Wonderful Women is a new non-profit organisation serving women in Preston. Its aim is to increase women’s access to social opportunities.Advertisement
Founder Leanne Dempsey believes social networks help us to thrive and that group activities improve our health and wellbeing, as well as our connections to whatever we need in our lives.
She said: “I want there to be a network for women in every local area, so women have this community they can dip in and out of to make friends and try activities. We are starting with simple, relaxed activities like the monthly Walk for Women.”
Although Leanne has been researching the local community and exploring ideas since December 2018, the events only launched in August 2019.
When asked where the idea came from, she said it stemmed from her own experiences.
“I’m a mature business student at UCLan, and prior to returning to education, I was recovering from severe CFS/ME. It disrupted my social networks – actually that’s an understatement. It turned my life upside down!
“With perseverance I rebuilt my health, but often I didn’t know where to start. I lacked confidence and had been out of networks for a long time. It was time spent walking and attending local community activities which turned things around, but most of the time I didn’t find activities which catered for public transport, finances, my interests, my gender, my fitness or my age – I’m in my 20s but apparently marketing activity correlates 20s with partying or intense exercise!”
Leanne began wondering if other women had the same trouble. Her research showed that loneliness is most reported among 20-30-year-olds and that many women had some barriers to engagement – be it confidence, fear of going alone, transport, finance, or lack of activities in their interests.
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She said: “An integral part of improving women’s chances of social engagement is understanding what women want, and what barriers they experience. What I think they want might not be the case! I produced an online survey and an offline questionnaire to explore these themes. I produced survey leaflets and distributed them in local women’s charities, doctor’s surgeries, cafes, libraries and on social media.
“There were patterns in barriers and service requests, regardless of life situation. Mental health support, women-only activities and group exercise were popular. Common barriers were not knowing what’s on, a lack of choice, and fear of going alone.”
Leanne feels that there are a lack of events targeting women of all ages. Her research indicated three things, first that there are social opportunities in Preston but that they aren’t being advertised. Second, too many events are marketed favouring one demographic like older people or families. As a result, they’re not on social media or connecting with younger women. Lastly, that there is a lack of taster activities in many subjects.
The first Walk for Women event was held on Saturday 17 August at Haslam Park. It was Wonderful Women’s first initiative as part of a monthly commitment to offering a free walk just for women in a different area of Preston. The walks aim to overcome barriers like fitness, cost and confidence.
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Leanne said: “I have so many plans for Wonderful Women. At the moment one goal is to find trustees so we can apply to be a charity. Then the main goals are a series of mental health monthly talks and setting up volunteer-run women’s groups in different areas of Preston.
“But if we’re thinking big – groups around the region, where women can pop in and try something new. Find your tribe.”
The next Walk for Women is Saturday 14 September starting at Avenham Park. For more information visit the Wonderful Women website.
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What do you think of Wonderful Women? Will you be joining the next walk? Let us know in the comments below.