International Women's Day 2019: Lancashire Women charity and how they help women in Lancashire to find their voice

It was American philanthropist Melinda Gates who said, “A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman.”

Lancashire Women charity - their Preston centre is based in Lune Street
Lancashire Women charity - their Preston centre is based in Lune Street

To have a voice you have to have a choice and championing the cause for women’s services in the north west for the last 30 years has been charity Lancashire Women.

The charity underwent a re-brand last year, formerly known as Lancashire Women’s Centres and chief executive officer Amanda Greenwood says it was an important shift to help better encompass and represent the 6,500 women they have supported, encouraged and enabled through their work.

Ultimately the vision has not changed since the charity was founded in 1985 and that is simply working towards a Lancashire where all women and girls, regardless of their background and upbringing are valued and treated as equals.

This week will mark International Women’s Day 2019 to be celebrated on March 8 and the theme behind this year's event is #BalanceForBetter Read more: renaming for the charity came in the same year as the 100th anniversary of the Suffrage movement and an important time where promoting greater gender parity in the workplace has again been at the fore.

Amanda says it’s not some revolutionary concept – women’s centres have existed as far back as those early suffrage rumblings.

But fast forward to the 21st century where a world of instant technology and social media dominates perceptions and how people live their lives there now is a greater case than ever for women from all communities to have access to provisions for their mental health and emotional well being.

Decades later despite medical advances, social improvements and community facilities, many women still find themselves facing the same crises that existed a century ago.

Chief executive officer for Lancashire Women Amanda Greenwood

Chief executive officer for Lancashire Women is Amanda Greenwood. She joined the charity in 2017. Amanda says their mission is to build a one-stop shop so any woman or girl over the age of 11 can walk through the door of one their community hubs in Preston, Blackpool, Accrington, Burnley and receive support in their health and well-being.

The charity’s main objective, is to empower any woman through choice to be the best version of themselves.

Amanda says there are lots of perceptions as to what people believe or understand the charity to be and part of the challenge for the team has been reaching out into the communities and being pro-active and innovative in their approach.

Lancashire Women charity is open to any woman or girl aged 11 years and over

This is no mean feat across a county as diverse as Lancashire where town to town, borough to borough, the issues individuals face are at times worlds apart.

Yet at the core of those communities and families are women, from inside the home to the boardroom, Lancashire Women are there to support the idea that gender matters and their doors are open to anyone.

Who can seek services of Lancashire Women?

The doors are open to any woman or girl from the age of 11 who is in need of a 'safe space' support or simply an opportunity or guidance. Amanda says the case for the re brand was to reinforce the message and raise awareness Lancashire Women is there not just for women of particular vulnerabilities.

Amanda, who has served as CEO since 2017 and previously worked with Barnardos, says: ““Our doors are open to everyone – there is commonality in that the very heart at what we are about is in supporting women through choice.

"The re brand to Lancashire Women not only reinvigorates the organisations identity, it also focuses attention on who we primarily work with – women and girls.

“It seeks to reflect where we have come from and the foundations set by our predecessors and founders but it brings us firmly into the present with a modern and positive look that also says we are moving forward and we have a dynamic and positive outlook that can support women and girls with all that they face now and in the future.”

What services do Lancashire Women offer?

The work of the charity is based on four main principles: mental health and emotional well being, skills, training and employment, money advice and justice and safety.

The team offer a number of services. Visitors to the centres either by walk-in or referral will receive a one-to-one consultation and can then be guided through a range of support from therapy services to creative disciplines, education and training or further links with partnering agencies and organisations.

As well as a team of professionals from case workers to therapists, the charity has more than 130 committed volunteers from all walks of life supporting their delivery of services.

Amanda adds: “From a high flying career woman who is struggling with mental health, to girls who fall out of the education system, those on the edge of the criminal justice system to the mum who needs to up skill, a woman who needs money advice or support in finding a job or vulnerable young girls to those living in oppression, to someone who just needs that space to have a chat.

“Whether it be in-house or working with our partner organisations and agencies, people need to know we are there as a first place. No one is turned away, we have the best team of support workers and volunteers and we’ll do everything we can to help those women make steps in to their own futures.

Where can I seek help and support from Lancashire Women?

The charity has five well being centres in Lancashire. The Preston centre opened in 2015 and is now based at 7 Lune Street.

The Blackpool office was opened in April 2014 and can be accessed at 255 Church Street

Their head office is based at 21-23 Blackburn Road, Accrington. Women can be referred through their GP or by calling their number 0300 330 1354 or via email [email protected]Amanda says: “We prefer to call the centres a safe space because we need women to feel comfortable with finding the courage to walk through those doors whatever the reason be.

"There is no judgement and people don’t have to justify themselves.”

https://lancashirewomen.orgLancashire Women's Centre brief history

It was in 1982 a small steering group of local women belonging to the Labour Party Council came together initially concerned by infant mortality rates in Blackburn – this led to a dedicated ‘Maternity Day School Workshop’ which invited a cross section of the community and professionals.

The day was a success and there was a consensus the area needed a service supporting health and well being for women. The first wellness centre opened in 1985.