Black immigrant women in Metro Vancouver invited to group discussion about financial literacy

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      The first Black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, once said that freedom cannot be achieved unless women were emancipated from all forms of oppression.

      Mandela also declared that overcoming poverty was not a gesture of charity.

      "It is an act of justice," the former president insisted. "It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”

      In that spirit, the Vancouver Eastside Educational Enrichment Society's executive director, Adaeze J. Oputa, and financial-literacy expert Doriane Kaze are teaming up on an initiative to enhance the independence of Black immigrant, refugee, and migrant women.

      They're designing the first financial literacy program for Black women in the region. It will help them learn about everything from management expense ratios to credit scores to the difference between saving and investing.

      "Knowing where your money goes, how to keep money during unprecedented times like today, and how to manage debt will help Black women achieve financial liberation," Oputa said in a news release.

      Oputa and Kaze will host a focus group on Thursday (September 17) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to hear what Black women feel they need to know to advance their own financial security. 

      "From working with different clients in the past, particularly Black immigrant women, I quickly realized that the jargon being used by financial institutions was creating a barrier for them," said Kaze, who has degrees in economics and finance.

      Both understand what it's like to immigrate to Canada. Kaze was born in Burundi; the Nigeria-born Oputa lived for several years in the United States before going back to her country of birth and then coming to Canada.

      According to Statistics Canada, the annual median wage of Black immigrant women between the ages of 25 and 59 was $35,900 in 2015. That compared to an average of $35,500 for other immigrant women.

      “The overrepresentation of Black immigrant women in the health care and social assistance sector partly explains this situation since, among immigrant women, the average wage for nurses is higher than the average wage in other occupations,” Statistics Canada stated.

      Black immigrant women had the same employment rate, 70 percent, as that of other immigrant women in 2016.

      Statistics Canada also reported that in the 2016 census, 27 percent of Black children under 15 years of age in immigrant families were living in poverty.

      "Although there are many financial programs out there, there isn't one that is tailored to, and acknowledges the barriers that Black immigrant women experience and [is] presented by Black women with lived experience in these matters," Oputa said. 

      They promise that the financial literacy program for Black immigrant women will offer an "independent and unbiased financial curriculum", presented in an enjoyable and engaging manner.

      And yes, it will ensure that the financial verbiage will be translated into everyday language. 

      Participants in the focus group will receive a $20 gift card for their time. For more information and to register, visit the Vancouver Eastside Educational Enrichment Society website.