More than £370,000 has been invested in a new project aimed at improving the lives and employment opportunities for hundreds of women from disadvantaged areas.

Women Breaking Barriers, which is funded by the Community Renewal Fund (CRF) will provide specially targeted training and education courses in 14 women’s centres across Northern Ireland.

The grassroots led programme is being run by the Women’s Resource and Development Agency (WRDA), the Women’s Support Network (WSN) and the Northern Ireland Rural Women’s Network (NIRWN). It is funded by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Project co-ordinator, Anne McVicker said CRF was one of the most significant and ambitious community-based training programmes for women ever launched in Northern Ireland.

“This project will help us to meet the needs of women disproportionately impacted by Covid, and who already face entrenched disadvantage. Courses are specifically devised to address the unequal playing field by reducing the barriers to education and employment for women in Northern Ireland,” she added.

The project has already begun with the launch of GOALS, a powerful, two day motivational programme designed to address issues that prevent women from reaching their training, education and employment potential. 

The GOALS course is being rolled out at women’s centres across all 11 council areas in Northern Ireland in the coming months. 

Course facilitator, Deirdre Quinn, said: “The aim is to increase women’s self-confidence, help them to think positively about themselves and empower them to pursue their goals. There is also the opportunity for participants to go on to train to deliver the GOALS programme within their community in the future.”

Caroline Rice, who participated in the course in the Learning Lodge at Magherafelt Women’s Group, said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the GOALS training and have taken so much learning from it.  I will be more focused on my goals and the positives in my life.  I believe this training should be made available to all women seeking to improve their lives,”

Other aspects of the CRF project include: ICT skills training to provide employment opportunities; training in make-up, costuming & set design linked to the growing film industry; providing all the tools for success in self-employment and linking with business support services targeted specifically at women.

The project will also provide up-to date information on job markets, skills required & educational qualifications required for entry into employment and signposting for further academic training opportunities; greater awareness of new emerging job markets in renewable energies and recycling and identifying the skills and training required and providing supported pathways towards employment or further education.

Addressing some of the reasons for women being disadvantaged, childcare and elder care is being offered to every participant alongside benefit advisors and up to date information on support services into employment, creating sustainable pathways to employment or further education.

The project will also provide online support for all participants to share learning and remain informed of current job opportunities. Its social media channels will encourage all participants to network and share success stories. One-to-one support will be made available to all participants throughout the duration of the programme as an essential part of their learning experience.

More information about the Community Renewal Fund