Cross Party support for NCCWN Women’s Networks
Last week, the National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks (NCCWN) made a presentation Cross Party Briefing to members of the Oireachtas.
The presentation was to inform members of the Oireachtas of the valuable work of NCCWN which is focused on women experiencing disadvantage and to seek cross party support to continue to have funding ring fenced to ensure its work can continue into 2015 and beyond.
Forty one T.Ds and Senators attended or were represented. The briefing was arranged by Padraig MacLochlainn, TD, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Defence why not try these out.
Miriam Holt, NCCWN National Coordinator led out by giving an overview of the national organisation and its’ local networks, emphasising the voluntary nature of its management structures and the real impact NCCWN had on the lives of disadvantaged women throughout Ireland. This fact was supported by the many TDs and Senators who praised highly the work of their local women’s network.
Miriam Holt also explained the uniqueness of NCCWN: “What is particularly unique to this national organisation is that it works specifically with disadvantaged women. The work of the 17 NCCWN Projects and its 44 staff is and always has been managed by volunteers, locally and nationally.”
Last year NCCWN engaged with 36,589 women. The depth and breadth of the work of NCCWN was very well outlined by inputs from NCCWN women networks based in Dublin, Donegal and Limerick. The presentations and personal stories shared by women who had benefited from their local network clearly demonstrated that no other organisation fulfils a similar role and thousands of women would be silenced if funding is not continued. In support of having the work of NCCWN funded in 2015 and beyond over 2, 000 letters were sent by women from the 17 NCCWN local women’s projects to Minister Hogan.
One NCCWN project Ronanstown CDP outlined on the day that: they are funded with 3 NCCWN staff; this allows the project to employ 14 additional staff in the project either through Community Employment, Childcare and Department of Education funding. Projects also leverage additional finance to run educational programmes for the community. NCCWN Ronanstown CDP branch reiterated that they have 175 participants using their service on a weekly basis and they care for 26 children in their crèche per day. Economically this highlights how funding NCCWN is excellent value for money.
Many of the issues raised and identified were the same for women regardless of their geographical location. Through involvement with their local women’s network the individual woman’s voice, needs and concerns are articulated at national level. All 17 women’s projects work together to influence policy and decision making at a local and national level.
During the presentation NCCWN highlighted the International, EU and National legal obligations and commitments made by the Irish Government to Women’s Equality. The work of NCCWN was seen as a way of supporting the Governments commitments to these obligations and as a way of addressing the inequality experienced by women in Ireland.
There was representation from all the political parties and a good cross section of Independents. Senator Susan O’ Keefe, Lab, offered her support and Senator John Kelly organised a meeting, prior to the briefing, between Jim McGrath, Political & Policy Advisor to Alan Kelly, Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government and NCCWN.
The political representatives present fully supported the need to have funding for NCCWN continue. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald, SF said “On behalf of myself and Sinn Fein I acknowledge the urgent need for a network such as NCCWN. I pledge my support and that of my party for the retention of NCCWN. The budget for NCCWN in fact needs to be expanded.” Deputy McDonald concluded “I know the huge beneficial effect that work such as yours has.”
Deputy Eamon O Cuiv FF remarked that “There are two issues as I see it. Funding for NCCWN and for the Traveller projects nationally“. Deputy O Cuiv went on to say he would support both NCCWN and the National Traveller Partnership (NTP) to remain as alternative stand- alone entities.
TD Joe Carey FG stated, “I admire greatly the work of the Clare Women’s Network. He thanked and congratulated the presenters and expressed a special thanks and appreciation for the women who told their own personal stories. “The women’s networks around the country are strong and vibrant, I will commit to organising a meeting with the Minister as soon as possible to help NCCWN broker a deal”.
Miriam Holt, National Coordinator concluded the meeting by thanking deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn T.D. and Danielle Martin, his political advisor, for their support and stated “We were truly delighted with the number of T.Ds and Senators who attended or were represented, forty one in total. It is very heartening and affirming to have our public representatives acknowledge and value the work of the NCCWN and to know that we have such extensive cross party support.
8 July 2014
The new Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) has failed to name disadvantaged women as a target group, whereas they were a target group in the current programme, the Local Community Development Programme (LCDP).
