New €6.5 million shared women’s centre on Belfast interface announced ahead of International Women’s Day
6 Mar 2020
A new €6.5 million EU-funded purpose-built shared space for women and their families located at the interface area at Lanark Way in west Belfast has been announced.
The Belfast City Council-led project is being funded through the EU’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) with match-funding provided by the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.
The new facility will be known as Shankill Shared Women’s Centre. The team who operate the current premises on Shankill Road will work in partnership with Clonard Neighbourhood Development Partnership incorporating Clonard Women’s Group at the new facility to deliver a range of services. Its aim is to create a welcoming, safe and accessible shared space for women and their families from both communities.
Speaking ahead of a ceremony to officially launch the project, Lord Mayor, Councillor Daniel Baker, said: “It is extremely fitting that we’re launching this amazing new cross community facility for women and their families ahead of this year’s International Women’s Day.
“One of the key priorities in the Belfast Agenda, the city’s long-term community plan, is to make life better for all our residents by improving our neighbourhoods, supporting and caring for people who face multiple challenges and improving community relations. For the communities in this part of Belfast, this facility will make a huge contribution, so it is to be warmly welcomed by all.”
Welcoming the project the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring TD added: “I am delighted to see this project launched, particularly on International Women’s Day. The existing facility has been building relations for the last 30 years and its success is evident in that it has outgrown its existing facility. Once completed, the new building will be a beacon for hope and empowerment on the Lanark Way.
“I would like to congratulate the project partners Shankill Women’s Centre and Clonard Neighbourhood Development Partnership incorporating Clonard Women's Group. I am delighted that my Department is an Accountable Department for this funding and we will work with all parties to ensure delivery of this wonderful shared space.”
Manager of the Shankill Women’s Centre, Betty Carlisle MBE, said: “For over 30 years we have provided education, training, health awareness, childcare and activities for women in the Greater Shankill and beyond.
“This new state-of-the-art centre represents a new chapter for us and we hope it will allow us to continue to grow and evolve. Our health and wellbeing project alone currently helps 250 women per week, and we have ambitions to treble user numbers at this new facility.”
Veronica Brown from Clonard Women’s Group said: “This purpose-built new building will make a big difference to the individuals and groups that we support and I hope that this new venture will go from strength to strength in the years ahead.
“We look forward to growing in partnership with the team from Shankill Women’s Centre, supporting many more women and their families from both communities in order to build a positive future together.”
Director of Regeneration for Belfast at the Department for Communities, Mark O’Donnell, said: “The investment will not only see the creation of a unique shared space developed on a cross community basis but also the transformation of a derelict site.
“The project represents an excellent opportunity to build on the work carried out by the Shankill Women’s Centre since 1987. Since then the centre has grown in success and popularity, offering women from the Shankill, Clonard and surrounding areas many opportunities in health and education.
“Having outgrown your current premises this state of the art centre will provide a new space to provide increased opportunities for ‘meaningful, purposeful and sustained’ contact between women, children and young people from both sides of the interface area.”
Underlining the importance of the project, Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), said: “Unfortunately we still live in a divided society, with many citizens having little or no opportunity to meet with and learn from someone from a different community. Facilities like this, will provide a safe space in which local people feel comfortable enough to celebrate and share their cultural identity; secure in the knowledge that it will be received without prejudice or judgement.
“Upon completion, it will also develop the excellent cross-community work that has been undertaken by the Shankill Women’s Centre, and its partners, allowing them to reach even more people and help create a more cohesive society,” she continued.