Going back way before Tupperware parties, women have been second-to-none in their prowess at recommending and selling products to one another. Typically the products on offer have been home goods to do with family, housework, beauty or cooking. This is a well-mined seam.
Bringing things right up into contemporary social economic concerns is the problem of fuel poverty, now faced by an increasing number of households. Stephanie Karpetas, Action Women! Community is convinced that training women to be local community energy champions is a very effective key to tackling fuel poverty. Many unemployed women are experiencing debt and are far more likely to be talking to one another on the impact that it is having on their friends and families.
Not only can women do so much − given the chance, we are exceptionally good at doing things when we see chances being taken away.
So, it’s exciting to be rolling out, via Action Women! Community CIC, a European Social Fund project this September, that will take ten local unemployed women in the Dover and Deal through a ten week programme of confidence building and basic energy awareness training. The idea behind the project is to gear women up to taking control over one element of the amorphous blob that soon engulfs your life when you are unemployed − fuel bills.
Fuel poverty is an all too common experience for an increasing amount of people. A basic understanding of how to read your energy bill and how to find out if you’re better off by switching is a starting point. There are also simple things that you can do at home to reduce your energy consumption and some, “easy when you know how” low cost DIY measures that could also save a tidy sum. Add to that an understanding, level of trust and the ability to grab government grants for energy efficiency measures that come and go with a flick of a switch, and you’ve got a better chance bringing your bills down in one big shift.
The programme is not all kilowatt hours and tut-tutting about how much water we put in the kettle. It is balanced out with informal confidence building workshops. Throughout the ten weeks, participants will get to know a much wider set of people, make new friends and contacts and have the opportunity to volunteer or take part in work shadow opportunities.
Based on the successful “Network to Work” programme that Action Women! Community ran in 2012, it recognises that the isolation of unemployment can be deeply debilitating. The group of 12 women who took part in Network to Work formed a support network and ties to one another that endured well beyond the programme.
Above all, they had fun and started to laugh about some of the stuff they were all going through. As soon as the smiles appeared, so did long lost self-esteem and confidence too. And, we all know what happens when you feel you can take on the world again?
Stephanie Karpetas works with communities, businesses and public sector organisations,
helping shape and deliver programmes that make sustainable development feasible
and fun. Stephanie has recently set up Sustainability Connections
and is working on low carbon projects in Kent and Europe. She is a Co-founder
and Director of Action
Women! Community CIC