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Enfield Womens Centre

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About Enfield Women's Centre

The centre has gone through many changes over the years but has remained true to its commitment to support women and their families through a variety of services and activities.

Set up in the early 1980’s, by a group of women at the then Middlesex Poly (later University) led by Vicki Scarlett, Enfield Women’s Centre as we know it, was registered as a charity in 1991. Vicki was instrumental in obtaining the current premises for the delivery of activities and services to women.

Our vision then was the same as it is now – to support vulnerable and disadvantaged women and their families living in the borough of Enfield and to provide a range of activities and services which all women feel able to access to enable them to have fun, make changes in their lives, through learning new skills and work towards economic independence.

Enfield Women’s Centre has gone through a number of changes including a fallow period leading up to the spring of 1994 at which time two new volunteers set about revitalising the centre. This resulted in a re-launch and subsequent grand re-opening on the 24th September 1994 by the then Mayor of Enfield, Rita Smythe, marking the beginning of Enfield Women’s Centre as it is today. At this event we asked women to complete a questionnaire requesting information on services and activities they would like and also asking for women to volunteer their skills. These then informed our planning for future development and also set the pattern for our future way of working in responding to requests from women within the community for services and activities to meet their needs and wants.

The most requested service was for low-cost, accessible counselling informed by the needs and experiences of women. At the same time a significant number of women offered to provide Counselling services on a voluntary basis. This was too strong to ignore and we called a meeting of the women who had volunteered to counsel to help us plan and set up a counselling service. We applied for and received a small grant from our local social services and immediately set about recruiting a suitable Clinical Supervisor. We were fortunate in being able to find Hillary Ratna who has been with us since February 1995 and is a key figure in the development of this highly respected service. We also at this time became members of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.

In the early years, we worked in partnership with the Enfield College ESOL Unit (next door) offering vital crèche facilities to women whose first language was not English. This enabled them to learn or improve their English language skills through courses run at the Unit, thus helping them to integrate more fully in local society. Without the crèche we provided it would have been impossible for the majority of these women to do this.

From the start, alongside the crèche facilities, we met with and offered space to a couple of women seeking to set up a support group for black women. This has grown and is now established independently as Nehanda Black Women’s Support Group. Another group of women we have offered space and support to are the women’s section of a local Bangladeshi group (Community Aid) whom we hosted for over ten years. They also now have separate premises in a local community centre. Another group who accessed the centre from time to time was the Enfield Lesbian Group. They now meet as part of the local LGBT Network of which we are a member. We began to offer support to women experiencing domestic violence and worked closely with the then Women’s Aid to ensure the provision of services to women in need. Other new services were introduced to meet the changing needs of women in the borough including information, advice and referral. Short courses around Confidence Building, Assertive Communication Skills and Handling Stress were established with the leadership of Val Bean and became the foundation of today’s Training Services which now also include Computer for Beginners, Exploring Anger, Money Management and others. We are a member of the local authority led Enfield Skills for Work Service and are Ofsted regulated.

Alongside meeting these important needs, we recognised that many of the women using our services wanted to meet other women and families in the area; to keep fit, learn new skills and hobbies and to have fun! Thus, started an ever-growing list of classes, taster sessions and activities – from painting, yoga and walks around the local area; to street-dancing for the under 16’s, zumba for the over 16’s and cinema nights to name but a few.

Finally, 1994 was significant for two other important reasons. It marked the beginning of a long-standing commitment by Barbara Le Fevre and Ginnie Landon, joined in early 1995 by Hillary Ratna (Clinical Supervisor to the Counselling Service) and Val Bean who developed our training services. This team helped to establish Enfield Women’s Centre as one of the key providers of support to women and their families in Enfield.

Hillary, Val, Barbara and Ginnie are still key to Enfield Women’s Centre today although Val will soon be taking a much deserved retirement and giving up her active role within Training Service . In 2014 Enfield Women’s Centre, under the present administration, celebrates its 20th birthday. We are very proud of the help and support we have been able to provide during the last twenty years and are working hard to ensure we can continue to support the women of Enfield and their families for many years to come. When we claim an age we need to ensure we include all the effort by women who came before us. Therefore although we in the current incarnation are looking at a 20 year celebration in September 2014 we recognise, applaud and value the contribution of all the women who have been part of this organisation since its conception in the early 1980’s right through to the present. So here’s to Vicki Scarlett and her colleagues, we salute and thank you for all you have done and the groundwork you laid in order for us to be able to carry on the work you started.

Enfield Women’s Centre, Vicki Scarlett House, 31A Derby Road, Enfield EN3 4AJ

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