This year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘Inspire Inclusion’. We spoke to Aminah* who is a member of the WOWS (Women offering women support) group in Luton about her experiences and the impact being involved has had.

picture for projectStory: Banner titled CYCD Women's Day celebration

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘Inspire Inclusion’ the focus of which is to ‘encourage everyone to recognise the unique perspectives and contributions of women from all walks of life, including those from marginalised communities’.

We spoke to Aminah* who is a member of the WOWS (Women offering women support) group in Luton, organised by the Centre of Youth & Community Development (CYCD) about her experiences and the impact being involved has had.

“I first got involved about four years ago, it was after the birth of my daughter. I was going through a breakup and had experienced domestic abuse. Mentally and emotionally I was alone. I was practically homeless, had nowhere to go. My parents were able to take me in but they weren’t able to support me for long because of Covid and they were going through a tough time themselves. I couldn’t even afford to buy food for my daughter.

There was nowhere I could physically go. I wasn’t able to go in to work, I wasn’t able to get support from work. There was nothing available.

Finding something for the Asian community was not easy. I eventually found Yasmin (Project Lead at the WOWS project) and that was a godsend. I found the group at the time I needed it most.

Care packages were the first form of support I got and they went such a long way with me, I can’t even explain to you. Sometimes I used to feel guilty for receiving them because I thought someone else could be, and sometimes I’d donate something back to the food bank because I felt guilty. But they were so needed at the time.

The woman that dropped off the care package was from the Women’s Empowerment group. She’d spend five minutes talking with me which meant more to me than the care package. It was so important for me. She was brilliant. Having a conversation and then having Yasmin call me up to chat over the phone was vital to my wellbeing at the time. It was support that I needed at the most important time of my life.

At first even I wasn’t sure to expect but when I got to one of the sessions and realised its purpose and the support women could provide one another, I realised that this is exactly what this community needs.

After Covid there were the coffee mornings, the maternity focus groups, the children’s play groups, and that was amazing. I got to take my daughter to play with other kids. Trying to get daycare was expensive and to be able to take my daughter there was so important, not just for her but for me as well. I met other parents and I still speak to a few of the mums I met at those groups, the same age as me.

It wasn’t just focused on the things that you need, it helped support women to come together in different ways. I attended English language classes even though my English is good as it is. But it was a space to drop off kids and help other women who needed support and I was able to provide that by helping with the English lesson. I know a lot of women outside of the English language sessions now too. At first there were language barriers, but we got over them and it didn’t matter if we spoke the same language or not because we were all going through the same thing.

It was support that I needed at the most important time of my life.


Project member

We meet at a community centre and the sessions weren’t specifically advertised as domestic abuse support groups or places for women to speak on specific issues. Because of that, I felt comfortable walking in there and bringing my child to play nearby. When you walk in somewhere that provides specific support for domestic abuse it can be overwhelming because everyone knows why you’re there and there can be a sense of shame. I work on the other side of it, I’ve seen women badly affected and I think of all the women who need support more than me. Actually, what makes me feel comfortable is this secluded environment where we can talk about what’s happening to us honestly and freely without a label or feeling shame.

That’s why groups like this are so needed in the South Asian community, among South Asian women, because discussing issues like domestic violence/ abuse is completely taboo. It happens, as it does to all women, and yet women in our community don’t discuss it, it’s something that we do not talk about. The fact this group was held right in the heart of the community and was advertised as a coffee morning rather than something more specific made it more accessible.

Some women that come, their husbands drop them off, and obviously you don’t want your partner knowing what we are discussing. It’s promoted as a space for children, which it is, but it’s also a safe space for us to discuss our experiences, whether that’s domestic violence, abuse, anything else, and to provide support to one another.

One women who I’m still in touch with actually got referred through this group for specialist support and she’s now out of the abusive relationship she was in. It’s amazing, she’s set up in a new place, she’s got independence and all the things she needs for her and her child. The support we get from the group is incredible.

This Friday I’ll be going (to CYCD Women’s Project International Women’s Day event) and I’ll be taking my son. Yasmin told me that there’s another woman who lives near me who has recently moved here from Pakistan. She knows nobody in the community and she’s living on her own with two young kids. I’ve introduced myself to her and we’re going to the International Women’s Day event together.

It’s a day out to get to speak with other women, to see what support is available for us and just take it from there. It’s about building communities.”

*Name changed to protect identity.


Join our email newsletter and stay up to date with our latest funding announcements and policy updates.