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Defenders for Human Rights
Léonie Couture

Léonie Couture Women’s Health and Security

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GRADE LEVELS = 7 to 12  /  SUGGESTED TIME = Three 60 minute class periods

Léonie Couture is the founder of La Rue des Femmes – known as Herstreet in English – a non-profit organization that provides services to homeless women in Montréal. La Rue des Femmes empowers homeless women to rebuild their lives by offering shelter, food, clothing, counselling, art therapy and social support. Each year, it enables 400 women to leave the street with the help of more than 150 volunteers.

Couture was born in Saint-Georges de Beauce, Quebec, in 1951, and has since studied administration and psychology. Since the early 1980s, she has dedicated her life to women’s rights advocacy. She worked at the Mouvement contre le viol et l’inceste (Movement against Rape and Incest) (1981-87), in the field of illiteracy elimination (1987-91), and at the Women’s Health Centre (1991-93). In 1994, on the base of relational health and her feminist view of a woman’s right to “dignity, justice, security and equality,” she founded Herstreet.

In 2010, she was a laureate of the Idola Saint-Jean prize, awarded by the Fédération des femmes du Québec to an individual or group of people for their contribution to the betterment of women’s lives and the advancement of feminism in Quebec. In June 2012, she received the title of Chevalière de l'Ordre national du Québec, notably for her pioneer work with homeless women and her efforts to bring social and political attention to this issue.

Couture recognizes that women’s experiences of homelessness are different than those of men – more hidden and at risk of violence – and require specific attention and interventions. Counseling, therapy, art and personal care are an intrinsic part of her holistic approach to homeless women’s rights and needs.