“This is one of the most inspirational events I have attended that the Council organised”.
Those are the words of one of the women who came to our Women’s Health Awareness event in Blackbird Leys this week.
Over 50 women from underrepresented communities came along to discuss issues like menopause, Long Covid, HIV and infant feeding and period poverty. The event provided a safe space for women from minoritised communities that have challenges accessing health services.
Throughout the event you could see the women’s confidence growing to talk about sensitive, even taboo, health matters that have impacted them and their communities. It also built a feeling of safety and solidarity, where personal experiences were shared with ease, openness and honesty. The power of this was summed up by Councillor Shaista Aziz with the words "shame dies in a safe space".
Organised by Community Champions in partnership with the City Council, Oxford Health, Oxford University, GP’s, Oxford Hub and Terrance Higgins Trust, the event was an opportunity to get expert information about a range of topics around women’s health.
There was an appetite for more conversations about health awareness, particularly around menopause which is a taboo subject in many communities. Our Community Champions and Councillor Shaista Aziz will be doing more work on this, with a pilot in the coming months across the most deprived areas of the city.
It also came across very clearly how the City Council’s partnership approach is helping groups, like Transition Lighthouse, who are well connected with their communities and may have the know-how but need that extra support to lead on such events. Our council team also used the opportunity to introduce the You Move and Move Together team that support family physical activities, and the Home Improvement Agency, as marginalised communities can find it harder to access support.
Our Community Champions are passionate volunteers who represent communities that have challenges accessing health services, including ethnic minorities, refugees and people experiencing homelessness. We provide them with training and set up conversations with health professionals, to help the communities and health services work together on improving health care experiences. In December the champions organised a really successful event on Long Covid which had led to a number of clinic referrals from Black women and women of colour in the city, who are disproportionately affected by this condition.
We’re grateful to the National Institute for Health and Care Research, a department of the University of Oxford, who funded this week’s event.