Established in 2002, the National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks (NCCWN) is a national organisation that works directly with and represents the interests of women from communities in rural and urban settings throughout Ireland. Funded through Department of Justice and Equality (DJE) to advance equality for women experiencing disadvantage and marginalisation, NCCWN works nationally and locally through its 17 Women’s Community Development Projects based around the country, with 46 staff.
From 2002 to 2010, NCCWN was a networking organisation whose membership was made up of women’s community development organisations and groups. The purpose of the organisation was to enable women experiencing disadvantage, to network and have a voice in national policy developments, consolidating many years of informal feminist networking and information sharing in the women’s community sector, dating back to the 1990s. This networking arose from a shared concern to address women’s poverty, the marginalisation and exclusion of women, and the need for a gender perspective in community development. The women’s community development movement has played a pivotal role in Ireland and worldwide in highlighting the factors that have shaped the lives and experiences of women living in poverty and disadvantage. Women’s role in community development is transformative in its very nature. On the one hand, this has given visibility to and an analysis of women as marginalised, disempowered and oppressed; while on the other hand, it also made visible the critical role that women play as the mainstay of local communities through their involvement in community development activities.
In September 2010, in the response to policy changes that saw the merger of the community projects funded under the Community Development Programme with their Local Development Companies, NCCWN and 17 of its member organisations successfully lobbied to remain outside these arrangements. This resulted in NCCWN being assigned responsibility for targeting actions and strategies to advance women’s equality using community development approaches to working with women in 17 local communities. NCCWN was required to alter its structure from a networking organisation with a number of local member organisations throughout the country who were legally constituted in their own right, to a national structure with 17 constituent women’s projects under the legal auspices of NCCWN with 46 employees.
In January 2016, following further policy changes and an extensive NCCWN lobbying campaign, responsibility for core funding and monitoring the work of NCCWN, was transferred from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government to the Department of Justice and Equality. This work involves the delivery of a Women’s Equality & Development Programme (WEDP) aimed at enhancing the social inclusion of women in communities and promoting equality for women.