Categorized | Community

The Women’s Centre: A hope for those in crisis

Posted on 24 July 2013 by admin

‘No matter where they come from, women need an assurance that they are fine just the way they are.’

DIVYA KAELEY

When Melvina Walter was growing up, she wanted to be a missionary. Today, she carries the same vision forward with her work towards the empowerment of women who are fighting for justice in every sphere of life.

The Women’s Centre was established in 1989 by a group of women who identified the need for a safe place within the community where women who had experienced abuse could receive after-care and ongoing support services. In 1991, The Women’s Centre became recognized and registered as a charitable organization.

Melvina Walter has been the Executive Director of The Women’s Centre for about 15 years or more. “I saw an ad asking if you wanted to be part of a women’s center. There were conversations of starting a women’s centre 25 years ago for women who needed an after-care and shelter in the Oakville community. Even though I had done a lot of things for women, I thought I would like to work for it.”

Today The Women’s Centre has about 2000 clients per year for services either in person or phone and counseling. “We do everything from crisis to setting up their businesses,” says Walter. The Women’s Centre tries to eliminate financial and cultural barriers by offering free, confidential, immediate supportive counselling. Women learn coping strategies, stress reduction skills and connect to additional resources both within the Centre and community “We can provide crisis support for women in distress, help you to develop a safety plan and empower you to make informed decisions about your life,” she tells us.

Support groups meet regularly at The Women’s Centre and provide opportunities for women to discuss the issues they are currently facing and find effective solutions. Some of them include Abuse Support Group and Women of Wisdom (WOW) Book Club.

Four years ago, Walter thought that the centre needed to provide counseling in other languages as well; she got a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation for counselling in other languages. Programs like Sharing Across Cultures and Spanish Social Group are pertinent examples of these. “We are planning like to do a program with South Asian women too,” she tells us. “But we also have women from South Asian community who say that they don’t want women from their own community.”

How motivated are South Asian women to join these support groups? “No matter where they come from, women need an assurance and empowerment that they are fine just the way they are. Everybody comes to the legal or the tax clinic. We’ve had South Asian women in abuse groups and self-esteem workshops,” Walter says.

We ask Walter about the concept of equality in the Canadian society. “Because I have worked in a female-dominated area, I can’t really comment on this. But when I hear the stories from women that I see quite often, I feel it’s not an equal relationship because these women have to fight for everything,” Walter replies. “Women could make more money, especially non-profit.”

The Women’s Center gets funding from the United Way of Oakville, the Government of Ontario and through fundraising. “Our budget is $200,000 a year which is not a lot of money,” she adds.

Walter discusses about an upcoming program called ‘Men will make a difference’, which is about honouring men who’ve made a difference in women’s lives. “In order to eradicate abuse against women, we need to engage men and young boys and the process starts at an early age – for instance, concepts like kindness clubs in schools or just teaching little boys and girls to be good human beings,” she signs off.

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