Lifelong Learning Program
Our idea is the Lifelong Learning Program at the Women’s Centre. If you were to perform a search for organizations in Calgary that provide learning opportunities, free of charge, you would find very few. Society encourages the consumption of knowledge, but offers limited opportunities to do this without a cost. At the Women’s Centre, we offer a wide variety of workshops for women to grow in their personal and professional development, free of charge. Last year, we offered workshops covering a wide variety of topics, the most popular of these being our health and fitness and social issues training workshops. Women have the opportunity to learn about topics that interest them like poverty, food security, and anti-racism, in a non-judgmental, safe space where they can build community and overcome barriers to learning like literacy and strained financial situations.
Our environmental issues and social issues discussion series allow women to learn about and discuss topics like climate change, energy poverty, racism and ableism while connecting with other women in their community to take action. This not only provides a safe space that validates the concerns of women about issues which affect them, but also informs our work to advocate for systemic change and new policies that will positively impact the lives of women. Our health and fitness workshops allow women to discover new ways to adopt a healthy lifestyle from eating tips for those living with diabetes or celiac disease to trying out fitness classes like zumba, yoga and capoeira. Last year, we offered 159 health and fitness and social issues workshops to women, this comprised 45% of the total workshops. Workshop topics are based on matching the feedback we receive from women who come to the Centre with the skills and talents women from the community are able to share. Our instructors generously donate their time to help women gain new skills in areas of interest to them.
Because of the popularity of these workshops, we would like to offer 100 around these topics to meet the needs of women. The major costs associated with this program are course materials and volunteer training. We print materials for issues training, purchase yoga equipment for our classes, provide food for our cooking sessions, and facilitate training sessions for volunteers. By providing materials and a safe space, we encourage women to overcome the barriers that prevent them from learning about topics of interest to them.
Who Will it Benefit?
Our Lifelong Learning program provides women who face significant barriers to traditional education, such as poverty and low literacy, with opportunities to build their capacities and their skills, and increase their social support networks. These opportunities are an important step toward expanding knowledge, gaining confidence and building community. Social issues like poverty and anti-racism are often discussed by ‘experts’ in the field at conferences and in university seminars. At the Women’s Centre, we recognize women are experts in their own lives and deserve a forum where they can discuss these issues, build their capacity to make change and collaborate with other women to take action in their community. Every woman also deserves to have her basic needs met, this includes having the resources and knowledge to live a healthy lifestyle like taking nutritional workshops and participating in fitness classes. We recognize the financial barriers associated with achieving a healthy lifestyle, especially for women who experience chronic health issues.
Social inclusion and the participation of women in society are often considered indicators of healthy families and healthy communities. Isolation is a major problem for many women experiencing barriers such as poverty or health issues. It affects coping skills and makes these problems much harder to deal with. If this program is successful in receiving funding, it will benefit the hundreds of women who come to the Centre to break down barriers of isolation, build community and connection and gain new skills in their areas of interest.
Last year, workshops were attended 2608 times. At the end of each workshop, we encourage women to evaluate their experience. We collected 987 responses from women.
97% said they learned something they wanted to know in the workshop.
85% said they met someone new or connected with a friend.
Here are what some of them said about workshops at the Women’s Centre:
“The whole experience got me out of my comfort zone, brought me into my power, [and] made me realize I can make a change.”
“It has provided a place where I can talk about issues that I care about deeply, and where I can connect with other like-minded women, and those are very important to me and my sense of self – I feel more fulfilled.”
"By attending various workshops I learned many new things and I made good friends who helped me a lot.”
“[The chance] to express my own opinion in a non-judgmental environment.”