Authors: Shahin Kassam, Joyce O’Mahony, Nancy Clark


Introduction: Over 13 million Syrians have been forcibly displaced since the start of the Syrian civil war in

2011. In response to this humanitarian crisis, several high-income countries have settled thousands of Syrian

refugees. In Canada, over 50,000 Syrian refugees have resettled through varying resettlement programs. Half

of the refugees are women who are mothers or of child-bearing age, and who experience numerous health

disparities. This article reports findings from a larger, Canadian-based study inquiring into the factors

supporting and shaping the settlement and integration experiences among women who are Syrian refugees

and mothering. Methods: A longitudinal intersectionality-framed participatory action approach was initiated

through multiple meetings with a diverse range of non-profit community organizations focused on refugee

health and settlement. Through these meetings, sustainable relationships were formed, and trust was built

toward further engaging with the Syrian refugee mothering women population. A core group of 4 women were

employed as peer research assistants and were integrated across research processes. Results: In total, 40 Syrian

refugee mothering women participated in this study. Six themes emerged from data analysis of their lived

experiences of resettlement. Four of these themes are published elsewhere. We focus this article on two of the

six key findings: harnessing strength-based capabilities, and peer research assistant experiences. Conclusions:

The two findings described in this article convey facilitators that add to understanding influences on the mental

well-being of Syrian refugee mothering women. Unique to this study is the novel integration of peer research

assistants and a model of support which contributes to an ethical and inclusive approach to understanding

lived experiences among refugee women. This article highlights how this model benefits the peer research

assistant and promotes community engagement among women.