WODIN Anniversary #2: Lessons, Stones, and Roses
Time does fly when one is happily serving communities. We are counting down less than a month to the day WODIN was registered as a CIC 2 years ago. Happy 2nd Anniversary to Women and Digital Inclusion – WODIN. At this time, we look back and marvel at how good Source is, has been, and continues to be in our mission of Ending Digital Poverty in Merseyside’s black migrant communities.
Back in 2020 when covid lockdowns happened, our WeNation weekly meetups dried up for a few weeks. But we re-ignited them by running basic digital skills sessions as part of a support program mainly to reduce social isolation – for Mental health and well-being during that time. WODIN celebrated our first Anniversary as a registered organization last year with an AGM and members’ meal.
The above digital sessions led to our Wednesday digital skills workshops, currently funded by TNL Community Fund. Earlier this year, we run an essential digital skills program funded by LCVS, which exposed a deeper need for peeling the layers right back to the basics again. We ran this over a 12-week window virtually and hosted a micro graduation, call it a celebration of our 12 Tafuta women in-person in June this year.
We had an incredible response to the work that was done and the Feasibility Social Impact Study that resulted from the Tafuta program. This study expose will be the source of most of our future programs.
We also started a conversation around sharing our journeys, experiences, and stories, with support from Salford University’s Critical Social Policy Fund. Very quickly we realised we needed a lot more resources to get this job done properly. And we needed to focus on African Cultures Vs Uk experiences. So the search began for the Somo Sisters project funding, more on this later.
WODIN is currently running our second basic digital skills program with 20 beneficiaries. We are also completing Supporting women into business – SWIB 1-1 sessions with 11 women. We launched the Somo Sisters Oral Histories project in October 2022 year in which we intend to share 11 women’s journeys, cultures, and experiences in the UK. Not forgetting our “virtual coffee for well-being” program which holds sessions within our WhatsApp forum weekly.
How did WODIN adapt/cope with & Post-lockdown?
At the beginning of the first lockdown, like everyone else, we struggled to adapt. Then we went into consultation mode. Our beneficiaries shared their biggest challenges; Social Isolation, digital poverty, and lack of access to cultural ethnic foods staple to them. We reached out to various stakeholders and responded with the First Cultural Ethnic Foodbank and a WODIN helpline.
The WODIN team are very practical people and love getting out and about so, visiting Smithfield Market in Manchester in the wee hours of the morning, oftentimes at 2 am to source for cultural ethnic foods while not exciting, was done with grace. All the messy winter freezing wet weather did not stop us from picking African-grown vegetables, foods, spices, and fruits. These foods are can be quite dear in price because they are imported. It had to be done as one of the creative ways to adapt to lockdown and serve our communities.
To celebrate Black History Month last year, we joined hands with the MaMas and SAWN on a virtual extravaganza. This year we were so sad to miss out on the live MaMas BHM experience due to unforeseen circumstances.
How have the Digital Inclusion sessions helped the women we work with?
Where language is a barrier, the digital space creates an opportunity to express yourself using google translate! 😉
We welcome black minoritised women to join us whether this is the first time they’ve logged on to a PC since they were a child or they are skilled users of digital tools and apps.
WODIN has created a safe space where black migrant women can enjoy learning new skills, be creative, are able to socialize, network, make friends, and spend time together. We want to encourage black women to be proud of their culture, background, and skills.
We may all have different languages, skills, and abilities, but we are all able to learn something in our sessions. The women we work with come from a variety of different backgrounds. Many have qualifications and are skilled in different areas, whether they serve in those spaces or not!
We’ve had nurses, teachers, project managers, lawyers, Jewelry makers, craftswomen, bakers, architects, engineers, fashion designers, fitness instructors, seamstresses, retirees, and homemakers all joining our programs.
Over 59 black migrant women who’ve benefited from our programs in 2022, have shared how the programs esp. digital training sessions have given them an opportunity to learn in a relaxed, culturally sensitive environment, open to bringing their babies, while serving as a distraction from their daily life challenges.
What are the highlights of WODIN’s work?
One of the highlights of my job is seeing the difference that having a digital gadget, learning new skills with a like-minded community can have in the women’s lives. Sylvia Kalungi – Projects Lead
Many women have shared how the time they spend learning new digital skills allows them to switch off.
It’s a welcome distraction from stress in their lives and gives them a moment to relax!
Throughout 2022, we’ve run digital skills sessions, we also have WhatsApp forums where we share ideas, tips, resources, and updates from that week and coming sessions. It has been lovely to see our participants and beneficiaries encouraging, complimenting each other, and really developing their confidence as digital users and entrepreneurs.
We love it when women share that they’ve put their skills to work, by teaching others in their community, church, family, and work and the difference and confidence these skills have given them in their homes. And also, that they are proud of what they’ve achieved and learned! Many have over the months shared their feedback here.
BeWodin Project Beneficiaries with their brand new GeoBooks
Last but not least, WODIN has been an active participant in the AFRUCA, UK BME Anti-Slavery Network – BASNET. We were represented at the BASNET Residential Capacity Building Programme 2022 by our Mobilisation director Sara Nabudde.
Wodin Anniversary – What’s Next 2023?
We hope and desire to help more women to use digital tools as a life skill, career, and coping strategy. And our plan is to double the numbers to over 100 beneficiaries. We are open to collaboration with funders, donors/stakeholders and/or property owners and brands willing to work with a voluntary organisation to end digital poverty. Because this plan to support 100+ women requires a physical space in Liverpool, with training/conferencing facilities for at least 25 – 40 people at a time. It must have great WiFi, parking, access to a kitchen, and is accessible for those with mobility challenges. PLUS the resources to cover such a space i.e. rent/mortgage, utilities, maintenance, and staffing.
We do have huge dreams, because anything is possile.
We continue to learn from our mentors and are so grateful, especially to Rose Ssali of Support and Action for Women’s Network – SAWN, James Berg of Picaroons, and Lankelly Chase for making space for us in the Northern Weavers where we feel like we are understood. Above all we are so thankful for all our funders this year:
- Liverpool Charities and Voluntary Service – LCVS
- Women Resource Centre – WRC
- Critical Social Policy
- TNL Community Fund
- TNL Reaching Communities Fund
- TNL Heritage Fund
We were so excited when TNL Heritage Fund agreed to partner with us on the Somo Sisters project. We’re looking forward to developing an Oral Histories record and heritage program.
This will be our first solo exhibition empowering women via Story Telling and sharing their journey. We’d love to do more exhibitions, and collaborate with different organisations, especially in digital ways. We’d also love to develop the skills of our participants as leaders and in public speaking.
We are on the tail end of two of our programs.
- The WODIN UPYA program, currently holding 1-1 sessions with participants focusing on their individual business ideas and processes. This program is running until March 2023
- The BeWodin Basic Digital Skills program which we plan to have completed by June 2023.
And we are so excited and grateful to all the Lottery players and TNL Reaching Communities for awarding WODIN core costs over 3 years in the Healing In The Communities (HITC) Project. We now officially have 2.5 WODIN staff, working 2 days a week focused on capacity building and serving our communities. This takes us from perpetually seeking core funding support to carry out our basic programs and business admin, to actually serving our communities and focusing on project work.
All in all, while it’s still early days for WODIN as a voluntary community organisation, we are really excited about the possibilities and potential growth and programs for 2023/24! Merseyside has an incredible digital scene and there are so many great opportunities, which we intend to find, and share with the BME communities.
If you would like to get in contact with Women and Digital Inclusion – WODIN regarding digital skills or any of our programs, or for volunteering opportunities, you are part of a creative community or just want to connect send us an email at email@example.com