Fantastic celebration of our first year of service

Over 100 people attended our Year 1 Celebration Event that we held at the St George’s Centre in Leeds last Wednesday 29th November. 

The room filling up before the event starts

The room filling up before the event starts

The room started filling up from 9:30am with people being welcomed by 2 of our wonderful event volunteers who are heavily involved with the service, from recruitment to our advisory board, and more. It was great to have their smiling faces as the first point of contact for our event attendees.

event attendees smiling and having fun

Smiling event attendees

The room looked great, the Women’s Lives Leeds (WLL) staff were a great help in getting it ready, setting up the tables with folders, pens and activity sheets. Everyone had a job to do and they were like a real team of worker ants! All attendees were given a copy of our Highlight Report 2016-17, download your copy of the report here.

By 10am the room had filled up with a great range of attendees representing various services and organisations across Leeds, and we were ready to kick the day off with a Welcome and Introduction from Nik Peasgood, Chief Executive of Leeds Women’s Aid and Lead Partner for WLL. Nik spoke about the partners and project outcomes, as well as the WLL 16 days of action campaign. We were very happy that so far no technical problems had arisen – the microphone, PA and screens were all working without a glitch!

Nik Peasgood welcoming attendees

Nik Peasgood welcoming attendees

Just as we were preparing ourselves to tell attendees that Lord Mayor Dowson had been unable to make it, she walked through the door in her bling, much to our relief! The Lord Mayor was welcomed to the stage by Nik and she gave a thought-provoking speech about the challenges that Leeds, and in particular the women of Leeds, face.

Lord Mayor Dowson tells attendees about the challenges that women face in Leeds

Lord Mayor Dowson talks about the challenges that women face in Leeds

Next up was the wonderful Adbou Sidibe, Head of Regional Funding for Yorkshire and the Humber at the Big Lottery Fund. Abdou was not phased one bit by the fact that he was in the minority (1 of 3 males in a room full of 100+ females!) and gave an inspiring speech about the need to support the most vulnerable in our society. He gave attendees an overview of the Big Lottery Fund Women and Girls Initiative and how it came about – primarily through a recognition that there needed to be specific pots of money available for projects supporting women and girls, as they are often disproportionately affected by poverty and austerity. He was also extremely complimentary of the WLL project and partnership (thanks Abdou!)

Abdou Sidibe talks about the Women and Girls Initiative Fund from the Big Lottery

Abdou Sidibe Heading of Regional Funding for Yorkshire and Humber at Big Lottery Fund

Attention then turned to how the WLL project has been achieving its outcomes. Camille Thomas, Monitoring, Evaluation and Communications Worker for the project spoke about the elements of the service that contribute towards achieving outcome 1 – to ensure women and girls have improved and extended access to services they want, when they choose.

Camille Thomas talking about how the project has achieved outcome 1 so far

Camille Thomas talking about how the project has achieved outcome 1 so far

Camille told attendees about the Community Development Service and the impressive numbers of women and girls that had been reached through the drop-in and outreach provisions – nearly 2000! She also discussed how Filling the Gaps funded Nari Ekta and Hooner Kelah to deliver courses to women, mostly newly arrived migrant women, from BME communities.

Launching the new Online Directory

Launching the new Online Directory

Finally she told attendees about the launch of the new WLL website which includes the Online Directory, a fantastic new resource for women and girls of Leeds to find out what support is available to them. Attendees were invited to promote their services for women and girls on this exciting new platform. If your organisation provides services for women and/or girls then why not click here to download a form to send back to us? 

Happy event attendee taking her chances at Bingo

Happy event attendee taking her chances at Bingo

After an hour or so of talking serious business the event took a playful turn with a game of bingo! Attendees were all given a strip of numbers and competed against each other to be the first to get a line. Peer Support and Participation Worker Jackie made a great bingo caller and provided some light-hearted entertainment for attendees. The bingo was a good bit of fun to break up some of the speeches full of information. It was even kept on topic by making the numbers relevant to project achievements!

Time for some fun - Bingo!

Time for some fun – Bingo!

After we finally had a winner (it took about 10 minutes!) who celebrated their win with a box of Celebrations, we moved onto the next speaker – Project Manager Jeannette Morris-Boam. Jeannette spoke about the achievements so far in relation to outcome 2 of the project – to ensure that the needs of women and girls with multiple and complex needs are better support through a holistic response from services, and that they are able to live independent lives.

Project Manager Jeannette Morris-Boam talks about progress made in relation to outcome 2

Project Manager Jeannette Morris-Boam talks about progress made in relation to outcome 2

She gave an overview of the Complex Needs Service, which is the element of the WLL project which specifically contributes to outcome 2, and explained how women helped to design and shape risk assessment forms, support plans, monitoring tools and are still involved in ongoing feedback to improve the service. Jeannette highlighted the key achievements – that 95 referrals have been made, 6 have been closed on a positive pathway and the increase in outcomes for women and girls engaging with the service. A snapshot of cost benefit analysis was explained to attendees, using just one sample case study it showed that savings of over £17,000 was made, and that was calculated just with the little information we had!

Wise words - love yourself!

Wise words from Satina

Jeannette then welcomed an extremely brave woman to the stage, Satina, who shared her story and how WLL had helped her to turn her life around. Satina’s speech was really moving and she is an absolute inspiration to all women and girls and she ended with some very sound advice – love yourself! A huge thank you to Satina for being brave enough to share her story with so many people, it takes a lot of courage to stand up before 100+ people and talk about what you have been through. Satina’s words about loving yourself and the wonderful benefits of finding someone to support you who really cares and understands were the most powerful messages of the day.

