This Wednesday I heard amazing and inspirational stories from women whose lives changed as a result of thier participation in active citizenship learning programmes which have been running in the area since 1998. 'Getting Involved and Taking Part' was a networking event hosted by the Black Country Take Part Pathfinder, and involved women and men from at least 8 different courses (I lost count!). It was fantastic, and moving, to hear again from Nusrat, who I had heard speak at the Pathfinder launch event last year. I also enjoyed hearing people I know, Saffi, Sue and Geeta, sharing their journeys. We also heard from Amita, who was visiting from Zimbabwe and is running women's leadership courses there. Amita was a participant in an active citizenship course in Wolverhampton many years ago.
Having participated in a Women Take Part course through the pathfinder I related to much of what the women told us. We also looked at women's journeys in relation to involvement in public life. Four stages are suggested: not being there, getting there, being there and staying there. Everyone in the room seemed to relate to the various stages and we discussed the barriers which make involvement in public life difficult for people, due to gender, 'dis'ability, ethnicity, education, class and so on. Information on women's journeys can be found at www.changesuk.net/resources/women-take-part/
The session was inspiring thanks to the stories people shared, yet disheartening when one begins to consider all the barriers that have to be overcome before all those amazing but oppressed people out there in our communities can become an active part of public life.