Women are understood these days to have equality of opportunity, yet the feature of disadvantage is either not being economically able to access services, supports and jobs, or not feeling entitled to or know how to access these. Women especially experience multiple forms of disadvantage. Forms of disadvantage can overlap, especially the features of class, gender and race. Disadvantaged women have a particular type of disadvantage because they are women, and another because they are living in a disadvantaged area or experience other forms of disadvantage.
SICAP fails to recognise the need to target directly women experiencing disadvantage as opposed to families. Women’s needs are subsumed or conflated with those of families and their children – by the state and by themselves. This is a failure to recognise the gender inequality that runs within families and society. The various forms of inequality are gendered and it does no service at all to disadvantaged women to be omitted in this way. It reflects, rather, the EU identification of priority groups for education and training supports that are those closer to the labour market and ignores the needs that women experience as they age and as their family forms change. Research shows when women are supported it spreads into the family and community and impacts not only on the individual women but also on their communities.
Equality of opportunity requires supports or bridges, ie, the removal of barriers. These barriers can be psychological, cultural, and/or structural. Each woman must have a space to identify what type of barrier is isolating them from participation in society, including the workforce, and how to overcome these barriers by accessing the necessary supports. The White Paper, Adult Education in an Era of Lifelong Learning (2000), for example, recognised the role that women’s community development plays in this consciousness-raising approach. Recognition, however, does not imply the granting of resources. Many women have been able to avail of development opportunities because they have had the resources and a sense of entitlement that it was right and proper for them to do this. What happens the women who do not feel entitled, who carry a larger set of risks in making any change? Steps forward have to be very carefully negotiated.
Women’s community development recognises the need for safety. The first contact is made through outreach approaches, when a woman is encouraged to come to a centre or activity that will be safe, relaxed and non-judgemental. The Matthew effect (that adult development opportunities are availed of the most by those who need it the least) requires skilful and knowledgeable handling, and outreach involves first engaging and developing relationships that respect the woman’s own context, experience, and wishes. Needs can then be identified, and provision organised to meet those needs. This bottom-up approach ensures that, for example, childcare is available if required. It was the women’s development movement of the 1980s that had the motto ‘no crèche, no class’. The NCCWN member projects recognise this crucial support as only one of many that are needed to overcome barriers.
Why look to maintain a national organisation for women experiencing disadvantage rather than look for local programmes only? The NCCWN maintains a focus on the most disadvantaged women rather than those who have knowledge and the means to access services and supports as they require. It is the only women’s organisation in Ireland working on the ground with a direct feed from the local to the national giving women experiencing disadvantage a voice at local and national level. This brings women’s needs into civil society and the public sphere rather than keeping women marginalised and disadvantaged in the private sphere. Silence maintains the structures that marginalise such women. A key goal in SICAP is to build the capacity of people to represent their needs: political and public structures are characterised by an under-representation of women as it is: imagine how much more difficult it is for disadvantaged women to represent themselves. Retaining the current NCCWN structures would also help to strengthen local democracy in relation to women from disadvantaged communities and support “their right to influence the decisions that affect their lives and communities” (Putting People First). In 2013, NCCWN engaged with over 36,000 women. The NCCWN member projects are the only ones the many of these women have contacted or engaged with where they are able to find and use their voice.
The projects, as assisted by the NCCWN, address issues relating to mental health, domestic violence, childcare, etc because they can address the local-level gaps and link in with local services. The local projects identify issues for national action, as well as share best practice in engaging and meeting the needs of disadvantaged women.
Feminism, while recognised for its consciousness-raising practices, has failed to engage all women, particularly working-class women and women experiencing disadvantage. It cannot be presumed that the gains of feminism have ensured equality of opportunity for all women. This is where the NCCWN comes in: a feminist organisation with a class analysis.
Dr Maeve O’Grady
National Collective of Community Based Women’s
Help Secure the Future of NCCWN and its local Women’s Projects beyond 2014
Implications for the future funding and sustainability of the National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks
The National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks (NCCWN) through its 17 local Women’s projects (see map) engages with women from the most disadvantaged communities in the country. As the only national programme specifically targeted at women from disadvantaged communities, the NCCWN and its community based women’s projects have demonstrated that we are an experienced and essential part of the infrastructure, both locally and nationally.
