On 8 March each year, the world celebrates International Women’s Day highlighting the social, economic and political achievements of women. The day also marks a reminder to strive for gender equality and the many ways in which equality is still yet to be achieved. This year’s theme is particularly focused on that inequality, with #EachforEqual a call to arms to raise awareness against bias and take action for equality.
People’s Health Trust works with thousands of women to take action together on issues that are important to them. The Trust supports residents involved in a number of women’s projects to take control and affect change, encouraging them to address inequalities at a local level. Many projects also recognise that people experience discrimination and power imbalances differently depending on their overlapping identities, which can create even more barriers to good health.
One funded project whose values closely resonate with eradicating the remaining inequalities for women is Angels of Hope for Women. Their Blossom Group project, funded through Active Communities has a monthly peer support group for women who have experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) based in the Manchester area.
The project also hosts quarterly workshop sessions where speakers are invited to offer support and signposting on a range of issues including sexual health. Many of the girls and women who attend the sessions are from communities where the project states FGM is common, including asylum seekers, refugees and women from Black, Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) minority groups. The project aims to ensure women with multiple disadvantages are given every opportunity to be with others as this helps improve their mood and well-being.
Through giving women a space to come together and discuss common experiences with others without the fear of stigma, as well as developing friendships and a social network, the project has seen members gain the confidence to then go out and offer support and reach to others in the community who do not currently attend the group due to language or cultural barriers. This year, the group are also hosting a ‘Walk for Health’ on the 7 March, to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Leah Chikamba, Project Co-ordinator, said, “Women’s groups are very important because they help to improve, build engagement and connections with other women through sharing experiences. This helps women have a sense of belonging, which in turn supports their wellbeing.”
Another project funded by the Trust is Dostiyo, an organisation for Asian women and girls based in Northampton that provides recreational activities for women ranging in age from 50 to 92, such as outings, exercise, yoga and discussion groups. These activities enable local women to come together to socialise and make friends, improving their self-esteem, confidence and trust.
The project has even seen outcomes it didn’t expect, with the women reaching outside of their own networks, starting a social befriending network, with cinema trips and Diwali parties already organised. The women now even have a WhatsApp group, connecting them in a new way. One project member had to go into hospital for a short while, and the women visited her with home-made food, showing how these strong social connections have grown beyond the realms of the project.
Deepa Bakrania, Centre Manager, said, “I am delighted with the success of the project so far. You can see on their faces how much their friendships mean to them, and it’s often something these women haven’t had before. The project gives them the opportunity to shed their inhibitions. Sessions for women are so important, as they give the members the chance to be themselves, and share their experiences, chat, talk about their troubles and provide emotional support.”
The group have grown in confidence and are always busy recruiting new members – even convincing local public health volunteers to come in and talk to the group about nutrition and provide GP sessions. The members then thanked them in their own way, with a cultural exchange day, bringing food and clothes for the nurses to try.
“You could see all of them coming out of their shells,” Deepa said, “It was wonderful to see women coming together and sharing their cultures.”The projects members of Dostiyo enjoying their culture swap day.
Find out more about International Women’s Day.
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