A Roof for Women

Afrique au Féminin raising money to buy new building

Afrique au Féminin has been actively helping immigrant women in Parc-Extension since 1986. Photo: Afrique au Féminin

Local community organization Afrique au Féminin has been operating in Parc-Extension for over 30 years, offering various services to women who recently immigrated to Canada, helping them navigate the many challenges that migration entails.

But the organization soon hopes to expand its operations by creating a centralized headquarters and offering all its services under one roof. Currently working out of two smaller and separate locations, one at 7000 Park Avenue and another at the William-Hingston Centre, Afrique au Féminin is raising $10,000 to acquire and build a new centre.

So far, the organization has raised over $1,500 in private donations through an online fundraising campaign on canadahelps.org. The money will eventually be used to buy a new building to centralize and expand the services they offer. 

Need for new infrastructure 

According to Afrique au Féminin, there needs to be an improvement to community infrastructure in Parc-Extension if its organization can properly complete its mandate. “Community services in the neighbourhood are diverse and accessible, but the demand is still greater than the supply,” read a statement by the group. 

“The organizations and groups in the neighbourhood are unanimous: an improvement in the community’s infrastructure is necessary to ensure the sustainability of services for the most vulnerable,” stated the organization. 

They added that in Parc-Extension, one of Canadas’ poorest neighbourhoods, single mothers who do not yet speak French are those most likely to experience the worst effects of that poverty. 

The group says that the two facilities they currently operate out of are in poor condition and need major renovations. “In order to protect the diversity of Parc-Extension, combat poverty and strengthen mutual aid efforts, it is essential to scale up the activities of Afrique au Féminin,” they added. 

So far, Afrique au Féminin has raised over $1,500 of its $10,000 objective. Photo: Afrique au Féminin

Place of belonging

The non-profit organization, therefore, wants to consolidate its operations in a new location. “Afrique au Féminin is planning to purchase a building to open a new women’s centre, which could encompass and enhance all of the organization’s activities under one roof,” said the organization.

The new space would include a welcome area, new classrooms, set up for French classes and creative workshops, a yoga studio, a computer room, a drop-in daycare as well as a community kitchen and space for a foodbank. The new building would also house the offices and administrative operations of the organization.

“It will be a place of belonging, solidarity, leadership and social justice, where women can come to meet their primary needs, as well as work with our team to improve their living conditions,” they added. 

The project is also supported by local organization Brique par Brique, which offers real estate expertise and supports local social housing initiatives for low-income residents. Afrique au Féminin also wants to integrate a social housing project in the new building.

Proven track record

City councillor Mary Deros commends the organizations’ initiative to acquire a new building. “Afrique au Féminin has always wanted to have their own space,” she said. 

Though she says she wholeheartedly supports the organization, she said that a tight budget and the nature of the organizations’ mandate make it difficult for the borough to support them financially. 

“They’ve proven their worth, they’ve proven the work that they do is really well done,” she continued, explaining that the organizations’ sound relationships with multiple levels of government will ensure that they will receive the necessary funds to complete the project.

But with the William-Hingston Centre still set for renovation, forcing all community groups out, Deros wanted to see the borough create a permanent community centre that could house various community organizations. 

“I will continue to try to find some solution to eventually have a Parc-Ex community center that belongs to the city, that we are no longer at the whim of the school board,” Deros explained.

“The organizations and groups in the neighbourhood are unanimous: an improvement in the community’s infrastructure is necessary to ensure the sustainability of services for the most vulnerable,”

Long history in Parc-Extension

Afrique au Féminin was founded in 1986 and incorporated in 1988 with the express mission of helping integrate immigrant women into their new homes. It remains the only women’s centre in Parc-Extension, offering several services and workshops to women of all backgrounds.

The organization’s mission is to “support immigrant women in improving their living conditions and facilitating their integration into Quebec,” reads their website. “It is a question of helping them to come out of isolation and equip them with tools with which they can promote their autonomy for better individual and collective care,” reads their mission statement.

The organization mentions that over 50% of women from different ethnocultural communities in Parc-Extension continue to face discrimination and barriers to integration. Although initially dedicated to helping women of African origin, the organization now helps women of all backgrounds, regardless of age, language, race or religion.

Afrique au Féminin is still looking for support for their upcoming project and is still accepting donations through their online fundraiser. It runs until Fri, Dec. 3.