In Profile: CARE Canada’s Simran Singh
Feb 19, 2019
What is your role at CARE Canada?
I am our senior humanitarian and gender advisor, which translates to being a jack-of-all-trades. I do everything from working on proposal development to providing technical advice on programs, to providing support for how we engage and communicate with institutional donors. I cover a lot of things across the organization.
How did you know that this is what you wanted to do as a career?
I was born in India and spent the first six years in Bahrain before moving to Canada. I lived in three countries before I had turned 10. Because of this, I was always keenly aware of my position in the world as a global citizen. This made me want to do something not just in Canada, but internationally. On top of that, I’ve been a feminist since I was a little girl. I grew up in a South Asian household with very specific expectations for boys and girls, and I was constantly asking why my brother could do things that I was not allowed to do. At the time, of course, I didn’t know that I was a feminist, but I always had a strong sense of what was wasn’t right or what was unjust.
Another influence was that my mom worked in community development in East Vancouver. I spent lots of time as a kid in a neighbourhood house that she worked at, and watched it grow from a small to a large operation that supported so many different people from all walks of life. This experience helped me understand how community development works and how important it is.
So, all of these things combined made me realize that I wanted to work on a global scale to develop communities in a way that considered gender. All of these parts of my identity made me understand how I wanted to help.
What is the biggest challenge that you face in your work?
There are so many challenges! One of the things I struggle with is trying to meet all of the different humanitarian needs that exist around the world while being physically removed from them. I work in our Ottawa headquarters and not in the countries where we run our programs. So I meet this challenge by prioritizing work that is going to have the biggest impact on the lives of women and girls. I understand that the funding that I generate will, for example, help more women in Yemen to access sexual and reproductive health programming. The work I do is so much more than a paper exercise, I help advocate with our institutional donors to take actions that in the end, can save someone’s life.
What motivates you to come to work every day?
It’s a lot of different things. I work with some really amazing people that are so smart and that really motivate me to do the best I can. We are also very lucky that we live in Ottawa. Our local staff work in difficult conditions where they may not see their families for long periods of time and where their environment is not at all comfortable or safe. Knowing this helps motivate me to do whatever I can to help our local staff do their jobs more easily so that, ultimately, they can help more people out of crisis.
What is coming up next for you that you’re excited about?
There’s so much! One of the things I have coming up is a study about how we work with our local humanitarian partners in Indonesia. We will be trying to understand how CARE can better support and learn from local organizations who deliver relief programs there.
The other piece of work I’m excited about is our continued focus on gender in emergencies – how we can take into consideration the different needs of men and women, of boys and girls. We want to make sure that any time we respond to an emergency that we think about the different needs of different groups of people. A woman trying to survive after an earthquake could have needs relating to safety from violence, menstrual hygiene or childbirth that a man doesn’t have. In the aftermath of some emergencies, this could mean ensuring that there are locks on a bathroom so that a woman is safe. In other scenarios this could mean including local women in decisions about how aid is delivered. I’m excited about continuing to work with our teams across the world to support.
What do you want Canadians to know about your work?
It can often feel as though something that’s happening on a different continent isn’t relevant to us. But many Canadians, like me, are the children or grandchildren of immigrants. And we know that what’s happening in other places around the world is absolutely connected to us. A crisis in Africa is going to have an impact on Canadians. In this day and age, we are increasingly connected and don’t have the same communication barriers like our parents. So we have a responsibility to be aware and to be active. If something seems wrong, say something or do something. We are so lucky to live in Canada – yes, it’s cold, but we have the freedom to live, to walk outside, to feel safe. So many people around the world don’t have these luxuries. When we have this type privilege, the onus is on us to do something with it, no matter how small it may seem.