Calgary

Fighting domestic violence in Calgary's Muslim community and beyond

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women brought together groups of women from the Muslim community as well as agencies like the YWCA to talk about domestic abuse in Calgary on Saturday.

Gathering on Saturday marked International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Jawaria Shoaib with the Islamic Circle of North America Sisters says much-needed conversations are happening within her community. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women brought together groups of women from the Muslim community as well as agencies like the YWCA to talk about domestic abuse in Calgary on Saturday. 

Jawaria Shoaib is with Islamic Circle of North America Sisters, the group hosting this event. Although it's still a sensitive topic in her culture, she says necessary conversations are happening more often.

"There is a lot of fear within the Muslim community, which is acting as a barrier from them to come out and meet with other people as well. But ... we are taking our own baby steps and just to support them to come up and speak up," she said. 

Shoaib said one of the challenges is the amount of propaganda that ties violence to Islam. 

"If you really want to help women who are suffering violence, please do not link this with their religion, because religion is important to them," she said. 

'Dire' situation

The Calgary YWCA's Patricia Irvine was at the event. She says her organization helped 1,100 women and more than 600 children last year.

She called the lack of shelter space in the city "dire," and says domestic violence is an issue that can touch anyone.

"Women need to use this day to really understand and believe that domestic violence doesn't discriminate, it goes all across the board, different cultures and different homes," she said.

Irvine says with so much media coverage about sexual assault in Hollywood and the #MeToo movement, it's important for everyone to keep the conversation going.

"We're talking about it with women and women, the men and women are talking about it we're talking about it to our children, we're talking about it to our husbands, to the men in our community. So we're talking about it and awareness is big," she said.  

The international day for the elimination of violence against women has been held for 36 years.

With files from Terri Trembath