The meaningful participation of the people most affected by research is a critical component of our framework at WHIWH. We are committed to the practices of Community-Based Research and create opportunities for peers to be involved in our work from the inception of research ideas to implementation. The term 'peer' in this context, applies to any woman who identifies with the communities with which we work.
Many of the women who have participated as peers or as part of advisory committees in research projects at WHIWH have secured paid employment in the health field, have enrolled in school to further their learning or have collaborated with multiple organizations as leaders and subject matter experts.
Any mention of the impacts that our research work has achieved would be incomplete without acknowledgement and recognition of the work of women in the community. Here we spotlight some of these accomplished women:
PEERS & Community Health Ambassadors:
I came to Canada from Uganda in 2005. After getting diagnosed with HIV as part of the Canadian Immigration Medical, I got involved with the Health Promotion and Skills Development Project at WHIWH as a Peer Leader in 2006. Since then, I have been very active as a community health ambassador, promoting HIV/STI awareness and education as well as HIV testing through the “ACB Women Know your Status HIV Prevention Project”. I have also participated and supported many research projects.
As an Immigrant woman living with HIV, these projects have empowered me and helped me build resilience and self- determination. The research projects that are conducted around HIV and AIDS by WHIWH have helped me and my peers to get our voices back and stand firm for what is good for us by understanding our rights and making right choices in our day-to-day lives. For example, the WILLOW project empowered me to say no to unsafe sex, to engage with dynamics of healthy and unhealthy relationships and make appropriate decisions that are right for me and the people around me. As a peer leader, I feel more comfortable using research information that is accessible to me to help other women stay informed and educated to support their wellbeing. I would like to see WHIWH utilize the research they generated to expand their programs for women at the centre.
As a peer leader, I feel more comfortable using research information that is accessible to me to help other women stay informed and educated to support their wellbeing.
Dakarayi Chigugudhlo is result-oriented development professional with a passion to make transformative change in women’s lives. She is one of the pioneers of Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Ambassador Program (CHA).
She has more than four years experience in conducting and facilitating effective health promotion workshops in the African Caribbean communities. She has delivered workshops on Have Faith in Healthy living, the Art of Self-care, and ACB Women taking Control of HIV/AIDS and Sexual Health projects. Dakarayi raises HIV and sexual health awareness and educates ACB women and their communities to reduce risk factors that increase risk of acquiring HIV infection; and generates community-wide dialogue about prevention practices and available resources. She managed to reach hard to reach populations, such as sex workers, abused women, substance users and Somali women through delivering series workshops in shelters and community events. She collected raw data from participant’s feedback that inform new research at Women’s Health in Women Hands.
Dakarayi blooms from delivering workshops and doing outreach in the community, to taking the advocacy platform to advocate for women living with HIV. Dakarayi has the charisma to connect with both young adults and adults. Dakarayi did amazing work and she gained immerse personal rewards and received commendations from the community for her creative and innovative approach in delivering workshops.
Through her experience from the CHA program, Dakarayi has taken part in every learning opportunity, making her one of the few women invited for a grant/proposal writing as a career development at WHIWH. She served in numerous Advisory Communities, and Steering communities at WHIWH and other community service organizations.
Dakarayi is currently working at WHIWH as a Peer Support Worker and she is the Founder of Women Empowering Positive Women, an organization formed to address the socio- economic constraints faced by HIV Positive women. She recognizes that women have hidden skills and talents and she has taken the initiative to build on women’s abilities to overcome poverty. She is a committed and inspirational Community Leader, as seen in her community involvement and engagement. Her strident selfless outstanding leadership qualities reflective with her work has influenced many lives in a positive way in the community. Dakarayi was recognized for her outstanding work and advocacy at Black Women Moving Forward Awards and she received an award from the LGBT community for her outstanding involvement in community work. She graduated with Honours Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto and Completed a M.A in Critical Disability Studies at York University and Non Profit Leadership Graduate Program at Seneca College.
I come from Rwanda. I am a mother of four and became widowed during the genocide in 1994. I was a housewife taking care of my children and husband. In 1996, I was diagnosed with HIV from rape I had experienced during the genocide. This resulted in fear, stigma, trauma and disability from beatings I received during the genocide. I made a decision not to die for the sake of my children.
I started to reach out, talk and share about my life experiences – to break the silence about what had/was happening to women and girls. I started working with the churches to fight stigma and discrimination against people who were victims of the war/rape and were HIV-positive. I became an activist because my knowledge and experience in the community mattered and was effective in reaching others.
I came to Canada in 2006 and started to be involved in the community. I was involved first with APAA and they referred me to WHIWH. This is the place where I started to feel that I was important, powerful and could help other women as newcomers to understand the different between HIV as a virus and AIDS as a sickness. I participated in the documentary ‘The Woman I have Become”. My intent was to fight stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV based on education, religion, language, sexual orientation, culture, age and gender. WHIWH empowered me through support groups, workshops, forums, symposia, conferences and research participation. I even improved my English speaking and writing skills through participation in WHIWH’s activities. The profile WHIWH gave me improved my standing with other organizations.
WHIWH introduced me to research and researchers and have improved my ability speak out in research settings, participate in research advisory bodies/committees e.g. Steering Committee of the Stigma Index. In addition, WHIWH have created research pieces on my life e.g. digital storytelling video on disclosure of HIV-positive status, body-mapping story, etc. have helped me deal with some of the issues in my life while educating others at the same time.
Hella-Genet Feshaye was first introduced to Women’s Health in Women’s Hands as a Community Health Ambassador in 2015. At the time, she was in the midst of completing her Bachelor’s in Science at the University of Toronto, majoring in Psychology and Health Studies.
By the end of her undergraduate career, Hella had spent enough time with WHIWH to know a future working towards the elimination of health disparities within marginalized populations had appealed to her most.
Her time as an ambassador not only introduced her to the many amazing individuals who have come across the centre, but also the positive impact the workings of community health research translated into services have done for women of colour. She has continued to spread awareness about HIV prevention and care as well as join the research team as an Study Interviewer and Peer Research Associate.
A proud Canadian and member of the African diaspora, Hella has encountered many defining moments that have contributed to her growth. She hopes to one day use these experiences to help pay it forward, locally and internationally.
This is the place where I started to feel that I was important, powerful and could help other women as newcomers
Destiny Savary has worked in the community for more than 10 years and is an Artist Educator, Youth Coach and Mentor. I am excited to be a part of the Community Health Ambassadors program and a new team.
I am originally from Trinidad and Tobago so I bring the island spice to the team. I love to connect and meet new people in the community.
I love that my new role gives me a sense of purpose. At WHIWH's I am being trained in advocacy and empowerment for my ACB women, I hope to be a motivating force that inspires women to take ownership of their health and wellness. I love that my group provides the support of sisterhood. We keep each other accountable.
I love that my group provides the support of sisterhood.
Hello, I’m Sinit! A UofT Graduate that is passionate about learning and educating individuals about our Canadian health care system, as well as the barriers that racialized and marginalized communities face in health care.
I love teaching our community about our health, as Black women. Being a Community Health Ambassador, we get to not only learn about the barriers Black, African and Caribbean women face in health care, but we also get to be the messengers, the educators, and the resources regarding health care information in our community.
Being a Community Health Ambassador, we get to not only learn about the barriers Black, African and Caribbean women face in health care, but we also get to be the messengers, the educators...