COVID-19 Women’s Initiative helps women cope with the pandemic

Med students from U of T stepped up to support women’s shelters, which have seen an increase in the need for their services during the current crisis. The initiative has since expanded to cover other regions of Canada.
By: Alison Larabie Chase
June 25, 2020
Aman Dhaliwal and Karlee Searle. Photo: University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine.

Home isn’t always the safest place for women, even during a global pandemic. Domestic violence has increased globally since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Consequently, women’s shelters have been inundated with calls for assistance and have found it hard to cope with the increased need from their communities. Two second-year med students at the University of Toronto became aware of this issue and stepped up to organize the COVID-19 Women’s Initiative, which raises funds for shelters and also works with health care providers to ensure women have access to necessary services and information. They have already raised $22,000, coordinated donations of food and supplies, and provided assistance to 30 shelters across Canada, as med students from other universities have joined the initiative.

One of the group’s projects is an online map indicating where sexual and reproductive health services can be accessed in the greater Toronto area during the pandemic. The map is in the process of being expanded to cover Ontario and eventually other parts of Canada.

Founders Karlee Searle and Aman Dhaliwal say their initiative is currently working with health care professionals at hospitals and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to “address food insecurity, increase awareness of intimate partner violence, promote greater access to sexual and reproductive health services, and create informational materials on maternal mental health.” The project now boasts close to 250 volunteers from Canadian medical schools and continues to fundraise and expand its services.

Source: University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine

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