Immigrant and Refugee Women Use their Voices to Shape the Childcare System in Canada

Childcare is an essential social and economic infrastructure. If given the opportunity, immigrant and refugee women can help shape more inclusive, high-quality, and affordable childcare systems.

This spring, Pacific Immigrant Resources Society (PIRS), convened twelve immigrant and refugee women with powerful lived experiences in the childcare sector. This is part of the Building a Childcare System that Works project—funded by Women and Gender Equality. 

The first cohort of the Childcare Leadership Group (CLG) met for five consecutive months. They shared stories of joy, resiliency, and challenges interacting with the childcare system. In this blog, we want to share their learnings and amplify their ideas. This is a unique opportunity for you to learn from these amazing women!

Learning from lived experiences

Through their diverse settlement journeys, career and education paths, and roles in childcare—the CLG found empowerment and connection through storytelling. Their stories paint a wider picture of the structural challenges in the system and the disproportionate impacts on vulnerable populations. 

Stories of resilience and self-advocacy 

Mireille Keubou and Angelica Carbajal, inspired by their personal experiences, explore the factors influencing waiting times in licensed non-for-profit childcare centres. They reached out to a childcare referral and resources centre to interview experts in the area and share the resources back. 

Monica Deng, a proud grandmother, also shares her heartfelt story on how lack of childcare is a barrier to continue her education. She represents the voices of many immigrant peers advocating for a universal $10aDay childcare system. 

Meet the childcare advocates and read more about their projects in the Slideshow below:

Social networks 

Social networks play a fundamental role in accessing resources (i.e., employment, childcare, education, food, etc.). The CLG engaged in discussions about how social isolation intensifies challenges in the childcare system. This didn’t come as a surprise since immigrant women report having only 10 local connections compared to 17 from their Canadian-born women (Hudon, 2016). 

Immigrant women’s lack of social network has ripple effects into the ability to sustain a professional career equivalent to their qualifications, finding childcare support, and therefore achieving economic security. Despite most immigrant women holding a university-level degree they experience the largest unemployment rates in comparison to both Canadian-born women and male counterparts (Hudon, 2016). 

Narmela Rabirad proposes a community childcare approach to help immigrant families build a support network and achieve their career goals. You can learn more about her project and motivation in the Slideshow below!

The future of childcare is community

The childcare leaders and advocates engaged in lively discussions with community partners. They particularly enjoyed their time with indigenous advocates and learning from their life-long journey in community engagement.

“In Indigenous communities, collective wellbeing is the norm, not just individual wellbeing. Sharing of wealth and resources is key to collective wellbeing.”

“Organizing across a common goal or shared experiences despite our diversity can help us come up with a long lasting and more impactful system change.”

We want to thank the Coalition of Childcare Advocates of BC for sharing more about their work in childcare advocacy. The CLG learned about the $10aDay plan and shared their insights on the importance of better work conditions for childcare workers.

Barriers in the childcare system are strongly related to gender equity issues—especially when it comes to childcare workers. Moving forward, the CLG plans to focus on immigrant women as the solution to retention and recruitment issues of qualified childcare professionals. 

“We need to take care of childcare workers. Give them better pay and working conditions. They are the people taking care of our children, the greatest gifts in our lives. They play an essential role in their development”

Want to learn more? 

Stay tuned for our next blogs and posts! The CLG continues their work in building a childcare system that works.

  1. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook at @pirsvancouver
  2. Include immigrant and refugee women lived experiences in early learning and childcare discussions
  3. Amplify the voices of immigrant women with your network and beyond

We can’t wait for you to join us in reimagining a more accessible, inclusive, affordable, and high-quality childcare system. 


  • Choi, Y. (2022, January 26). Gender differences in sociodemographic and economic characteristics of early learning childcare workers (long form). Economic and Social Reports. Retrieved May 26, 2022, from 
  • Hudon, T. (2016, March 3). Immigrant women. Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. Retrieved May 26, 2022, from