Working as a social worker in Edmonton, Neisau Ramcharan (master’s of Social Work ’09) became curious about the experiences of colleagues. “As I understood the systemic barriers and issues for social workers in the field, such as institutional culture and bureaucratic roadblocks, I also became concerned about the conditions in which Black social workers were working, their pay, opportunities for advancement and leadership,” Ramcharan explains. “I wanted to know what could be done to address the issues they identified.”
In 2020, Ramcharan and three co-founders formed the Alberta Association of Black Social Workers (AABSW). “It was officially formed to bring together social workers of African descent,” she said. One of the other co-founders, Dayirai Kapfunde, is also a graduate of Ryerson’s master’s program in 2009.
“It became clear that coming together and investing in ourselves as a collective was necessary to be able to eventually address the health and well-being needs of Black communities,” Ramcharan said.
Today, more than 100 Black social workers in the association connect online to discuss how to provide culturally relevant services to Black Canadians, network and support each other. “There is a general understanding that we exist in systems that have room for change, and need to change.”
Part of Ryerson’s first cohort of the master of social work program, Ramcharan says she learned about community organizing at Ryerson “from professors like Notisha Massaquoi, Delores Mullings, Purnima George, Cyndy Baskin and Ben Carniol.”
Today, as owner of Marigold Counselling & Consulting Inc., Ramcharan provides counselling and therapy services in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Northwest Territories. Two years ago, she became an adjunct professor in field education with the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Social Work. “It’s been exciting to carve out my own path and demonstrate my capacities.”