Announcing the Women’s Forum, a Women-For-Women Network 
An image showing a meeting held in a hall with wooden floors and woven material wall panels. At the front, a woman wearing a blue hijab is presenting while standing next to a projection screen displaying text that reads 'International Women's Day 2024 or robes. On either side of the room are large artistic displays featuring portraits or collages of diverse faces and images. The scene depicts a community gathering.

Following the success of The Maya Centre’s International Women’s Day event, we will be curating a physical women-for-women platform to further encourage community and personal wellbeing. 

21 March 2024 

By Hannah Uguru 

Friday, 8 March 2024, marked this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), an annual event to celebrate women’s contributions to society, shine a spotlight on global feminist action and honour the women in our day-to-day lives. This mindset is carried through our organisation every day, but in true Maya Centre fashion, we were delighted to engage women in our annual celebration to further commemorate our commitment to women’s positive wellbeing. This IWD, we welcomed over 100 women for a day of fun, learning and bonding, delivering meaningful discussions on women’s mental health and empowerment. Through our Women’s Hub team — a sub-section of The Maya Centre’s wider community services that focuses on implementing grassroots emotional wellbeing programmes and peer-to-peer support — we facilitated activities such as laughter yoga and arts & crafts. Through an insightful introduction, our CEO, Gona Saed, also teased the launch of our Women’s Forum, an exciting project that has been in the making for the past year. Via the Women’s Forum, we aim to establish an ‘experts by experience’ space for ex and current service users to help influence services for women and girls in Islington and our organisation. 

An activity station filled with various self-care items: sanitary towels, face cloths, soap and multi-coloured headbands.

“Today is all about women’s struggles for equality and justice all around the world. Our sisters in the 20th Century used this day to collectively take to the streets and secure the basic rights to vote, education and reproductive health provisions. The Maya Centre was founded by our feminist sisters of the early 1980s, and today we continue this journey,” shared Saed to an eager crowd of local women, community leaders and staff members.  

CEO of The Maya Centre, Gona Saed, prepares to deliver an impassioned speech about the Women’s Forum in front of a diverse audience of women.

Continuing, she expressed, “In an era where these rights are currently being repealed, we still must struggle to keep and re-establish our rights to safety, adequate housing, equal pay and education. These rights won’t be handed to us’ we must demand them.  

“But how may we do that? Through the collective voice of our Women’s Forum. We invite you to engage in this initiative as an opportunity to share your concerns and needs for your wellbeing, allowing us to come together, plan and advocate as effectively as possible. We aim to leverage this space to lobby funders, politicians and key decision-makers to initiate changes and maintain actions that support women’s rights.  

“The vision for 2024 is to identify what is important for us and to upskill based on your feedback and recommendations. By next year, we hope to be in the position to send representatives to sit at these decision-making tables that directly impact women in Islington, in London, in the UK and worldwide”.  

The Women’s Forum will be heralded by a team of volunteer leaders who will guide both the design of our future services and our strategic influencing work. Four annual meetings will provide an opportunity for in-person overviews of discussions and events carried out over the year. To further ground our proposal to the needs of our community, we asked the women at our IWD event three important questions: “What challenges are you facing in Islington? What topics would you like to discuss in the Women’s Forum? Would you like to be involved?” 

Diverse women engage in discussion and activities.

Those interested in taking part overwhelmingly identified women-only safe spaces as a need, with others citing childcare support, safety & harassment, diverse language services and youth services as other paramount issues. When it came to activities they’d like to see, women suggested Walking and fitness groups, jewellery workshops, game and quiz days, pamper sessions, cooking classes, arts & crafts, computer skills training, animal therapy and even trips across the UK and Europe, with particular interests in engaging women over 60 and the neurodiverse. Respondents also expressed a desire to engage in discussions on women’s health, including menopause and, of course, mental health. Our next steps will be to review this information gathered and apply these findings to the materialisation of this project. 

This integration of client experiences and organisational development will be essential in building The Maya Centre’s resilience and presence as an accessible women-for-women community. Accordingly, we will combine these efforts with our continued tradition of intercultural and intersectional women-for-women learning to solidify ourselves as thought leaders in this space. Our ambitious plans will focus on influencing best practices in support of better anti-VAWG, mental health, and wellbeing provision for all women.  

We give special thanks to Propel, Islington Council and The National Lottery Community Fund for financially backing this initiative. We welcome further support from funders, donors, volunteers and other interested parties who wish to help make them a reality by donating and sharing our work with your networks. Until the end of Women’s History Month, Sunday, 31 March 2024. donations made through our fundraiser with Slaughter and May will be match-funded, allowing us to double our reach and impact. Learn more and donate here.