Strategy to promote women in the NW

WEDNESDAY of last week marked a major milestone for women in the North West who work in the community, with the launch of the document ‘2011-2016 Strategy for the North West Women’s Sector’.

The document means that for the first time women from all walks of life in the urban and rural west have access to a tangible body of reasearch which they can use to lobby local and mainstream government for funding and legislative changes.

The launch took place in Strabane, and the MC for the occasion was Joanne Boyd, Women’s Development Officer with Derry City Council, who also acted as a co-ordinator for the women’s groups throughout the west of the Province who took part in providing input into the strategy which has emerged.

In an overview of how the strategy was arrived at, Ms Boyd stressed that what was significant about it was that for the first time the women’s sector had an instrument which they could use to lobby for change.

Ms Boyd said originally it had been hoped to take the women’s sector forward under RPA, but when that fell through Peace III funding had been obtained, for Londonderry and Strabane, and at that time Omagh Dsitrict Council had also come on board, and a new application was made securing a mapping exercise was conductedwhich gave rise to in-depth findings which showed that 97,420 women lived in the catchment area, which was 51 per cent of the population. Of that number 58 per cent were of working age between 16 and 59, yet only 23 percent of that group were actually employed in ‘seen’ jobs.

It showed there were underlying issues, like low income and a lack of family-friendly working practices which prevented women from enjoying workplace autonomy, which could now be identified and tackled.

Speaking at the event, Catherine Cooke, from Drumahoe, representing the North West Peace III Partnership, which funded the research project and compilation of the strategy, said: “We understand that the need for shared spaces, facilities and activities is an issue thoughout the North West and that we must develop shared structures and activities that encourage people from all communities to work together. This can, in turn. impact upon negataive attitufes and help us progress towards a peaceful and integrated society.”

“This assignment has sought to explore how the women’s sector across the catchment area should develop, in order to increase and improve quality of life and opportunity for women. Indeed, it represents the collective experiences and thinking of women’s sector organisations and stakeholders across the local authority areas of Derry, Strabane and omagh. I am delighted that, though this project, we have seen diverse groups of people come together to share space, with a view to developing relationships at a local level.

“Projects like the Woman’s Mapping Exercise have been so important in achieving the aims of this Strategic Priority, as it has provided a range of stakeholders with the purpose, direction and vision to take the women’s sector forward in a meaningful and co-ordinated fashion,” she said.

Congratulating everyone involved, Ms Cooke said she looked forward to seeing the benefits it would bring across the region.

Other speakers at the event were Lynn Flemming, chairwoman of the development committee at Derry City Council, Micheala Boyle, Chairwoman of Strabane District Council, as well as Anne Fitzgerald, from omagh District Council.

The formalities included a plenary session and Q&A afterwards, and was followed by lunch.