How we're celebrating International Women's Day

Today we celebrate International Women's Day at Providence Row. The banner that women in our ‘Women's only art, craft and photography group’ have been working on for the last month (see left) hangs in our Welcome Area, greeting clients as they walk through the door with a riot of colour and creativity. We are inviting all those using or visiting our centre to add their own contribution to our banner, telling us what friendship means to them. This idea, put forward by the members of our women's group, is a way to make their work interactive and to encourage communication, support and celebration among all those who are part of the Providence Row community.

International Women's Day is a time for celebration, commemoration and recognition of the achievements women make and the struggles they endure and overcome all over the world and every day. At Providence Row, one way we work with women is through our weekly ‘Women Only Art, Craft and Photography group’, which enables women who use our centre to develop and extend their creative and artistic skills, express themselves and have a laugh in a safe, welcoming space. 

When I started the group in February 2016, we had only one attendee and despite working closely with hostels in the local area to advertise our services, our numbers were low for many months. This reflects a broader trend across homelessness services, with women often falling into the category of 'hidden homelessness', staying with friends or sofa surfing, rather than rough sleeping and coming to the attention of outreach teams and other homelessness services. The Street to Home Report 2015/16 found that 15% of rough sleepers met by outreach teams were women, while a Homeless Link report in 2014 found that only 18% of those accessing day centre services were women (Homeless Link, Support for single homeless people in England, Annual Review, 2015). We were aware that it would take time for women to come to know and trust our service and our Women's Group stayed on the timetable, changing over time to reflect what women coming to the centre told us they wanted. 

A year later we’re delighted that 27 women have taken part in our women's group, which has included pamper sessions, portrait photography shoots and fabric design workshops. We finished the year with a photography exhibition in December 2016, showcasing photographs by the women's group. We’re looking forward to seeing what plans the group has for 2017!

Coming together with women throughout the world today, Providence Row celebrates the women we work with, their strength, their courage and their talent. We wish them all and all of you, a very happy International Women's Day.