Shankill Women’s Centre today launched a new cross-community project aimed at boosting employability and turn around the lives of young women in the Shankill and Falls Road areas of Belfast. Pictured at the launch of the “Empowering Young Women Project” are Paddy Harte, International Fund for Ireland Board Member; Rachel Hill and Heather Gorman, Project participants; and Fionnuala McGinn, Coordinator at Shankill Women’s Centre.

CO-ORDINATORS of a new cross-community project today outlined plans to boost employability and turn around the lives of young women in the Shankill and Falls Road areas of Belfast.

Launched today with £106,349 from the International Fund for Ireland, the “Empowering Young Women Project” is led by Shankill Women’s Centre and will support 20 young people aged 16-25 to improve employment prospects and their role within the wider community.

During the 12-month project, participants will engage in one-to-one mentoring and develop a tailored personal development plan while undertaking a range of cross-community activities aimed at improving work-related skills and decision-making.

Participants will also complete accredited good relations courses that address sensitive issues like displays of cultural identity, transitional justice and dialogue.

Paddy Harte, International Fund for Ireland Board Member said:

“The Empowering Young Women Project can play an important role in helping young ladies in the Shankill and Falls areas to work together to develop important life skills and confidence and improve their chances of exceling in work or training.

“By offering practical support, the participants can take better control of their lives and become more resilient to life’s challenges. 

 “The reality is that there are growing issues of disaffection among young people in many areas across Northern Ireland and that increases the risk of being drawn towards negative influences and a spiral of poor choices. Imaginative projects like this can play a critical role in rebuilding cross-community links and generating greater momentum for positive change and prosperity.”

Susan Wilson, Project Coordinator said:

“Empowering Young Women will help young women to raise aspirations for themselves and their communities.

“We know that young people in the Shankill and Falls are faced with difficult and complex pressures and often believe that opportunities are limited.

“This project is about giving them access to new skills and empowering them to make better life choices.  

 “This project builds on extensive cross-community work that we have been pioneering over many years.

“All participants will take part in good relations training to provide them with the opportunity to explore similarities and differences, challenge perceptions, attitudes and opinions, sectarianism and human rights. 

“We want to encourage and challenge people to raise their expectations for a brighter future and giving them a role in shaping it.”

Funding for the Empowering Young Women Project was awarded from the International Fund for Ireland’s Personal Youth Development Programme which supports initiatives that deliver personalised learning, skills and employment opportunities with a central focus on good relations and preparing young people for the world of work.

In June 2017, the Fund also awarded Shankill Women’s Centre £97,481 to extend a separate 12-month project that facilitates community engagement work with women in the Greater Shankill area and builds links with women’s groups in the nearby areas of Clonard and Lower Falls.

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