WRDA Celebrates 32nd AGM and 20th Anniversary of the Community Facilitator Programme
WRDA members, Community Facilitators, individuals and women’s sector delegates joined us in celebrating our 2014/15 AGM in the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast on Wednesday 28th October 2015. The event also acted as a celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Community Facilitator Programme, with a commemorative photo-booklet being released for the occasion. Patricia Donald, Management Committee Chair, spoke first, welcoming everyone and extending her congratulations to Liz Curran and her team for the 20th Anniversary of the Community Facilitator Programme, calling it a brilliant achievement and a testament to the quality of the programme. She thanked Anne McVicker and the WRDA staff team for their hard work and resilience in light of funding cuts, and her fellow Management Committee members for their commitment and generous giving of their time. Patricia also welcomed the three distinguished speakers: Brenda Stevenson, Paula Bradley MLA and Caitriona Ruane MLA. Our accounts were presented by Finance and HR Manager Geraldine Burns, who shared some advice on Auto-Enrolment, and encouraged those present to respond to DSD’s consultation on Charities (Accounts & Reports) Regulations NI 2015, noting that WRDA’s response was available on the website. Deputy Chair Anne O’Reilly commended Geraldine and WRDA for their tenacity and ability to navigate income sources. She stated that WRDA is an example of a strong regional organisation who put a lot of effort into sustainability, not just to survive but to thrive. Some further changes to our Management Committee were announced, with both Eileen Weir (Shankill Women’s Centre) and Brenda Callaghan joining. We were delighted to welcome them on board. Training & Development Manager Liz Curran then addressed the crowd on the 20th Anniversary of Community Facilitator Programme, stating that over 40 Community Facilitator Programmes have been delivered to over 640 women across NI, with 20,000 hours of training. She outlined the range of training programmes, and thanked her dedicated, skilled and motivated staff team over the years, including Mary Francis McCullough, Sadhbh Branton, Ailish Cullen, Lea Braithwaite and her current team Isobel Loughran, Katherine Robertson and Paula Murray. Liz was deservedly proud that despite diverse funding streams and changing accreditation requirements, the programme has retained its core element of empowering women to become role models in their communities. Brenda Stevenson, Mayor of Derry 2014-15, then took to the stage, sharing a brief history of her personal and professional development and acknowledging the Community Facilitator Programme as pivotal in building her confidence, skills, employability and overall mental health. She extended her congratulations to the WRDA staff and board, and stated she was proud to be part of the celebration, especially as the women’s sector in general is not celebrated enough. Anne McVicker then presented the Annual Report 2014-15 and 20th Anniversary of the Community Facilitator Programme photo-booklet, commending WRDA’s Nieve Carberry for her efforts in putting them together. She provided an overview of the report, reflecting over the past 12 months under the themes challenging, productive and reflective. Challenges such as funding cuts and the maladministration of the ESF programme; productivity such as the securing of the PHA contract, and the conclusion of the Live & Learn and Women & Peacebuilding Projects; and reflection such as the review of WRDA’s Strategic plan 2014-2020. Anne then outlined WRDA’s ongoing work with the Joint Forum, the Forum for Adult Learning, the LEAD partnership, the Women’s Regional Consortium and thanked her staff, giving them a round of applause. Paula Bradley MLA congratulated WRDA for their ongoing work in empowering women and leading change. Acknowledging Brenda Stevenson’s speech, she noted that many women who enter politics have similar beginnings, and the importance of the women’s sector in confidence building and the provision of support in hard times. She commended the Breast, Cervical and Bowel course for its vital awareness raising, and how this has a personal resonance with her due to her experience with cervical cancer. Referencing the “lobbying” in WRDA’s logo, she stated that she is lobbied on many different issues, and knows she can trust WRDA to lead the way on those most pressing to women, particularly through the LEAD partnership. The final speaker was Caitriona Ruane MLA, who noted the combined history of the women in the room, and how the women’s sector has paved the way for a younger generation of women to openly adopt the feminist cause. Whilst acknowledging the difficulty of the glass ceiling and power sharing between men and women, she encouraged the crowd to celebrate feminism and women’s achievements, to keep supporting each other, fighting inequality e.g. violence against women and children and cuts to working tax credits. Caitriona ended by urging women to join political parties, as greater political representation will enable real change on pressing women’s issues. The night ended with Patricia Donald thanking the speakers for their inspirational words, and all present for their time and ongoing support. Watch NVTV's coverage of the event here.