Ardoyne women pool resources in community effort to better the lot of all local women

Womens groups join forces for gender equality

By Kieran Hughes

Two Ardoyne groups who have been campaigning for gender equality in their communities are to work together for the first time today on International Women’s Day (today, Thursday). Ardoyne Women’s Group and Ardoyne Association have joined forces for the first time to celebrate the day with an event that could see them form stronger links in the future.

And in another first for the area, women from the Lower Shankill Community Association have been invited to the cross-community event at Ardoyne Community Centre.

The two Ardoyne groups hope that by working together they can share their expertise and facilities and increase funding opportunities.

And while they will remain separate entities the closer links are aimed at improving services for local women.

“It’s about sharing resource and it’s a way of bringing more people in and letting them know what is going on in the area,” said Sally Smyth, Project Co-ordinator with Ardoyne Women’s Group.

“We have applied for Neighbourhood Renewal funding which will last for the next three years and by working in partnership we can help secure that funding.”

Eilish McKenna, Strategic Development Officer with Ardoyne Association, said it’s a great opportunity for the groups.

“We will still each have our own economy but we can work together and share expertise,” she said.

One of the areas they hope they can work as a unit is community health projects and to that end they will launch a Community Health Project today.

“International Women’s Day is a day for recognising and applauding women’s achievements as well as observing and highlighting inequalities and issues,” said Sally Smyth.

“It’s not just on International Women’s Day, but all year round, many local organisations and individuals work tirelessly to support gender equality through a number of initiatives.

“One of Ardoyne Women’s Group’s main aims is to provide information and promote women’s equality, also to assist women to reach their full potential.

“To honour International Women’s Day we are proud to launch the Community Health Project, which aims to promote the well being of women and build community health by providing community based prevention  initiatives and work in partnership with other local health projects.”

“It’s also a project for women of all ages to meet, be challenged and become empowered while encouraging health promotion, bring health issues to life and build self-esteem and confidence.

She said women availing of the project will become more assertive in taking responsibility for their own health.

“We hope to help every individual women to develop their potential, build strong, positive relationships with others and contribute to their own community, maybe even engage them in community activism potentially on this aspect, of drawing new women to govern our group.

“The Community Health Project is about reducing depression and the cycle of despair and promoting a healthy lifestyle.”

Sally said the event is a great opportunity to engage with women from the Shankill.

“That will be a first for Ardoyne as well and we are in talks at the moment in trying to work on a project. It is at the very early stages and we sent a personal invitation to the Lower Shankill Community Association so it’s a great opportunity and hopefully it can develop.”

One of the highlights of today’s event was an appearance by Belfast woman Una Crudden who recorded a CD Angel of Hope after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

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