Social Work professor speaks about literacy at two events
March 20, 2018
Dr. Bharati Sethi delivered stirring remarks about her research and her journey as a newcomer in Canada.
Over a hundred immigrants, educators and service providers gathered for a day of learning together on March 7, 2018. Dr. Sethi was the keynote speaker. She spoke on the power of literacy and, on the flipside, the powerlessness of illiteracy.
During her presentation, Dr. Sethi shared her personal story of overcoming misogyny. She spoke about how she encountered opposition in her own life when, as a child in India, she was forbidden to write in her diary. She experienced opposition again in Canada when a service worker encouraged her to change her name so people could pronounce it.
She spoke passionately about her journey to reclaim her sense of self. “Immigrants need a sense of belonging to their new community and to their culture,” Dr. Sethi explained. She encouraged service providers to consider intersectionality. This means to look at newcomers as a whole instead of just at their goal.
She encouraged the service providers in the room to remember that even if they feel they are not making a big difference they are, in fact, “changing the life of that one person [you are working with] whether it’s an immigrant, a refugee, a homeless person or a single mother.”
Literacy Link South Central (LLSC) organized this conference. LLSC is an adult literacy information and referral network.
The following day, Dr. Sethi spoke at the International Women’s Day Symposium held in Strathroy. She returned to the themes of literacy, female education and the struggles immigrants must overcome in order to succeed. “Literacy is connected to empowerment”, she said.
She shared her journey in academia. Dr. Sethi began by taking one university course at a time until she earned a full scholarship for each of her degrees. She completed a BA in Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University where she earned the highest grade-point average in her class. She then completed a MA in Social Work followed by a PhD in Social Work both at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Dr. Sethi is currently a co-investigator in two Social Science and Humanities Research Council funded multi-site research projects. One project will look at both informal networks (including friends, family and other social relationships) and formal social services (including organized settlement, health, legal, and other programs) available to older adult immigrants in London, Ottawa, Toronto and Waterloo. The other project is concerned with Syrian refugees. This project aims to gather and share knowledge about Canada’s three refugee sponsorship programs for Syrian newcomers.
Her research has earned her several prestigious awards including the Ontario Women’s Health Scholarship, Tutor-Primary Health Care Fellowship, The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, and the Hilary M. Weston Scholarship. In 2014, her photo voice doctoral project earned her a Governor General’s Award. In 2012 she was nominated as one of the top 25 immigrants to Canada by Royal Bank of Canada.
At King’s, Dr. Sethi teaches The Political, Economic and Social Context of Canadian Social Work Practice, Transnational Social Work: Perspectives on working internationally and cross-culturally, and a first-year Master of Social Work foundation course that she developed.