Last week, the Toronto Star reported on the first helpline in Canada specifically for Muslim women. The project stems from the Women’s Resource Centre, which is part of the Mercy Mission organisation. At the moment, this program is only available in Ontario, specifically in the Toronto area.
Noor Javed, the author of the article, interviewed Sabah Kazmi, the centre’s program director, who describes that she realized that Muslim women were in need for someone to talk to. Despite the fact that one can find numerous help lines throughout Canada, Kazmi explains that Muslim women were looking for a space that respected and understood their faith and culture.
The helpline was launched last October and it is meant to be a peer-counselling service but not a crisis line. The volunteers are women from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, who have received professional training in counselling. The program has been quite successful and receives numerous calls.
As Javed’s article explains, the idea of the program has received support from Alia Hogben, the Executive Director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, who “says such a service, if done professionally, fills a vital need in a community where women often struggle to find support at their local mosques.”
Yet Hogben is also skeptical of the program, as she explains the centre should be very specific on its purpose, mission and values as they will have an impact on the kind of advice given and received. She points out,
“I think it’s important for people to know: What is their philosophy? Is it non-judgmental? People who are calling are already very hard on themselves.”