The Challenges of Being Woman: 2020

Fareeha Usman, founder of Being Woman, reflects on how the organisation dealt with such an extraordinary and unexpected year.

2020 has challenged us all in so many ways. It’s incredible to think just how much has changed.

The year started as normal. We asked our staff to prioritise the reskilling and wellbeing of their teams, and everyone in the organisation was prepared and motivated.

We’d designed and planned lots of projects that were ready to roll out, and we knew we could move forward in leaps and bounds with all the exciting steps we were about to take.

And then….Coronavirus hit the UK. The spread of the virus was unpredictable, so we had to respond in an agile and focused way.

Our board met and discussed how to best protect our employees, serve users, and keep the organisation on even ground. It required a quick change in strategy, a lot of patience, critical and rational thinking, but most importantly the strong belief we’d be able to get through it and survive.

We overcame the obstacles by creating strong relationships, being realistic about how we could use technology efficiently, and by staying connected to our stakeholders.

By the time staff were allowed to come back to the office, we tried to keep things as familiar as possible while respecting the safety guidelines. We installed a hand sanitizer kiosk and put up “keep a safe distance” boards everywhere. Staff are now required to wear masks and stand six feet away from each other.

From a service viewpoint, we moved our ESOL and digital skills classes online and supported the learners with the City & Guilds Online Basic Qualification. We worked hard to make sure all our service users – who are predominantly women – could pass with perfect scores.

With the help of Good Things Foundation, we were able to distribute data and devices to the people who needed it the most, changing the quality of lives for so many and allowing them to have the support they needed.

Our service users found it extremely difficult to make ends meet and manage their mental health.

But the thing we are the most proud of is our free food delivery service that has now been converted into an app. Its development was supported by Good Things Foundation and we are extremely grateful. The app has had 4800 downloads worldwide already and has 1250 active users. We’re so proud of it!

We started a fitness and wellbeing project called “I Can and I Will”. Our trainer Olaronke Gbadebo gives physical activity lessons and guides learners on their nutrition and diet. Due to the second lockdown, we had to get these classes online quickly, and we’re now reaching a wider community and have had some fantastic feedback.

We’re planning to hold a fundraiser to produce ethical laptop sleeves, face masks, and small bags for our teams and funders.

And there’s a virtual event in the works to celebrate Christmas and start the new year with an even more positive approach.

When the government imposed the lockdowns, we weren’t sure how to pull off our plans or adapt. Our service users found it extremely difficult to make ends meet and manage their mental health. But we knew we had to be their support in times of need no matter what. Our team has put in a lot of effort to be operationally resilient. Looking at how we have managed to change and influence lives, we realise that all the effort was truly worth it.

None of this would have been possible without the support given to us by Good Things Foundation and all of our funders. Good Things Foundation has played such an important role in diversifying our remote delivery of digital skills. With the devices and data SIMs we’ve been able to support so many people to be digitally included. We would like to pay our sincerest gratitude to the entire team of Good Things Foundation for reaching out to local communities and supporting people to thrive in a digital world for a better tomorrow. Let’s all keep engaging and keep empowering!