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The help-seeking experiences of refugee women : narratives of resilience, resistance and reconstruction of identities Mangila-Nguyen, Maria Socorro

Abstract

This qualitative study explored the influence of gender, class, culture and trauma on refugee women's acculturation process. A narrative approach was used to examine the help-seeking experiences of refugee women who resettled in the Greater Vancouver area. Through focus groups and individual interviews, various post migration issues were explored including programs and/or services utilized for various needs, social networks or supports for the women and their children, traditional and emerging social roles, and coping strategies. The study also explored the images and metaphors women construct to convey their resilience, resistance and reconstruction of identities in their help-seeking experiences as refugee women. These images and metaphors give insights into the women's understanding of "help" and the reasons why they decided or not to seek help. The study seeks to contribute to the development of programs and services that are responsive to the needs of refugee women. The findings suggest that "help" for the women mean both practical help and emotional support and that its meaning is deeply embedded in culture and social relationships. The images and metaphors the women used to describe their help-seeking experiences reflect their strengths, resistance to expected ways of seeking help, and the reconstruction of their identities, which is an ongoing process of negotiation with the dominant culture of the host country. In general refugee women tend to use informal social networks concurrently with institutional networks to address various needs.

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