In 2017, the St. Stephen’s Green Trust piloted a small grantmaking programme in Northern Ireland, engaging with grassroots organisations focused on:
· Increasing confidence, participation, leadership and effective activism within and between communities;
· Building new inter-community relationships and/or strengthening existing ones;
· Learning about barriers to inclusive working within and between communities and how these can be overcome.
Via this grant programme, SSGT funded Rural Community Network (RCN) to run a women’s project — SELFIE (Self Esteem, Leadership, Friendship, Influence and Empowerment) — an 18 month project in partnership with NI Rural Women’s Network, REACT and Building Communities Resource Centre.
Forty women from Cookstown, Armagh, Ballymoney and their surrounding rural areas took part in cross community workshops and activities on self-esteem, confidence and relationship building, community safety, community awareness and social justice issues. The ages ranged from twenty-four to older women in their seventies. The women also met with community leaders and took part in a residential programme focusing on the hard issues that affect rural women’s lives in a post conflict society.
The project gave many women the confidence and drive to progress to other activities including completing Open College Network programmes in Gender Based Culture and Violence (Institute for Conflict Research), a patriarchy programme (The Junction) and also the Next Chapter project (NICVA).
One participant, a lone parent, gained enough confidence on the project to set up her own holistic therapy small business. She is now a committee member of a local sporting club and was recently asked to become a board member of a local charity.
Another woman, who was working in catering, wanted to move into a different area completely but did not have the time to reflect on what she wanted and how to get there. She has recently been accepted into a rural college for a higher level diploma.