A ground-breaking course is giving women the confidence to take on the authorities and fight for the rights of disadvantaged people.
The Community Campaigners Course run by the Women’s Resource and Development Agency (WRDA) offers free online training to women to provide them with the tools to campaign for better services for their communities.
Women’s rights campaigner Kellie Turtle who devised the course said: “”I’ve met so many women with issues they care about and they just need a basic toolkit of ideas, strategies and tips to really make a difference. We’re looking for people who are ready to be part of a community of people creating positive change.”
Orla Fitzsimons who runs the Parents for Action CIC social enterprise and Independent Family Advocacy Service for parent carers, has benefited from the course and urged fellow activists to take part in the online sessions to make sure their voices are heard.
As a result of attending the course Ms Fitzsimons is launching the Parent Pride campaign to challenge the Education Authority and address the failings in special educational needs systems, identified in the NI Commissioner for Children and Young People’s Report ‘Too Little Too Late’, published in April 2020. This included a failure to help children with special needs return to their special and mainstream schools safely, following lockdown
She added: “The campaign we are launching to highlight this failure would not be happening without this course. Children with special needs were sent back to school without medical or mental health assessments. We were given no advice on how to integrate them back to school safely and many like my son couldn’t tolerate it and are now back at home.”
The course, which consists of four half day sessions, covers critical thinking, communication skills, strategic planning and how to use human rights and equality law to strengthen a campaign. They will start on Zoom in October, November and December.
Deirdre Quinn, the WRDA course co-ordinator, said the aim of the Belfast City Council-funded course was to get more women into leadership roles in their local communities.
She said: “There are many women who are passionate about issues and wish to become activists to improve the quality of life in their areas but need the confidence and practical skills to get the powers-that-be to sit up and take notice. Because of Covid-19 we have had to move our training online, but this means we will be able to reach more of those determined women.”
Participants do not need prior education or training, just an interest in developing their campaigning skills for the good of the community. Anyone wishing to take part must be from the Belfast City Council area. Those successfully taking part will acquire a Level Three Open College Network (OCN) NI in Community Campaigning and Lobbying.
WRDA Director Anne McVicker said: “This course is all about empowering women to get resources at a local community level. They are often best placed to identify the needs of their community in all sorts of areas such as perinatal mental health care, helping elderly people suffering from isolation and support for carers looking after family members with dementia.”
If you wish to take part, send a paragraph explaining why you are interested to firstname.lastname@example.org