An interview with Angela Everson, WomenCentre
"We support women around issues including domestic abuse, improving mental health, building self-esteem, and financial resilience."
This charity is supported by the Coutts Foundation, an independent corporate foundation supported by Coutts.
Chief Executive of WomenCentre
Angela has lived in West Yorkshire for 32 years and is a former nurse, social worker and probation officer. In 1997, she set up the first Domestic Abuse Support Service in Calderdale and began to work closely with WomenCentre, which she joined in 2001, becoming its chief executive in 2011.
What attracted you to working at WomenCentre?
Having worked in the public sector for 18 years, supporting women and children with a wide range of issues impacting their health and wellbeing, it seemed the perfect fit for me to work in an organisation that enables women and their children to have a better quality of life – both on a day-to-day basis and more strategically by testing innovative ways of working.
What are the key issues your organisation is tackling?
We provide a wide range of practical and emotional support, advice and information to women and their families, to improve safety, wellbeing and quality of life. We support women around issues including domestic abuse, improving mental health, building self-esteem, and financial resilience.
We’re seeing a growing demand for our services. The women we support are facing increased pressures on several fronts.
- Welfare reforms and austerity measures are making life more difficult, while funding cuts are also reducing the services that women can turn to for support.
- Social media is placing increasing strains on young women, who are made to feel they are not good enough.
- And changes in the criminal justice system, especially the relocation of local courts, are restricting women’s access to their rights.
What achievement are you most proud of so far?
We led the way nationally to develop gender-specific approaches to supporting women in the criminal justice system, working very closely with Baroness Jean Corston. We call this our ‘womencentred’ working approach, and it’s now helping to improve the knowledge of anyone supporting women in their role across West Yorkshire and beyond.
I’m really proud of being given the opportunity to lead an organisation that has a team of staff, volunteers and board members who understand the inequalities that women face in their lives and who are totally committed to trying to ensure that women’s safety and wellbeing are promoted.
One of the women we have helped told me: “It’s given me a life, a life I deserve. I will always be eternally grateful for WomenCentre.” This is what we want for all the women we support.
What are the ambitions for the coming year?
Our priority is to develop new services and increase our membership and supporter base. We also want to create an exciting housing initiative to provide more secure housing to some of the women we support, and to continue taking forward our ‘womencentred’ working approaches – which means working with women and girls to co-create our approach to issues like sexual harassment.
Given the spotlight that has recently been shone on gender equality, what in your view are the key challenges or opportunities currently faced by women and girls in the UK?
The impact of Universal Credit and the poverty it brings with it for many women cannot be underestimated. There has been some movement to begin to address this at a national level, and I believe it’s up to organisations like ours to ensure the voices and views of women are heard on this issue.
As one of the larger and more established women centres across the UK we also have a key role to play to ensure that centres like ours are not further eroded. We must strive to maintain our centres by continuing to make the case for our work locally, regionally and nationally to ensure that the needs of the women and girls we support are met.
Key facts about WomenCentre:
Mission/purpose: The organisation’s vision is of a world where every woman is free and empowered to lead a fulfilled and meaningful life. Its mission is to support women – and particularly those who are disadvantaged or excluded – to achieve equality and a better quality of life.
Geographic reach: Calderdale & Kirklees in West Yorkshire, and nationally trying to influence and embed the ‘women-centred’ working approach.
Average number of people supported: 3,000 women in the most difficult situations supported (from their early teens into their 80s) to make positive, long-term changes to their lives.
Year established: 1985, originally the Calderdale Well Woman Association and Womenspace Kirklees. Merged to form WomenCentre in 2007.
More information: www.womencentre.org.uk