Women’s Services

Transforming lives one person at a time

clients who accessed our online services were women
adult and young women participated in COSTI programs to secure employment and upgrade their skills

At COSTI, supporting and empowering women continues to be an integral part of our work. Many newcomer and refugee women experience significant barriers to employment opportunities because of language and cultural differences, and it is our goal to help connect them to job opportunities. Beyond economic challenges, many are experiencing the challenges and trauma of racism and possibly past or current abuse.

That’s why at COSTI, our programming is focused on giving women the tools to cope with and overcome these difficulties. Gainful employment is one critical piece, and contributes to positive outcomes on so many levels, including economic stability and independence. And for many who are sole providers for their children, this result can be life-changing. Our Women Specific Employment Training program is one example of this work, where we rolled out a new online e-learning language program for women working in childcare, retail and food services sectors. The program helps participants develop language skills and orientation specifically geared to these areas of employment. 

Digital needs and priorities in the workforce have continued to grow and have made our Digital and Media Literacy program increasingly popular. Its success brought about a new Coding Course for Women to encourage access to opportunities in this growing technical field. 

COSTI also continues to make headway in terms of providing culturally specific care, especially in areas where women are feeling threatened and unsupported. Two such programs recently introduced are the Expressive Art Therapy for Racialized Muslim Women exposed to Islamophobia and the Evaluation of Wraparound Services for Immigrant, Refugee, Non-Status and Ethnocultural Women facing Gender-Based Violence. Both programs are working to help women feel safe and empowered.

The Expressive Art Therapy program for Racialized Muslim Women is addressing the growing anti-Muslim sentiment that pervades many communities, and unfortunately targets women who wear a niqab (face covering) or hijab (headscarf). The program provides a safe and supportive space where individuals with similar experiences can build solidarity, discuss their fears, and learn skills to help cope with and lessen their anxiety and trauma. The initial results are very positive with 95% of the 28 women in this new program reporting they gained self-awareness and are practicing new ways to cope with stress.

The Evaluation of Wraparound Services for Immigrant, Refugee, Non-Status and Ethnocultural Women facing Gender-Based Violence program aims to evaluate and refine two existing programs currently serving over 2,500 gender-based violence (GBV) survivors across Southwestern Ontario and the greater Toronto area. The two programs are being delivered through community hubs, where multiple, coordinated services can be accessed in one location. A clinical evaluation tool “Measure of Victim Empowerment Related to Safety (MOVERS)” has been developed and measures women’s safety and empowerment and is proving helpful for women accessing counselling services. MOVERS has been translated into 12 languages to support immigrant and refugee women and is currently being used by five community-based agencies.