I joined GVI as a Women’s Empowerment Volunteer on 13 May 2017 for a period of 1 month. The focus of the work on arrival was a much needed and valued computer skills programme which continues to run three mornings a week from the local community centre. The programme is extremely well-attended and it has been truly wonderful to watch the women’s faces as they learn new skills and realise both their own abilities and the shere magic of the computer that most of us take for granted!
Whilst the computer skills work is currently the cornerstone of the work with the women, there is also a significant focus on supporting business development and other much needed skills to support both future employment and a general increase in confidence. To support the latter, a meeting was held with approximately 25 women at the community centre on 31 May.
The meeting concentrated on general areas of interest, both individual and combined. The ladies were asked to identify the skills that they would like to acquire and there were some strong areas of interest, namely; sewing; sandal making; baking/catering and hairdressing.
One of the most important aspects of women’s empowerment work is to encourage independence and collaboration. Whilst it is of course possible to organise a tutor to teach these skills, it is also clear that these skills already exist in the community and therefore what is needed is support and facilitation to help the women develop their own skills development programmes. This is exactly what was achieved at the meeting. The group was asked to volunteer their own time to share their skills with others. Three ladies identified themselves as having hairdressing skills and also confirmed that they would be willing to teach others. This felt like an amazing achievement and will be taken forward by the Women’s Empowerment Lead who will facilitate venue time and space and any resources required.
This meeting felt very much like the beginning of something much bigger. Whilst clearly there is a goal to support business development and employability, there is a more fundamental opportunity to increase personal confidence through skills development, which in turn will enable women to better support themselves and their families. There is also the potential for future businesswomen to collaborate rather than compete which in my view is a positive approach.
I joined the programme to make a contribution and hopefully encourage just one woman to feel more confident and pursue their dreams. I hope I have achieved this but equally I have been completely inspired and touched by the women’s grit and determination and go home having learnt so much about the challenges that life can present and the strength of the human spirit.
By Women’s empowerment volunteer – Lisa Anastasiou