“The Women’s Centre has given me a place where I feel I belong, where I know I can get help if I need it, where I am supported and encouraged to be the best version of myself. It has helped me feel at home in a city that is not my own (I am an newcomer to Canada in the past year). It has given me information on other services in the city that can help with food insecurity, mental health, etc. It has been a huge contributor to my feeling of community in Calgary, it has widened my perspective on life and given me a lot of food for thought. It has increased my awareness of the level of poverty women in Calgary are experiencing and the multitude of issues these women face. I am so grateful for the Women’s Centre.”
The Women’s Centre is a space where all women are welcome to grab a cup of coffee, chat with others and learn about the many ways women, staff and volunteers all work together to strengthen our communities and create change in women’s lives. Our space for connection and community building has expanded to include online spaces and outdoor spaces.
We believe in the potential of every woman, and that women are strong and capable. Our approach starts by recognizing that women are experts in their own lives, and they know best what they need. We also recognize that systemic barriers often prevent women from living the lives they want. In our collaborative policy work, we advocate for systemic and policy changes that will positively impact the lives of women.
Our trust-based work, supported by more than 700 active volunteers, is centered on a philosophy of women helping women. Enabling a woman to both get support and give back as she is able provides her with opportunities to feel valued and to maintain a sense of dignity and belonging. At the Women’s Centre, every woman’s participation is respected and valued. We know that diverse participation is necessary for the community to benefit from the strengths and perspectives that women hold.
Our Mission: To be every woman’s place for support, connections and community.
Our Vision: Women supporting communities, communities supporting women.
The Women’s Centre provides a safe and supportive space accessed by thousands of women in Calgary. We offer women opportunities to both receive and provide support, connect with others through a variety of programs, and learn about the ways women, staff and volunteers all work together to strengthen our communities and create change in women’s lives.
While the Women’s Centre is open to all women, many of the women who come to the Centre are living in poverty. In 2020, we responded to close to 50,000 contacts from more than 6,700 women in Calgary. Women and their families were hugely impacted by the pandemic, many families were impacted by job losses during this period as well as stress associated with child care, on line learning and frequent period of required isolation. The Centre responded to needs for assistance with the provision of grocery gift cards, bus tickets as well as Christmas and birthday gifts. During 2020, the Centre moved to on line provision of workshops, services and other connection opportunities. As we move into recovery the Centre will provide both on line and in person opportunities to get assistance, connect with others and contribute to making change.
The Centre offers free, accessible workshops on topics ranging from computer skills, yoga, and self-defence to women’s issues, crafts, and stress management, women’s leadership and assistance with employment readiness. Our Girls Programs create the opportunities for girls aged 10-18 to explore the impact of gender roles, sexism, racism, violence, stereotypes and other issues in a safe environment, through a variety of experiential learning techniques and fun activities.
Through our social issues engagement work, we are facilitating opportunities for women to discuss social and environmental issues that matter to them and to address the underlying causes of the situations they deal with. Through our collaborative policy work and by engaging elected officials, we bring women’s voices and perspectives to the table and put a gender plus lens on public policy.
At the Women’s Centre, we are a diverse community of women:
13% are Aboriginal, First Nations, Inuit or Métis
21% are immigrants or refugees
17% are visible minorities
10% are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, a-romantic, pansexual, two-spirited (LGBTQIA2-S)
16% are living with a disability
12% are seniors
7% are youth (under 25)
And many of experienced the following challenges in 2020:
36% are unemployed, and a further 14% under- or precariously employed
40% are living or have lived in poverty
21% are, or have been, homeless or living in a shelter
31% are raising child(ren) or have raised child(ren) as a single parent
30% have experienced a violent relationship
Our programs are developed in response to identified gaps in the community and are flexible and responsive to women’s changing needs.
Basic Needs Access | We recognize that meeting basic needs is a prerequisite for well-being and for a better life. Some of the direct assistance we provide to women includes emergency food, birthday and holiday gifts for children, and access to personal supplies such as shampoo, pregnancy kits, diapers and condoms. In addition, when women and their children, visit the Centre, they are offered hot drinks, baking and fresh fruit, free of charge. We also refer women to other programs and agencies for a wide range of support. Referrals include, but are not limited to, food, clothing, haircuts, furniture and education and employment assistance.
Computer and Technology Access | We provide women with free access to computers with internet, a photocopier, a fax machine, and telephones. Women use this equipment to prepare for work opportunities, to complete schoolwork and to stay connected with family and friends. We also provide a mail service for women without permanent mailing addresses and take telephone messages for women.
Girl Programs| The Women’s Centre offers year-round Girls Leadership Programs for girls in grades 5 through 12. All programs apply a gendered lens to girls issues, providing girls with a safe space to explore topics related to them. Programs focus on building girls capacity in the areas of leadership and activism, while at the same time being part of a supportive community and having fun. Programs are free of charge, with snacks, supplies, and bus tickets provided.
Legal Advice & Tax Clinics | Volunteers provide free legal advice and income tax clinics for women. Our legal advice clinics are aimed at providing women with the preliminary information and support they may need to access the legal system in the areas of family and non-family law. Volunteers who prepare taxes for women also provide information on how to access benefits such as GST rebates, Canada Child Benefit and provincial child benefits and credits.
Peer Support | Trained volunteers help women by listening, exploring options and providing non-therapeutic support, unique to each woman and circumstance.
Social Issues Work | In addition to helping women meet their basic needs and create community, we strive to give all women opportunities to get involved in social justice issues and have a voice in public policy. Through our engagement work and monthly issues discussions, we are facilitating opportunities for women to discuss social and environmental issues that matter to them and to address the underlying causes of the situations they deal with. Through our collaborative policy work and by engaging elected officials we bring women’s voices and perspectives to the table and put a gender plus lens on public policy. We advocate for solutions that will improve women’s lives and advance gender equality in our city and in our province.
Workshops & Groups | Many women who come to the Centre are unable to take part in community opportunities due to poverty, language, literacy and health issues. Every year, we offer more than 300 free informal adult education sessions on a wide range of topics, including basic car care, home repair and maintenance, government benefits and subsidies, computer skills, self-esteem, cooking, crafts, dance, stress management, diversity and empowerment issues. Ongoing groups include Practice English. Women’s Leadership program is offered twice a year.
There are so many ways you can get involved at the Women’s Centre.
Volunteering | We count on 400 active volunteers for everything that we do including: peer support, assistance with food distribution, assistance with on line and in person workshop facilitation, taxes, assistance with benefits navigation, employment and legal advice. Visit our website to see a list of current opportunities.
Become a Monthly Donor | Monthly donations help us work and plan more effectively. When you become a monthly donor your gift will provide a reliable stream of support that is so vital to continuing the Women’s Centre’s important work. Click here to make a monthly or one-time donation.
Attend or Host a Workshop | Thanks to volunteers, we are able to host a variety of workshops throughout the year. Topics range from computer skills, yoga, self defense and international women’s issues. Check out our calendar to learn more about upcoming events.