Meet our New Women’s Development Officer

Danielle-DawsonWelcome to our new Women’s Development Officer, Danielle Dawson

Can you tell us a bit about the role of Women’s Development Officer? The goal of this post is to amplify the voices of grassroots women in Northern Ireland, so that women are visible, vocal, valued and consulted about on the issues that affect and matter to them. As well as encouraging women to understand the power and influence that they have as individuals, an exciting element of the role involves connecting grassroots women with other women, coming together in solidarity on issues that affect us all.

An example of this is the work we have been doing calling for an effective and appropriately-funded Women’s Health Strategy – influenced by women’s experiences from across NI.

The post will focus on improving collaboration between women and decision makers on other issues. Far too often we see policies, strategies and legislation created that are not fit for purpose because they haven’t been influenced by voices of diverse lived experience.

The role involves working in a co-design format with the ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ (NAUWU) panel – a group of women with extensive voluntary and community experience who work with communities from across Northern Ireland of all backgrounds. This is a core aspect of the role as it ensures that we are being needs-led and reflective of what grassroots women want.

What inspired you to work in women’s development? How do you hope to make a difference in your role at CFNI? I am passionate about human rights and social justice, with previous voluntary and professional experiences leading me to recognise that women in Northern Ireland are at an automatic disadvantage because of the patriarchal society we live in.

I believe that women have the power to change our society for the better; whether that be through regional political influence or more intimately within our own communities. However, as talented as woman are at seeing the skills of others, awareness of personal potential doesn’t come quite as easy! This is what has inspired me to work in women’s development. I am eager to see women have a greater sense of self-belief and to make steps towards reaching the potential that they definitely have. I hope that this is something that can be accomplished in some way within this role.

Furthermore, as well as encouraging an increased focus on women’s voices generally, I am particularly passionate about platforming marginalised and vulnerable women’s voices.

What are some of the key initiatives/projects you’ll be working on at CFNI? There are loads of exciting and important activities planned for the programme. The NAUWU panel has developed a ‘best practice’ model for engaging women from grassroots communities and we hope to promote this across sectors and agencies to highlight the importance of committed, meaningful, and effectively resourced engagement methods.

We will be developing a resource around ‘understanding civic structures’. The rationale being that if women have a sound understanding of how systems and structures work, then some barriers hindering engagement may be removed.

As well as continuing with work regarding women’s health, the programme will seek to consider other issues such as climate change, diversity, tackling poverty, and violence against women. These issues will be considered on both local and international scales, exploring how struggles are often connected, with a hopeful message on what we can do to create change within our spheres of influence, both locally and on a larger scale.

Also, a bursary programme to support new women from grassroots communities will be developed as part of CFNI’s existing Women’s fund.

What message would you like to share with our supporters and partners? I am really grateful to be working for an organisation that prioritises engagement, equity and inclusion, resulting in a post such as this being created. I’m excited for what is to come and thankful for the support and interest that has been shown so far.

I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to our Women’s Health survey. We are in the process of writing the report and will work to ensure that it reflects the experiences of those who shared.

A special thanks to the NAUWU panel for their expertise, support, and commitment. It is brilliant to work alongside such a fantastic group and to collaboratively make plans for this project.

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