Rising to the Challenge: International Women's Day 2021

Team members across Turning Lives Around are taking to Zoom today to take part in a virtual female-focused quiz and coffee morning to mark International Women’s Day 2021. This annual global event aims to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. We celebrate it every year at TLA generally with a day of activities involving both staff and clients, which unfortunately the Coronavirus is preventing in 2021.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is: "choose to challenge," and "from challenge comes change." Participants are also being asked to strike a "hand-up-high" pose to show they are in when it comes to creating an inclusive, gender-equal world where women’s achievements are celebrated, awareness is raised against bias, and action is taken for equality. At TLA, our Domestic Violence and Abuse Working Group has organised this year’s International Women’s Day celebrations to shine a light on what women have achieved historically and how women can be empowered today to achieve more.

On average, TLA helps some 1,045 women a year get their lives back on track. One in three of those have suffered domestic abuse, and over the last 12 months, we have noticed a significant increase in the number of women coming to us for help as they flee abusive home lives during the Coronavirus pandemic when people have been asked to stay home. TLA has the only all-female intensive support environment in Leeds at our residential accommodation Francis House. Here we are able to cater solely for women with on-site housing for eight women aged 18 and over as well as accommodation in two properties in the community.

All the women we help at Francis House have multiple complex needs: they may be drug or alcohol dependent, have issues relating to mental health, brain injury or mild learning disabilities. The domestic violence and abuse they have suffered are generally in addition to these other needs. As well as providing a roof over their head, Francis House supports residents’ healthcare and other needs to enable them to develop their ability to live independently. The majority of our clients who have experienced domestic abuse or violence are aged between 20 and 40. They come to us feeling alone and often ashamed or embarrassed by what has happened to them.

Our team at Francis House are all fully trained in supporting suffers of domestic violence and abuse, and we also have experienced Domestic Violence and Abuse Champions in all the TLA teams working with other sectors of society in need. It is their role to show these women that they are not alone in what they have experienced. (That it was not their fault!) And to help empower them to overcome these difficulties and go on to achieve happy, fulfilling lives.

For our coffee morning, we will be wearing white, purple and green (the colours of International Women’s Day), and our quiz will highlight the achievements of women throughout history and strong female leaders today. This year the theme of International Women’s Day is the idea of "choosing to challenge" and championing female achievement. Our women may not be breaking through any glass ceilings at work, but every day they are being asked, with our support, to challenge themselves, to step outside their often self-destructive (but still familiar) comfort zones and achieve something healthy, positive and worthwhile. 

If those are not challenges worth highlighting, achieving and celebrating on International Women’s Day, what is?