Having developed from a project run by the Women’s Institute established over 12 years ago
Women Making a Difference has offered over 750 women from all walks of life the chance to share their experiences, build confidence, and gain the skills to engage in their communities. The Engendering Change, Women in Public Life, Balancing Power and Active Citizens courses have opened a range of resources and ideas for women wanting to make a difference locally and further afield. Our celebratory event on Monday 13th March at Cardiff and Vale College brought past and recent participants together to hear stories of inspirational progress from women from South Wales.
Working with Welsh Government, the Women’s Equality Network, the WEA (now Adult Learning Wales), Chwarae Teg and the British Council, our courses have provided a varied insight into public, professional and personal life for women from diverse backgrounds.
Maureen Howells, head of the Welsh Government department for Equality and Welfare Reform, reflected on the commitment of Welsh Government to reduce gender inequality in all walks of life. Maureen spoke passionately about some of the important coaches and mentors she had worked with throughout her life, highlighting the importance of her inspirational teacher, Mrs Doherty, in helping her realize her potential. Though the Women Making a Difference courses are now coming to an end, there are many more opportunities for women in Wales to get involved in their communities. Welsh Government continues its commitment to reducing levels of gender inequality in terms of representation and pay.
Dr Bablin Molik discussed how Women Making a Difference came to her at a time when she most needed a boost of confidence, and the opportunity to meet inspirational women in her community. Dr Molik got involved in 2007, having just finished her PhD and raising two young children. Finding it very hard to secure employment, Dr Molik was determined to get more involved in her local community, find new work, and break the barriers put in place by centuries of gender inequality affecting women from all backgrounds and cultures. With a focus on celebrating difference and enabling women from all backgrounds, the courses completed by Dr Molik gave her the belief to pursue wider aspirations. She is now Chair of Governors at Willows High School, has recently been appointed as a health advisor to the Welsh Government, and will stand in upcoming council elections for the Liberal Democrats.
Having got this far, Dr Molik’s message is very much to press on - “Don’t rest, don’t stop doing what you are doing”.
Shirley, a student in the Swansea group, discussed her plans to build connections between younger and older Chinese residents through a project that will encourage cultural exchange and increased social encounters. Having gained much from an Action Learning Set that “exceeded expectations”, Shirley is now seeking to collaborate with local residents to come up with creative solutions to loneliness and isolation.
Becky discussed how, as a mother of three children, she has benefitted hugely from the insights and experience offered by course tutors and peers, and looks forward to involving herself more in her local community. Becky is helping to organize a family fun day taking place in April 2017.
Alison admitted that, a few months ago, she would never have volunteered to stand up in front of 50 people and talk about her experiences. But, having completed the Women for Change course, she is now inspired to work closely with her community at the head of the Rhymney Valley (where there is one youth club, frequently shut) to offer additional activities for children under ten. Alison discussed how important it was to feel listened to and valued, and the impact this can have on confidence and belief.
Nazma has experience in a range of different career paths, but having lived with anxiety and depression for some time, decided to get out of the house and more involved locally. She is currently raising money for Swansea Women’s Aid, using her artistic skills to give back to the community through her creativity. Having built her connections using social media, Nazma is now managing a project to revitalise an historically dangerous subway passage in Swansea town centre, bringing different members of the community together to decorate the tunnel, install lights and make it a safer place for residents and visitors alike.
The celebrations ended with course participants receiving their awards and certificates, confirming their completion of the course, and moving them towards new opportunities in future. Just as vital as the development of confidence, skills and belief, the close built by each group will provide a supportive foundation for their work locally in the future.
Women Making a Difference thanks all of the women who have taken part in courses over the years, as well as Welsh Government, other funders, trainers, partners, venues, and all of the supporters who have made this work successful.