Home will help women and children escape family violence and poverty Aneela Azeem, president of the Canadian Pakistani Support Group, says the project has been three years in the making. She already has her sights set on opening similar homes in other parts of the province. 

A new transitional home for immigrant women and children fleeing domestic violence will give them help and support while respecting their different religious and cultural needs, with help delivered in languages they speak and understand. For some newcomers a new life in Canada often doesn’t go as planned, with relationships and families facing extreme pressures that can sometimes end in violence and relationships turning bad.

Immigrant women want to leave violent situations but sometimes don’t know where to go to get help, or try mainstream shelters only to find their religious and cultural needs aren’t being met or understood by staff and fellow clients. Some even end up going back to abusive relationships.

“Those women, they contact us and they get help,” said Aneela Azeem, president of the Canadian Pakistani Support Group, the organization behind the project, a quiet family home on a sleepy suburban street.

The home can house ten people in family rooms or individual rooms. The home is at a secret location in the city. The group has spent the last three years setting up a transitional home for women, called Maskan, where all of their unique needs can be met while they receive the help, education and support they need in the right environment for them.

“It’s more cultural based so that comfort is there. They get halal food and different vegetarian foods and places to pray, it’s safer” said Azeem. The project is funded through private donations and fundraising drives in the community.

The provincial government is providing some funding in the form of grants to help the education side of the project, helping to prevent family violence in the first place through seminars, workshops and materials. “We’re promoting gender equality and healthy relationships, youth empowerment, teaching women how to be financially independent along with ESL classes,” said Azeem. 

“Staff will connect them with all the resources, they will try to get them financial help, housing and counselling, trying to help them move on.”  The pilot project has capacity for six adults and four children who can stay for a maximum of four weeks while they work out their next step, with lots of help. Staff and volunteers at the Maskan transitional home at a secret location in Calgary will help women and children escape abusive relationships by providing a home catering to religious and cultural needs. 

“Women empowerment is my passion. Since I have been an immigrant I clearly understand how new immigrants, even though they are often highly educated, go through so many challenges,” said Farida Mhowala, project coordinator and facility manager. “I’m really proud,” said Mhowala.

Although it’s been designed primarily for immigrants, any woman who needs help from any background can access the home. “The dream behind it was to help the community. In our religion it says to help others so we are trying to do our best and give back to the community,” said Hatif Basharat, manager with the Canadian Pakistani Support Group.

The home just had its official opening last week and will start helping women right away. The organization says it hopes to open more shelters like this one in other parts of the province.

Source: CBC

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