Women's Centres Exceptional at Engaging Women
The Women’s Centres Regional Learning Partnership has had another successful year of the Big Lottery funded Live & Learn project. The project engages over 3,000 women each year and runs across 14 women’s centres/organisations in Northern Ireland. At the recent evaluation session on 17th April, delivery partners felt part of the success of the project is being able to offer non-accredited learning and the value of five year funding which allows women to progress at their own pace.
Locally developed programmes: Each centre develops a programme to meet the needs of local women particularly those who have been excluded from learning and are “hard to reach” ranging from physical and mental health, confidence, self esteem, employability, inclusion of ethnic minority women, and maths literacy and family learning.
The women only environment in the centres helps women to develop self esteem and confidence which are essential for learning, “a process which takes time, support and safe space to grow,” says Deirdre O’Hara, Educational Coordinator, Strathfoyle Women’s Activity Group.
A number of centres describe the “progression of learners” and the importance of women gaining in self esteem and empowerment as crucial to learning. "I'm still surprised at myself when I speak out in a group! Sometimes I look at myself from a distance and can't believe myself and that wee voice is always there reminding me to not get ahead of myself or it says things like 'who do you think you are?' I got great encouragement from everyone at the women's centre. I did the beginners computer classes and then I did more and more and I got more and more competent and confident. I began to volunteer in the women's centre. And then I was asked to teach the beginners IT class myself and I found I could do that too. These last two years have been just amazing. So much has happened. People say to me, 'I can't believe how much you have come out of yourself'. And it's true." (Participant, Chrysalis Women's Centre)
New opportunities: As well as learning about issues from health to history, and participating in classes ranging from exercise and to personal development, arts and family crafts to literacy, a variety of products have been produced by the classes. These include booklets of women’s stories, memory boxes, scrapbooks, and craft items such a crochet, jewellery and art. “Women telling their friends – about the sense of community, belonging, structure, routines and sense of purpose to their life - is so positive,” Says Kirsty Richardson, Manager, Greenway Women’s Centre .
There is also added value within the Live and Learn project as many women progress on to other courses, qualifications (often for the first time), or to volunteering or employment. Yvonne Connolly, Training & Education Manager, Windsor Women’s Centre sums up the impact that the project has had: “At Windsor we’re fulfilling dreams through Live and Learn.'”
For more information on the Live & Learn project visit http://www.wcrp.org.uk/projects.php and for courses offered at the women’s centres visit the online prospectus at http://wcrpeducation.org.uk/