As a young Muslim in Edmonton, Aisha Ali didn’t feel safe to go out and about in the city. Her fears were natural and justified after the recent attacks that targeted Muslims and Blacks.
Yet, she didn’t give up on her right to feel safe.
Cooperating with other members of Sisters Dialogue, a grassroots organization that provides culturally safe spaces and supports for Muslim women and girls, they launched Edmonton SafeWalk program.
“The idea that people are safer in numbers and on walking together,” said Ali, board member at Sisters Dialogue, CBC reported.
“Of all the things that have been happening against Muslim women, in particular Black Muslim women, there has been an increased sense of fear and hyper vigilance within our community,” she added.
Pairing with Volunteers
The new initiative aims to make the streets safer for women in Edmonton by pairing them with a volunteer who will accompany them while out on a walk or running errands.
Those volunteers are selected through a rigorous process in which they are interviewed by Sisters Dialogue and Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL). They also have to provide a criminal record check.
“They also go through some training just to make sure that they’re not causing more harm to the vulnerable people that reach out in looking for support,” she said.
Though the initiative aims to protect Black, Muslim women, it is open to anyone who wants to feel safe in the city.
Edmonton Muslim women have been the victims of hate racist attacks in recent month. The latest incident at the end of June in St. Albert sent a woman to hospital.
Feeling the heat of anti-Muslim rhetoric, a local mosque in Edmonton announced a series of self-defense classes in August to empower Muslim women and give them a sense of safety.
These classes help fill an important need for Muslim women who may feel especially vulnerable in the current political and social climate.
Also last year, Edmonton amended public places bylaw to include harassment based on race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and other identifiers as behaviors resulting in a fine.