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Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation: Islington Council's Community Chest

Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation: Islington Council's Community Chest

Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation (MEWSO) provides tailored, personal help and coordinates a range of group activities to support women to feel more confidence, positive and enjoy every stage of life.

Working with Middle Eastern, North African and Asian women, MEWSO helps a growing community in Islington and other parts of North and Central London. Established in 2012, MEWSO’s current home is the Durham Road Resource Centre.

Personal connections

It is amazing to be part of such a vibrant, active and helpful community. We are very thankful to Islington Council, the Ethical Property Foundation and Voluntary Action Islington for helping us make a home in the Centre.

Halaleh Taheri, Founder, MEWSO

Halaleh has a strong personal connection to Islington, having lived in the borough since moving to the UK. She suggests that the tradition of activism and creativity in Islington has helped provide a strong, supportive foundation for MEWSO’s work.

Respect, care, and support

MEWSo offers holistic support, including befriending services for women new to Islington, as well as wider advice and counselling. This can help build women’s confidence. Some women, have experienced or been witness to domestic violence, abuse, FGM and honour killings in their home countries. Women from different cultures, speaking different languages are encouraged to share their experiences in a safe space, building a network of mutual respect and caring support.

The organisation continually learns from its members. It offers a range of flexible, changeable activities to reduce the sense of isolation and loneliness that can occur when living in a new community. MEWSO is committed to promoting women’s voices, building trust within communities and shining a light on issues that affect women.

Volunteering change

Volunteers are integral to MEWSO’s work. Treasurer Behnaz, moved from Iran to London. She started life in the city by volunteering with MEWSO as an interpreter and befriender, helping women to build vital connections with essential services. Kate, MEWSO’s newest member of staff, is now a part-time administrator for the organisation. She began her involvement by volunteering for four years, helping MEWSO organise events and opportunities for women in London. Many others involved with MEWSO have gone on to be tireless volunteers and employees of vital organisations in London and around the country.

Building communities, creating opportunity

MEWSO maintains a strong sense of community for its members by creating opportunities with other organisations. This includes subsidised visits to the British Museum, participation in research and events with the University of London, School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) and the University of Greenwich, and yoga classes in communities with a high proportion of BAME women. MEWSO makes practical connections to help women access training and support to ready themselves for life and employment in the UK.

Community Chest grants have enabled MEWSO to adapt its services to help women navigate the challenges of adjusting to a new life with sensitivity and flexibility. Since its first grant, awarded through the Community Chest in 2012, MEWSO has gone from strength to strength. It continues to hold its door open to support new arrivals and stop women from slipping through the net.

(All images courtesy of MEWSO, with permission gained by MEWSO from all subjects).