New program launches for Calgary single mothers

CALGARY — The Muslim Families Network Society has launched a new program for single mothers. The initative aims to support single mothers by teaching them life skills such as financial literacy and navigating the court system.

The single mother self sufficiency program runs virtually on Sunday mornings. Each session features a speaker on a different topic, ranging from parenting skills to budgeting workshops. The program is also translated into Arabic for the 85 per cent of clients who have emigrated from an Arabic-speaking country.

“When newcomers first come to Canada, they experience a lot of problems … accessing resources, poor social support systems, language barriers, unemployment. This [experience] becomes compounded with single mothers.” said Faraz Khan, the program facilitator. “It’s double marginalization,” he adds.

Muslim Families Network Society noticed in 2019 that the majority of the clients at their Halal food bank were single mothers. This prompted organizers of the program to conduct a series of interviews to discover what kind of support single mothers could benefit from. Dealing with anxiety and depression, as well as adjusting to life as a sole provider were common areas where the women reported needing support.

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MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES

Most of the women enrolled in the program have experienced domestic violence, making mental health resources a focus of the single mother program.

Organizers advocate for women to take care of themselves as individuals so that they can be successful parents.

“We all know that when we go to the airplane and something happens, the airplane people [tell us] to put the mask on yourself first then you help the child. This is the same strategy; you have to help the children by looking after your own well-being,” said Idrees Khan, Muslim Families Network Society board chair.

Today, the program is in its third week, with 24 women enrolled. At the end of 10 weeks, participants will receive financial support as well as a certificate for completing the program. Women currently in the program report feeling a greater sense of community and support that was lacking for them as a single parent.

“The goal of this program is that at the end they can move on with their lives, be self-sufficient, and get out of this dilemma that prevents them from being effective” parents and members of the community, said Dorothea Sautter, a Muslim Family Network Society board member.

“If they help themselves, they will be able to help their children,” Idrees Khan added.

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