Established in 1974, the Brighton Women’s Centre has supported women through the years by creating a safe, inclusive and friendly space for women. In July 2017, I visited the crèche at the Brighton Women’s Centre where I met Stef, the fundraising and communications co-coordinator who has worked there for two years.
The Brighton Women’s Centre has created a vast web of services aimed at supporting women’s mental health, physical health and general well-being, as well as a place for women to turn to if they are struggling. The Brighton Women’s Centre is able to refer women to the necessary and effective services. Alongside the social and community support that they provide for women, one of the most vital services provided for women includes a food bank where recipients can collect every fortnight or more if they are going through a crisis. Around 20 women every week access the food bank with food provided by FareShare.
“Our food bank would not operate without FareShare to provide food to women. The Brighton Women’s centre has huge impact on their health and social life; it is so much more than a bag of food.”
“Women I’ve met don’t fit the stereotype; we see a broad range of women from different backgrounds. The women are grateful for the food they receive and it has a big impact on their financial life and general well-being.”
The Brighton Women’s Centre understand the stigma and embarrassment that some women may feel when having to go to a food bank.
“It’s a hard thing for a woman to come to us.”
Their model is empowering, as for a payment of £1, women can take as little or as much as they need. Women are not required to provide detailed information about their income or living situation. Alongside the food parcels, women can access financial inclusion services, peer group support and counselling.
The Brighton Women’s Centre is an umbrella term for the number of integrated services provided for and run by women across Sussex. I was surprised by the Brighton Women’s Centre’s involvement in providing support for women who are going through the the criminal justice system. Stef talked me through how they provide support workers to ensure that they can get back on their feet as soon as possible.
Stef stresses that the Inspire project has been proven to stop women from re-offending. As when a women goes into the criminal justice system she loses access over her children, support and community, the Inspire project works to help women who may feel socially excluded back into the community. The volunteers are at the core of the Brighton Women’s Centre as they also provide women with peer group support drop-in where women can socialise and connect with other women in the community, which is particularly important for refugee and migrant women.
The Brighton Women’s Centre also provides counselling so that women can talk about any concerns or issues that they may have. The Brighton Women’s Centre has connections across Sussex aimed at helping women in crisis situations including domestic violence, homelessness or issues with mental health. The domestic abuse charity RISE was created through the Brighton Women’s Centre. Other projects funded through the Brighton Women’s Centre include Brighton Oasis Project which deals with substance misuse among women and families in Sussex and the Period Project, where women have access to sanitary products kindly donated by the community.
I was told how some of the food from FareShare is unfamiliar, but it gives women the chance to share recipes and try things they have never had before.
The majority of food donated to the Brighton Women’s Centre is from FareShare. Our variety gives women at the Centre more of a choice of goods from tinned to fresh produce. The food creates a social atmosphere and lifts the stigma around receiving food from a food bank. Stef shared how women living in different conditions prefer different types of produce as they may not have access to a kitchen, so the mixture of goods donated from FareShare makes it easier to meet the needs of the diverse group of women they support. As an advocate for healthy eating and tackling waste we distribute a large amount of fresh produce to our charities, which prevents waste and ensures that service users have access to a healthy and balanced meal.
“I like it when women get a whole meal form the food bank that we run.”
I enjoyed my visit to the Brighton Women’s Centre and would like to thank Stef for taking part.