Women with attitude
We are urban community gardeners who would like to develop a Women's Skills Exchange at an established community garden project. We are based in an area of high urban deprivation in a town where almost a fifth of the population is from ethnic minorities and more than 70 languages are spoken.
Share and learn
We would like to encourage disadvantaged women of all abilities and ethnicities to learn, share skills, and develop new opportunities for themselves. We want to encourage single mums, women with disabilities and/ or mental health issues, career changers, retired professionals, women who are isolated, refugees and asylum seekers and women at the fringes of society because of a different cultural heritage to get involved.
What's all the buzz about?
The project will include gardening, growing veg, environmental conservation and beekeeping, a Women's Shed for carpentry and construction, cooking from scratch with fresh produce, jam-making, apple-pressing and preserving and pickling, crafts, recycling and upcycling, and a community cafe and market to showcase and sell what we have grown and made.
Step by step
Existing female volunteers will act as “Garden Companions” to help newcomers settle in and learn skills. Sharing forums initiated and led by participants - such as flower arranging, edible hanging baskets, making bee-related products, cooking around the world - will enable participants both to learn and share their skills and knowledge.
Celebrate good times
Central to the project will be a celebration day, with a multi-cultural feast harvested, prepared and cooked on site, with a chance for more women to visit the garden and get involved.
As participants gain confidence, they will be encouraged to develop an enterprising idea, which the project will help them evaluate and take forward. This could be something as simple as holding a market stand of home-made goods; to running a pop-up cafe at our market events; window-sill micro-veg for people living in flats; to pickling/ processing vegetables for year-round goodness.
Participants will plan and hold a series of community garden produce and crafts markets to sell or showcase what they have grown/ made, getting more local people involved.
The project will bring women together in an active way to learn and share skills and improve their health and well-being in a welcoming environment. Women will be able to engage and develop at a pace to suit them, fitting around responsibilities of home and children, and doing as much as they are able. It will bring older women and younger women together in a spirit of sharing and co-operation. It will give existing female volunteers a sense of pride and satisfaction as they pass on their skills to new participants. At a personal level, the Women's Skills Exchange will develop skills and confidence, and break down social isolation.
At a wider level, it will foster a cohesive society and break down barriers between people from different backgrounds or ethnic groups. It will empower more people to develop and enjoy an urban green space. For the community garden itself, it will tap into local skills to diversify both activities and production.
The grant will pay for staff to plan and run the project. It will pay for rent for allotment plots and our market venue. It will pay for resources such as seeds and compost, cooking materials and timber, beekeeping supplies and craft materials. It will pay for volunteer training (first aid, manual handling, machinery), and expenses (travel, Personal Protective Equipment).
Breaking down barriers
From our work in the past 12 years, we know women face barriers to participation, such as childcare responsibilities, lack of confidence, home duties; women from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities may face additional barriers, including shyness, lack of transport, unwillingness to work alongside men, a feeling of isolation through being unable to speak English, and cultural observances, such as fasting and praying. Ipswich has a large working age population 65.7% (87,566) compared with the rest of Suffolk 61.0%. However, 5,500 (5.7%) residents have never worked or are long-term unemployed. 33.3% (1,850) of this group are lone parents, of which 1,700 are female lone parents (State of Ipswich Report 2014).
The Women’s Skills Exchange will help disadvantaged women overcome barriers such as lack of confidence, lack of self-esteem or lack of opportunity/ education and skills by offering learning and social opportunities in a welcoming, inclusive community setting. It will offer opportunities for women of all ages, for example, women responsible for young children and older women who live alone. It will give BAME women a chance to make friends and contacts outside their own communities. Its flexibility will mean women with caring responsibilities or cultural sensitivities will be able to participate.
A volunteer said: "The community garden has been a revelation to me. I like gardening and I love wildlife and I feel I can connect with both through this organisation. Its lovely to find like-minded people to interact with and the positive attitude that is maintained is heart-warming."