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Multi-million-pound shared women’s centre opens at Belfast interface



A purpose-built £7.8 million shared women’s centre opened today (27 June) close to the peace wall at Lanark Way in west Belfast.


The new EU PEACE IV-funded Shankill Shared Women’s Centre will provide a broad range of services and support for women and their families from all community backgrounds.

It will be the new home for Shankill Women’s Centre, who will share the building and deliver services in partnership with Clonard Women’s Group.


Speaking at a celebration event to mark the new building’s opening, Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Micky Murray said: “Over the last 37 years the team at Shankill Women’s Centre has provided vital childcare, education, training, health awareness and other activities for tens of thousands of women at their old home on Shankill Road.


“The opening of this new building marks an exciting new chapter for the team, allowing them to work with their neighbours to support even more women from a broader geographical area, as well as providing a base to expand the services and activities they are able to offer.

“Our overriding ambition for this project was to create a welcoming, shared space for women from different community backgrounds to mix, so the partnership with Clonard Women’s Group represents a massive step. Shared community buildings like this are critical in helping to build positive relationships between communities, enabling children from different areas to interact from an early age and grow up together.”


The project is funded by the EU’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). Match-funding has been provided by the Department for Communities and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland. Funding has also been provided by Belfast City Council.


First Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA said: “The new Shankill Shared Women’s Centre is more than just a facility- it is a place where women, children and young people from all backgrounds can gather, learn, support each other, and grow together. Women often excel at driving reconciliation efforts, fostering dialogues and providing unique perspectives on the issues at play in our communities. They play a significant role in peace building so this investment of almost £7.8 million in recognition of women’s role in peace building and reconciliation is very welcome. A massive thank you, and congratulations to everyone who made this project possible. With special mention to Shankill Women’s Centre who have worked alongside Clonard Neighbourhood Development Partnership Group. Your dedication, passion, and vision have made this day possible and I wish you every success with this new chapter.”

 

Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly said: The new Shankill Shared Women’s Centre will no doubt serve as a sanctuary of learning, support, and empowerment for women, children and young people from all walks of life. This centre will provide the tools, resources, and opportunities they need to continue to thrive. It will be a place where voices are heard, talents are nurtured, and friendships are forged by bringing people together to directly address uniting divided communities. The Centre has done exceptional work for everyone in the area, across a range of important issues that effect all of us. The journey to this day has been filled with hard work and collaboration, founded on a shared vision. So, I extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in bringing this project to life. Your efforts have laid the foundation for a brighter, more inclusive future for this City.

 

Communities Minister Gordon Lyons said: “I want to congratulate both partner organisations and Belfast City Council, for delivering this outstanding project. One of the priorities of my department is to bring communities together by creating places which are sustainable, welcoming and accessible to everyone to live, work and relax in peace. The Shankill Shared Women’s Centre is a remarkable, shared space, that embodies this aspiration. 

This new centre and the continued work of both project partners, providing education training, health awareness, childcare and young women's activities, will make a significant impact on the lives of women and children, from the Shankill, Clonard and beyond.”

Minister Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, commented,

“I am delighted to see the completion of this new Shankill Shared Women’s Centre project, for which almost €9.2m in funding was approved under the EU PEACE IV Programme.

 

This project has created a state of the art facility for women and their families, which will facilitate ‘meaningful, purposeful and sustained’ contact between women, children and young people from all communities. 

 

I want to congratulate Belfast City Council and their project partners Shankill Women’s Centre and Clonard Neighbourhood Development Partnership incorporating Clonard Women's Group, for all their hard work and dedication in the development and implementation of this project, it is a credit to all involved.” 


Chief Executive of the SEUPB Gina McIntyre said: “It is fabulous that we are standing here today, but the work to get us here started many, many years ago.


“For more than three decades, the Shankill Women’s Centre has provided cross-community education, training, health awareness, childcare and activities for countless women across the Greater Shankill area and beyond.


“This support has empowered and enabled local women to invest in themselves through education and training, and to get back into the workplace – and much more.

“This building symbolises a shared space aimed at cross-community activities to facilitate meaningful, purposeful and sustained contact between women, children and young people from both sides of the interface and throughout our community.  

“This is an absolute credit to all those involved who have worked tirelessly in your communities to ensure this facility is open to everyone.”

 

Dr. Betty Carlisle MBE, Manager of Shankill Shared Women’s Centre said: ‘’After many long years of hard work, I’m delighted to begin this new chapter in the Shankill Shared Women’s Centre.


“We work with women from all walks of life and endeavour to help them progress through their goals of education and employability, good relations, reducing social isolation, and building self-confidence. We are excited that this new building will allow us to expand and create new services to support women from all communities, and create a welcoming space for women to gather, learn, connect, and flourish.


“This space will have a monumental impact on women in the area, from our older women participating in recreational classes to young women completing their accredited programmes.”


Veronica Brown from Clonard Women’s Group said: “We are thrilled to be part of this new shared women’s centre. We have been counting down the days during the building work, and we are excited to use this new building. This space will provide much-needed support and resources for women in North and West Belfast, and we are excited to see the positive impact it will have on the women that we empower.’’


For more information on Belfast’s PEACE IV shared spaces capital projects, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/sharedspaces 

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