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Local Legends: Women Centre

Published: 11/01/2024

Updated: March 26th, 2024 at 01:44 pm

We’ve always been supporters of International Women’s Day. Gender equality is a big part of what Suma stands for as an equal-pay worker-owned and run co-op. As part of our activities in the local area, we offer consistent support to Women Centre through annual membership, donations and fundraising activities. We spoke to Maxine to find out more.

Tell us a bit about you and the history of Women Centre:
Women Centre is a Charity based in Kirklees and Calderdale supporting over 3000 women annually. We have helped more than 100,000 women since we started. Our main areas of service delivery are domestic abuse, women’s health and wellbeing. Women also receive support with practical issues such as parenting, managing debt, housing and immigration issues. Our services reach many women who are at points of crisis: women experiencing acute and chronic mental health difficulties; in contact with the criminal justice system; women refugees and asylum seekers; women in poverty; those with drug and alcohol problems; and victims of domestic violence and their children.

We have centres in Halifax, Huddersfield and Bradford offering different services across the three sites. We have contracts funded by the Lottery, the council and the police. However, these contracts just cover the basics and the donations we receive are really important. We help local women get away from abusive households, which might involve paying for a taxi or getting them out of the area completely. We also help with the basics needed to help women and their children rebuild their lives, like pots and pans, school books, etc. We have a domestic abuse contract running for the next 10 years, but we regularly lose funding and services and have to fundraise.

What services do you offer and to who?
The range of support we offer is HUGE! From counselling and help for anxiety and trauma to supporting migrant women and victims of FGM. We offer various therapies, from movement to music and arts. Plus domestic abuse services, perpetrator programmes, group work and much more. We also have a range of projects to support women, including Women in Exile, LGBTQIA+, 1125 Young Girls project, STAGE, Liaison and Diversion to name just a few.

When and why did you open?
Halifax WomenCentre was formed 38 years ago. Our CEO Angela is a founding member and working as a social worker at the time. Listening to the women she was helping demonstrated a need for the centre.

How can people access support?
There’s no referral needed. You can either call or simply drop by.

How has demand for your services changed over the years/ most recently?
Since COVID we do a lot of Hybrid working, meeting with women over Zoom. While it was mandatory for us to meet that way, some women prefer it. It can be uncomfortable or triggering for some women to come into the centre and be around other people. We’re seeing an ever-increasing demand from women with complex needs.

How can people help?
Becoming a regular supporter via membership is so helpful and is only £15 a year. If every woman in Calderdale and Kirklees was a member, we would never need funding again. As well as membership, small or large corporate support is always appreciated. Individuals or groups can also fundraise or donate and we’re open to any ideas! There are specific fundraising events throughout the year, such as the 16 days of action (Nov 25 – 10 Dec) and International Women’s Day (March 8th). However, we also need help over the summer and seasonal donations are always appreciated. Gifts for kids at Christmas and eggs at Easter, for example. We want women to be able to treat their children like everyone else.

How many volunteers do you have?
For a while, we had a 50/50 split of staff and volunteers. However, we’ve recently had a big recruitment push and now have around 60 volunteers and 85 staff members. We always need more volunteers to help with the wide range of jobs that need doing, from being on the front line to organising donations. We’re also looking for younger trustees, and anyone with accounting or legal experience would be amazing.

How can people make donations?
You can donate via the website and follow our socials to get notified about specific shortages and donation requests.

Is there anything you don’t need or can’t accept?
Reusable period products are great for the environment but aren’t practical for a lot of women, so disposable period products are preferred. We also can’t take used underwear or clothes in bad condition, or any opened or partially used toiletries so we can make sure we keep everyone safe. Out-of-date food is also a no-go. We work with local organisations like Mothercare, St Augustine’s, Rotary and other local businesses to support women to collect food for themselves and their children.

Anything else you’d like everyone to know about you and the great work you do?
We just want to share the following contact details which you can use if you are affected by domestic abuse:
www.calderdalestayingsafe.org.uk / 01422323339

WOMENS AID: 08082000247

MENS ADVICE LINE: 08088010327

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