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Our Story

Caribbean Women Network's Story

The Edmonton Journal article shown on the left from October 18, 2004 that tells a bit about the begining of the Caribbean Women Network (CWN). About 50 people, many of whom had attended our Mental Health Workshops leading up to the group’s formation were present at the downtown Library both to celebrate Person’s Day and to announce the organization’s birth.


In that same article, founding members spoke of Caribbean folks in Edmonton not being cohesive – of the need to come together; of addressing isolation and loneliness; and looking to the famous Alberta Five (Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby and Nellie McLung) for inspiration on how to dedicate ourselves to the goals we were going to set for ourselves. We learnt from them that togetherness was and is a key ingredient to building our strength and resiliency.

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That was our beginning. In those days, we were meeting mainly at founding board members’ homes sharing meals and figuring out things we wanted to offer. In the years that ensued, CWN became a platform for Caribbean women to network and learn from and celebrate each other through educational workshops on issues, She-Carib Talks, and marking International Women’s Day, Mother’s Day, and of course Person’s Day.  For its 5th anniversary, CWN organized a Caribbean Undercurrents Conference with a feature speaker brought in from Toronto, and numerous local speakers for panel discussions and break-out sessions.

But that was not all.  It was during this same period that CWN undertook several projects to act on its desire to be more inclusive. Our Women Across Divides program saw us work collaboratively with indigenous leaders, African women, the U of A Women’s Studies Program, and others. We engaged in two Youth Exchanges and P.L.A.C.E. (Peer leadership and Capacity Enhancement) For Younger Women and the U of A CSL (Community Service Learning) Program to foster skills in volunteerism; fund-raising; planning and executing events; running meetings, and more among youths from various Edmonton communities. CWN also developed a Cultural Encounters Program through which it organized a Chinese New Year Celebration, Suhani Raat (Indian event); A Cuban Night; and under which we held our Annual Christmas Parang with La Familia De Parranda a local Band. 

During this period, we realized that CWN a ”home” of its own was needed – kind of “living room” so to speak from which we could operate and organize.  With small grants from the City of Edmonton and the then Wild Rose Foundation, CWN managed to rent, first a one-room office, then a larger space on 118 Ave near 93 street, before moving in 2011 to our current location we occupy at Unit 12, 9353-50 Street in the Capilano/Ottewell area of Edmonton. We still use the furnishings we purchased with those Grants. In the same period, CWN was successful in its Casino application with AGLC, and since then funds thus raised have been the lifeblood of CWN’s continued existence.

Extra supports have been provided too through the Alberta CIP Operating and Projects Grant Programs, and the City of Edmonton Operating Grant to help the organization with part-time staffing and costs of operations. Pearl Bennett, one of CWN’s founding members is the part-time E.D/part-time operations volunteer, while the board and its committees act as its volunteer staff, helping to execute the program CWN offers. Learning is embedded in everything we do- in the long-running book -club which really took off around 2011, and which practically runs itself now with support from Pearl; in our quarterly Cooking and Culture Series; in our recent M.A.R.T.I.N.I. (Making and Remaking Things that Inspire the Imagination) up-cycling project; in CWN’s very complex Worker Bs Project that provide newcomers with the opportunity to gain work experience; and in the monthly Seniors Circle activities. 

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