New women’s network launched to support the vulnerable

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Hundreds of people from across the district met in Leeds to launch a brand new women’s network that has already been awarded a £2m funding boost.

Women’s Lives Leeds (WLL) aims to support vulnerable women and girls with help groups dealing with issues including domestic violence and sexual health.

More than 300 people attended the launch ceremony at the city’s Civic Hall, which included performances from Indian dancers, singers and poets.

Kate Bratt-Farrar, chief executive at Leeds Women’s Aid, which is leading on the initiative, said: “The reaction was great. People are so supportive and want to get involved and make sure that it works.”

The WLL partnership involves 12 local organisations.

And key representatives attended the launch event, alongside council leaders and NHS staff, last week.

Ms Bratt-Farrar said: “The highlight for me was the message that we are trying to send – that we want to make a difference for women and girls in Leeds.

“Now is really the time to make a change like this.”

The network has secured £2m from the Big Lottery Fund, which it will use to help get the initiative running.

It hopes to form support groups tackling issues such as mental health, sex work, trafficking, ethnic minority groups and child sexual exploitation.

And it aims to reach out to 1,657 women and girls at risk within its first year.

Ms Bratt-Farrar said: “Leeds has been really forward-thinking when it comes to women’s issues but we all recognise that there are lots of women and girls across the city that have more than one issue. By working together, we can provide stronger, more joined-up services.

“We are stronger together and have worked hard to secure this investment for women and girls in Leeds and we’re really looking forward to being able to deliver even better services.”

Service users will have the chance to influence the development, delivery and design of the network across the city.

And it is hoped it will enable women and girls to lead healthier, safer and more fulfilled lives.

Speaking previously, councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “I am delighted that women’s services in Leeds have attracted the Big Lottery to invest in these services, benefitting women in our community and helping young girls and women most in need.”

Work will now start on recruiting a project manager and a team of staff for WLL.