The NCCWN’s current annual budget is €1.3 million, this funds the work of the 17 NCCWN women’s projects and employs 44 staff across the 17 projects. Working within this limited budget in 2013 the NCCWN Projects engaged with 36,589 women from communities who do not engage with state agencies. NCCWN have demonstrated that this represents excellent value for money. The LCDP funding enables the NCCWN across its 17 projects to not only employ core staff but to also lever in additional funding to coordinate and run development programmes including equality, health & wellbeing, active citizenship, community education, domestic abuse support, employment pathways. Services provided include childcare centres, drop-in/information centres and counselling. In the 17 Projects, this has resulted in the additional employment of approximately 200 people, managed and coordinated by NCCWN staff.
One of the main reasons it is possible to deliver this level of work within a limited budget is that the work is and always has been volunteer managed and led. Work with women from the most disadvantaged communities in the country is happening only because it is underpinned by thousands of volunteer hours and decades of commitment and voluntary effort. NCCWN development programmes encompass equality, education, health, employment paths and supports including childcare provision.
Currently the NCCWN (i.e. the work of the 17 local Women’s Projects) is funded at a national level under the Local Community Development Programme (LCDP) as an alternative structure since January 2011. The Government demonstrated their commitment to women in 2011 by making separate arrangements to ensure that as a national/local women’s programme our specific remit as an essential aspect of addressing women’s inequalities were recognised. The LCDP is due to cease on the 31st of December 2014 and will be replaced by the newly announced Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme (SICAP) as of the 1st of January 2015. Under measures announced by Minister Phil Hogan groups and organisations will in future have to competitively tender locally to deliver work under SICAP.
NCCWN are extremely concerned that the tendering process for implementation of SICAP, renders it impossible for national organisations to apply nationally as tenders can only be submitted or considered on a county by county basis and only for the delivery of the programme in its entirety (i.e. across an entire county and across all areas of work and target groups). National organisations and those working exclusively on a single issue basis are therefore not in a position to tender nationally to deliver work under the SICAP. This means that the NCCWN cannot tender nationally to continue its current work with women from disadvantaged communities, thus funding for the 17 locally based projects working with women on the ground is now under serious threat.
While Minister Hogan has said that NCCWN can engage in the tendering process and the only route, suggested by Pobal, to do this was for local NCCWN women’s projects to seek to collaborate with local partners to form consortiums to tender for the delivery of SICAP in their area. This avenue has been explored it and it has become clear that it is not achievable for NCCWN as:
• all 17 NCCWN Projects would not be enabled to be part of local consortium in their area.
• the 1.3m that NCCWN received to fund the work of their 17 Women’s Projects will be included in the overall SICAP funding for 2015 and will therefore be diluted and spread over 31 areas (SICAP lots) and not the specific areas where there is an NCCWN local project
• disadvantaged women are not a named target group for SICAP so there is no requirement or directive for partners to include NCCWN local Women’s Projects in local consortiums or no recognition of the work of NCCWN Projects in the new programme. In which case our work with women will be lost as nobody else is doing the specific work which local projects under the NCCWN are currently engaged in.
For these reasons, the NCCWN is extremely concerned that its work in removing barriers to disadvantaged women’s full and equal participation in society and in local and national decision-making and policy arenas will be lost. NCCWN is now in the position of having to lobby both nationally and locally to safeguard the work of the NCCWN. Central to engaging with disadvantaged women has been through community development principles and values to address the structural barriers to women’s full and equal participation on local and national decision making and policy arena’s. NCCWN has given a voice to thousands of women and without the work of the NCCWN these will be silenced.
We ask that Government re-examine their rationale for not allowing alternative models such as NCCWN. When setting up the LCDP, Government made separate arrangements for NCCWN as they recognised that the work with disadvantaged women would be diluted and this same problem will occur in the proposed new arrangements. We formally request your support for the maintenance of the economically viable NCCWN structures to continue to deliver a programme specifically targeted at disadvantaged women both nationally and locally.
<a href="http://nccwn my site.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/20140702_112238-1.jpg”>WATERFORD WOMEN’S
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CENTRE
COFFEE MORNING & JUMBLE SALE
WEDNESDAY 9TH JULY, 10:00 TO 2:00
Community Café Come along and support a local Women’s Community Centre
Have tea, cake, or lunch and enjoy a chat in the community café, at very little cost
Rumble through the jumble and find a bargain in our second hand shop
Clothes, Books, handbags, toys, shoes Bric-a- Brac and lots more
July 9, 2014 From 10:00 to 2:00 Wednesday
VENUE: Waterford Women’s Community Development Centre, 74/76 Manor Street