10 years helping women
14th July 2011 by Natalie Burns
This year, the foundation celebrates its tenth anniversary and the women it has supported When Tony Lothian organised the very first Women of the Year lunch in 1955, she saw it not just as a celebration of the extraordinary achievements of ordinary women but a fantastic opportunity to raise money for charitable purposes.
Over the years, the lunch has donated around £2m to various external charities, including the Greater London Fund for the Blind and NCH Action for Children. Then, in 2001, the then WOY chairman, Gayle Morrison, decided to take Tony’s vision one stage further and the Women of the Year Foundation was born.
The aim of the new organisation was to help the women of the future in a tangible way, by offering financial and practical support through small grants that enable women, both in the UK and internationally, to improve their lives and contribute to their communities. And over the last 10 years it has been doing just that, giving out well over £120,000 in small grants both to individual women and to organisations that seek to support women, to help them fulfil their dreams and ambitions.
‘We all know that the first step in any process can be the most difficult,’ says Joan Armatrading, singer, song writer, erstwhile president of Women of the Year and the foundation’s patron. ‘The foundation represents that important outstretched hand of encouragement.’
Grants have gone to a wide variety of recipients – from harpist Bethan Hughes who used hers to pay for a harp therapy course in California to the Philippine Community Fund which built a healthcare centre for people living on Manila’s rubbish dumps, from Star Wards whose foundation-funded research led to fewer incidents of self-harming on female mental wards to Safe Hands for Mothers which used its grant to buy solar-powered DVD players to use to educate women in remote villages in Africa about childbirth and childcare. All in all, around 25 individuals and charities have received money which has gone to benefit literally thousands of people around the world.
This year the foundation has decided to renew its support for two of the projects that received grants in 2010. Both were highly successful in helping women many miles apart – in Hastings and Al Sadder city in Iraq – to change their lives.
The new grant will enable Tomorrow’s People to give out two Business Builders Awards to unemployed women based in Hastings and Glasgow to help them develop business ideas.
Women for Women International will use its grant to help women involved in two projects in Afghanistan. The first trains women to run kitchen gardens, both for sale and for food security, using sustainable farming techniques. Part of the money will help to extend the irrigation system at one of the charity’s two demonstration farms to a further 100 participants in the programme.
The rest will go to a second WfWI project which gives vocational training to Afghani women in agriculture, livestock, handcrafts and other trades. It will fund classes in basic business skills and finance so that they can turn their vocational training into an income generating activity.
A third grant goes to Women@thewell, a charity that works to improve the lives of vulnerable women in London’s Kings Cross. It will pay for the construction of a multi-media collage, organised by Cherie, a working prostitute who wants to get off the street, in memory of her friend Suzy who died recently.
The project will involve up to 20 vulnerable women ranging in age from 16 to over 60. Each will create self portraits using different art forms which will then be made into the collage.
As well as paying for the materials, the foundation’s grant will go towards supporting the women including the cost of providing food, shower and laundry facilities and counselling.
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