WIT seeks to create a world where women are happy, safe and valued, and can realise their full potential.
WIT is a women-led organisation and was originally founded in 2004 by a group of Somali mothers in response to the exclusion they experienced when accessing support services. WIT has grown to become a highly-regarded local charity that delivers services designed to support the unmet needs of Black, Asian and ethnic minority women and their families.
WIT collaborates with key stakeholders and partners in relation to housing, employment, health and education, working together to deliver better outcomes. As a charity, WIT focuses on supporting women who are disadvantaged and helping them develop skills, access services and become independent. WIT also works with stakeholders to improve their understanding of these challenges and thereby better equip them with the tools required to address the needs of these women and their families.
ACHIEVEMENTS AND PERFORMANCE 2020 to 2021
“I have been struck through the last year living through the pandemic how organisations like WIT have responded to the needs of the community. They have expertly adapted key services, and ensuring quality is at the heart and focus of everything they do.” Sonia Renzo - Matrix Quality Standard Assessor
WIT has continued to build strong and trusted relationships with Black and Asian women in our community, with a particular focus on Black Muslim Somali women and girls, who remain especially overlooked and excluded within Tower Hamlets and face additional challenges and barriers as a result.
Worryingly, the tremendous responsibilities on many of these women and girls (and their limited support networks) has led to many becoming further isolated during the pandemic, which in turn has further exacerbated low levels of self-esteem and self-confidence. Through our responsive programme of activities, we have been able to provide support that is both practical and motivational to these women and girls, with the overall goal of improving their wellbeing by addressing the wider determinants of housing, money, skills and relationships. We refer to this support as our ‘holistic hug’.
Programmes and activities delivered
WIT has transformed during this period and as part of its emergency response has grown to be four times in size, including harnessing new funds and providing new activities and support. In order to improve community access to health and wellbeing support during the pandemic, WIT expanded its offerings to include a food bank, community kitchen and a befriending service. Our new home at Mayfield House in Bethnal Green was also restyled into a community hub and one-stop-shop (the ‘Mayfield Hub’), and has also served as a vaccination centre and Census centre for the community.
During the period of April 2020 to March 2021, we delivered the following:
Rise and Shine: An education and wellbeing programme designed to mitigate the disproportionate effects of the pandemic. WIT delivered an exciting timetable of activities online to over 500 primary and secondary school children as a partner on the ‘See, Hear, Respond’ programme, a Barnardo’s-led initiative funded by the Department of Education.
Community Wellbeing: An umbrella term for a number of programmes and services offered by our team, including: our ‘Information, Advice and Guidance’ service, which provided support regarding health, housing and welfare benefits; our ‘Connecting Communities’ service which provided personalised support and connections with GPs, the NHS and other local service and speciality mental health support and accredited Mental Health First Aid Training; our ‘Let’s Talk About It’ sessions, which provided information from trusted sources to keep young people and families safe and informed; and our work alongside NHS Test and Trace delivering public health messages to the Somali community.
Food Bank and Community Meals: A lifeline for families experiencing the economic effects of the pandemic. Originally targeting vulnerable women and their families in Tower Hamlets, the service was extended to vulnerable elderly people and also incorporated befriending calls as part of our community-wide response to the urgent need in Tower Hamlets during the pandemic.
Chicksand Nursery: A programme for preschool children and offering of additional support for mothers. Even though government guidelines necessitated that our ‘in person’ nursery service was reduced, WIT pivoted to also provide online activities to connect isolated mothers during the pandemic.
Strategies for achieving our objectives
Through active collaboration with others, WIT has achieved the following objectives over the past year, all of which have enabled us to gain support and meet the changing needs of our women and their families:
MATRIX assessment: WIT successfully completed the external accreditation of our Information, Advice and Guidance offering and meets a recognised and quality standard.
Strengthen volunteer programme: WIT continued to develop and strengthen its volunteer programme. WIT’s volunteers come from diverse backgrounds and their involvement has provided us with a range of additional skills and expertise, and allowed us to grow and scale our emergency response.
Strengthen partnerships and networks: WIT established new (and agile) ways of working and developed a number of new partnerships and networks during this period, while also strengthening and building on existing relationships.
Establish a central hub: WIT established itself at new premises, Mayfield House, and this new and larger space has allowed for the provision of blended in-person and delivery services for people in crisis in the community.