A 20-minute break followed, giving attendees the opportunity to network and grab a brew and a biscuit, or two! Attendees were also encouraged to get involved with an activity around the Women Friendly Leeds concept facilitated by Community Development Workers Victoria and Sabina.

Jackie tells attendees about how we have involved women and girls in the project

Jackie tells attendees about how we have involved women and girls in the project

Attendees came back at around midday and Jackie took the stage to talk about outcome 3 – to ensure women and girls are empowered to support their peers and influence service delivery, development and design across the city. Jackie emphasised the importance of meaningful service user involvement, and how women have participated in the project so far – through recruitment, events, advisory board and more.

Members of the Advisory Board tell the audience why they get involved and what they get out of it

Members of the Advisory Board tell the audience why they get involved and what they get out of it

4 members of the advisory board then took to the stage for a short Q&A with Jackie, who asked them why they get involved, what they enjoy most and what they get out of it. The women gave some lovely honest answers and moved attendees when they had a group hug, showing how much their support means to each other. A huge thank you to these women who shared their thoughts in a room of over 100 people and showed the great work that the advisory board has done so far, and what exciting stuff that is in the pipeline for the next 12 months!

Jackie also spoke about the development of a Peer Support model to be implemented within the WLL partnership. She told attendees about the work she has done across the city to map peer support offers and how she subsequently developed a definition of peer support for the WLL project:

Women’s Lives Leeds holds that peer support is a mutually beneficial exchange which is based on women sharing their experience. It can be both formal and informal, and whilst it constitutes different activities, at heart there are core values of shared identity, safety and trust, reciprocity and mutuality, empowerment and agency and a woman centred approach.

She explained how partners have been invited to be the organisation that she works with to implement the model, we should have a successful candidate by the end of this year.

We then re-introduced a bit of fun by holding another round of bingo, this time for a full house. Camille took on the role of bingo caller and we soon had a winner, who took away some bathroom goodies as their prize!

Attendees welcomed another round of bingo and chance to win prizes!

Attendees welcomed another round of bingo and chance to win prizes!

Attendees then found out more about the Women’s Lives Leeds Forum, which is officially recognised as the Leeds Women’s Hub by the Leeds City Council Equalities Assembly. Jeannette explained the aim of the Forum and current projects – the development of the State of Women’s Health in Leeds report, being developed in partnership with Public Health and independent researchers; and development of the Women Friendly Leeds Concept, who now has its first ambassador – Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake.

Youth Worker T and Girls Forum member Sharandeep talk about the Forum for 11-18 year old girls

Youth Worker T and Girls Forum member Sharandeep talk about the Forum for 11-18 year old girls

Getaway Girls Youth Worker T and one of the members of the Girls Forum Sharandeep took to the stage to tell attendees about the Girls Forum, who have met 3 times, and have over 40 girls aged 11-18 years involved. They explained how the Girls Forum works, and how often it takes place, and encouraged attendees to spread the word to any girls and young women they know, to get them to come along.

Tables has turned and attendees are asked to do some work!

Tables have turned and attendees are asked to do some work!

After another hour of speaking the tables turned and attendees were asked to do some work! Tables were asked to discuss the question “what do you see as new and emerging needs for women and girls in Leeds?” There were some really interesting responses covering a wide variety of issues such as transitions, invisible women, social media and digital skills, access to services, sexuality and gender ID, poverty, and much more! All of these will help WLL to shape the next 12 months of service and shape the work of the WLL team, especially the Community Development Workers.

Attendees answering 'what are the new and emerging needs for women and girls in Leeds?'

Attendees answering ‘what are the new and emerging needs for women and girls in Leeds?’

We have collated all of the responses from the activity and these have been shared with the WLL partners to help shape future strategic development of services for women and girls in Leeds.

Gemma Scire, WLL partnership Chair, talks about the joys and challenges of partnership working

Gemma Scire, WLL partnership Chair, talks about the joys and challenges of partnership working

Last but not least Gemma Scire of Basis, and WLL Partnership Chair took to the stage to tell attendees about the successes and challenges of working in a large partnership. She explained how the partnership works and roused attendees by calling them to take action to ensure the rights of women and girls.

Nik, Gemma and Jeannette answer attendees questions

Nik, Gemma and Jeannette answer attendees questions

Finally, the floor opened up to attendees in a Q&A session with Nik, Jeannette and Gemma. Lots of interesting questions were asked and definitely provided food for thought for the WLL partnership and project, so lots for us to keep working on!

After a fantastic morning of speeches and fun from lots of stakeholders, attendees were rewarded with a delicious lunch provided by Relish.

We would like to thank everyone who came along, and we hope you enjoyed the event as much as we did! We look forward to seeing you at the end of 2018 to celebrate the next year’s achievements!

Here are just a few of the lovely comments we received about the event:

Very good event, well organised and followed, thanks everyone

Really felt welcomed, friendly atmosphere. Glad to get more information about referrals, current developments

Feeling empowered and motivated to continue delivering front-line work in Leeds!

Table exercises really helpful, bingo was good fun and educational, information pack was great, I will share back at the office. Good variety of speakers, great venue.

Thank you so much for a truly inspiring and empowering day

A special thank you to photographer John Whetton (https://www.flickr.com/photos/maccate) who very kindly took the fantastic photos of our event. Also a special thank you to Tom Bailey, cartoonist and one of the coordinators of the Arts and Minds Project (http://artsandmindsnetwork.org.uk/about-arts-and-minds/) who did some amazing cartoons depicting the information shared at the event. Click here to see some of the best photos of the day and the amazing cartoons from Tom.

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