A question Derby Women’s Centre staff and volunteers often get asked is: why is the centre just for women?
The centre was founded in 1978 to address inequalities faced by women and empower them to lead independent lives. A lot has changed since the 70s, but unfortunately gender inequality persists. Women are at a greater risk of poverty than men, make up the vast majority of domestic violence victims (at least 1 in 4 women will experience some form of domestic violence in their lives) and are more likely to experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
To help women overcome these issues, we feel that a women only space provides a safe, welcoming and non-judgemental environment for women to come to access support. Some of the women who come to the centre have been through traumatic experiences and would feel intimidated if they thought men would be around. A lot of the women who come to the centre value an all female space where they can build a support network with other women.
Because the centre is just for women, all staff and volunteers are women too. Our recruitment policy has caused some controversy in the past. In July 1991, a story ran in the Derby Telegraph about Derby Women’s Centre refusing to take on a male board member. We’ve relaxed our policy somewhat since then – one of our current board members is male. However, all the staff and volunteers working in the building are women, and when there are male visitors in the building we have a sign up to let our service users know.
In short, we think that a centre just for women still has an important function. As ever, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, so please join in the discussion and comment below.