Voices Women’s Group
Voices Women’s Group is based in the Turf Lodge, a designated targeting social need area. The group was formed in 1997 in response to the expressed needs of local women, most of who had been in secondary education during the 1970s or 1980s. When the community experienced the worst period of civil and political unrest, resulting in a disruption of education and denied access to educational attainment and life opportunities. The women viewed the group as a means to develop their personal and community skills alongside a second chance to access education and training in a safe supportive informal environment. The group is open to women of all ages and is founded on developing mutual respect and valuing the worth and life experiences of others. The number of women participating in the group activities averages at approximately sixty. The group environment enables the facilitation and delivery of a range of supportive social, recreational, educational, and training programmes, to enhance women’s personal capacity, self-confidence and sense of well-being.
The group provide a breadth of daily programme activities Monday to Friday, with additional off site weekend activities. The group encourages grass-roots engagement in community based initiatives, both within and across the community. The group also provides a daily drop in to enable social reconnection and enable group solidarity which provides strong protection against social isolation and despair and provides a strong antidote to diminished physical and mental well-being.
The conflict’s legacy, alongside the effects of multiple layers of individual and communal traumatic experiences, continues to blight the community at large. The trans generational related issues and the negative legacy of the conflict are manifested in the disproportionate mental health problems alongside a rapid increase in suicides experienced within the community which contrast sharply to patterns elsewhere in Europe. Voices Women’s Group recognize the importance of establishing and sustaining, strong social support networks and a wide range of creative supportive intervention initiatives to enable women and their families to develop resilience and coping strategies to deal more effectively with arising crisis and adversity. The group also pro-actively promote social inclusion by directly targeting women at risk of slipping into more acute stages of mental ill health, isolation, and social exclusion thereby improving not only the quality their lives but also those of their children, families and the community at large.
Marian O’Neill, Voices Women’s Group, 27 Norglen Gardens, Belfast, BT11 8EL,
Telephone 028 90 805445