Luisa Dourado is a Personal Support Worker (PSW) at Cedarvale Terrace Long Term Care Home in Toronto, where she also serves as a union steward and on the Health and Safety Committee. She has also been a member of SEIU Healthcare’s executive board since 2017, representing persons with disabilities.
Luisa was born in Mozambique, Africa. She remembers the 20+ years she lived there as a mixture of good and bad.
“I was raised in a good family that took care of me. Unfortunately, when Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal, the transition wasn’t smooth; I was stripped of my beliefs.”
Luisa joined a women’s movement and would take part in actions fighting for her rights and freedoms. This led the government to take notice of her and putting her safety in jeopardy.
In 1975, now in her mid-20s, Luisa had no choice but to leave Mozambique and move to Portugal, which she chose because it was a country that offered her aid and because she spoke Portuguese. She lived there for a few years, got married, and then was on the move again.
After stops in Nigeria, Brazil and the United States, Luisa arrived in Ottawa. After a long journey, she finally was in a place where her voice was given a space.
“In Ottawa, I joined the Canadian African Women’s Organization. This was a space where I could express myself and women could embrace each other and move forward. Through the organization, I helped set up educational experiences like ESL courses, cooking classes and other crucial things that immigrants to this country really needed.”
After three years in Ottawa, where she became a mother, Luisa moved to Toronto. With another human being to take care of, she knew she had to make a steady income, so she made the decision to take a personal support workers course at Centennial College. 15 years later, she remains a hard-working PSW.
Through her work with her union and in her community, Luisa uses her passions for women’s issues, human rights, dignity and respect, along with the experiences she has gone through, to make a difference.
“Being a person of colour, an immigrant, a woman and a single mother, I have been at a disadvantage for most of my life. I have suffered discrimination when it comes to finding a job and I have had to work two or three times as hard to get what I want in life. It’s been a struggle, but I have persevered, and I want others to know they can too. I want future generations to have an easier path than I did.”
With February being Black History Month, Luisa sees this as a time to reflect on the past and learn from it.
“Black History Month is always very important to me because it reminds me of what I went through in Mozambique. We must revisit our history and learn from it. We must remember the struggles and sacrifices of our ancestors, because without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”