Growing up as a visible minority, I faced a lot of inequalities and still do to this today. I wear a hijab and as a consequence, I have been discriminated against countless times. However, the real motivation behind starting Empower’em was when I realized that there was no space for Muslim women to share experiences and connect with one another. There was a gap in the services offered in the community and I felt like I needed a community. I decided to create a safe space to find support in my peers.
I started Empower’em specifically for Muslim women, but as we started meeting people through our events, I quickly realized the need to redevelop our mandate to include racialized women from many backgrounds. Young women from all kinds of backgrounds were coming to our events and using the space to open up about their experiences.
Our first workshop was held in August 2013. I ran a workshop on embracing your own true identity in front of a group of 15-20 people. Based on the success of the first event, I decided to continue organizing such spaces. I learned how to design posters, write grants, create a website and newsletter and finally recruited a team. Our events today welcome anywhere between 15-65 young women depending on the type of safe space. Some of our programming models works through peer support groups.