationship manager at a bank, the thing I enjoyed most was supporting my female clients to make better investment choices and become economically empowered. As a volunteer, I also counselled young people and women who experienced gender-based violence.

“I had to discover my own voice first.”

I came to Canada in 2019 with my two young children to escape a psychologically abusive environment. I needed to get away to maintain my mental health, plus I didn’t want to expose my kids to that. I knew that if I wanted to be a voice for other women, I would have to discover my own voice first.

I already had a master’s degree in psychology from Nigeria, so I enrolled in a Certificate of Canadian Social Work program at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU). Juggling school and parenting in a new country was challenging. I wasn’t sure what all the rules in Canada were and that made it harder for me to use the healthcare system or talk to my son’s school principal when he was being unfairly singled out. So when I got a four-month Internship at North York Women’s Centre through my TMU program, I helped create and lead a program called The Empowered Migrant Mothers program. I wanted migrant moms to be able to talk about the challenges they face, find resources and share ideas. A lot of these women are isolated at home, so social connections are really important, too. After the internship with NYWC, I worked at LOFT for a year, helping women with mental health and/or addiction challenges to create S.M.A.R.T. goals that support their recovery and a better life.

“Nothing should limit you from achieving your dreams.”

Managing NYWC programs is especially meaningful to me because I know how inspiring our programs can be. Participating in NYWC’s Women’s Empowerment Series was mind blowing for me, from the discussions on how women can assert themselves to participants sharing their stories with each other. Information is power. The series reinforces what I believe – that there’s no limit to what you can achieve. Nothing should limit you from achieving your dreams. It’s just like fishing in a big river – put your hook out there, because you never know what you’re going to catch.

It’s amazing what we can do when we take things one day at a time and just put one foot in front of the other. When I first arrived in Toronto, I was worried that I would run back to Nigeria, but I just kept going. You can only fix one day, right? We have to support each other as women and find mentors, too, such as another mom that you admire. I’ve been letting a single mom in my apartment building drop off her son before school, for instance, so she can get to her practicum and finish her degree. When we connect with other women in our community, we support each other to climb. I’m so passionate about helping women become who they want to be, and I know that this new role at North York Women’s Centre will help me do that.

If you’d like to make a difference in women’s lives too, find out more about North York Women’s Centre and visit our Volunteering and Jobs sections.

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