“When I came to ‘Behind the Mask’ I did not know what to expect or who would be there. What I found was a beautiful mix of women who were in various stages of their journey of selfdiscovery. A mix of cultures, both White British and Muslim women – women whose paths would never have crossed, let alone spent time with each other had they not attended this amazing course. Each woman is special, each unique and each gone through, or going through, their own personal things. What has struck me is the almost immediate bond between the group – a willingness to be open and honest in our own time, and at our own pace, and to share. I feel that when we walk in that room our various masks are left at the door. This is our time. A time when we can be our true selves, without judgement. Where faith nor “community consideration” has no part. All we have here is acceptance, mutual respect, trust and friendship.” by Cheryl

As women we all wear our own ‘MASK’. We feel we must present ourselves to the world in a variety of guises / disguises. How can we change this? Are these expectations limitations? How can we let the real ‘me’ shine through? BEHIND THE MASK is a creative project which sees verd de gris work with a remarkable group of women: to highlight and celebrate the beauty, complexity and positivity of breaking free! The project includes creative workshops, advocacy work with women’s support agencies and exhibitions of original artwork, writing and photography made by the women themselves. The project will speak out loud and proud at seminars, symposia and conferences with our women taking the lead and telling it just how it is!

EMPOWERMENT
“Razia has improved in all aspects of her life and took part in the ‘Behind the Mask’ exhibition and read her poem out in front of people and especially her daughters who were present in the audience. She volunteers at her local primary school now, helping out whenever she can.”

FREEDOM
“It is very rare to see women from different cultures and race to be the part of same project, sitting together sharing their very personal life experiences, sorrows and grieves. It is not an easy task to share negative experiences of life. This project is about giving vulnerable local women different communities an opportunity to come together to share experiences and learn from each other in a safe and empowering ‘space’. It will empower them with coping mechanisms and offer more holistic approaches to help them deal with adverse circumstances affecting their physical and emotional health.”

EXPRESSION
“I have come to find the light – within myself. To reignite my creative expression – Who am I – all these masks I wear to all the different people in my life – it is exhausting …”

Samea Mahboob, our community link worker explains her thoughts on the project: “We all go through some rough patches in our lives. The majority of times we suppress our feelings and bottle them up, for various reasons. Most importantly we don’t find anyone trustworthy who is able to see and feel our pain without making a judgement. We understand that we live in a society where we have organisations and people to turn to – like GPs and health visitors. But sometimes women don’t see these services as right for them – often because they feel scared disclosing their personal problems. This is where #behindthemask comes in: providing an opportunity for women to express themselves to an active listening ear, a nice friendly hug and positive vibes without judging in any way.” (Samea)

At the poetry book launch event we were so proud to have Holly Lynch with us, local MP and close friend of Jo Cox, together with Angela Everson CEO of WomenCentre and Christine Harris, Deputy Lieutenant of Calderdale and Life Vice President of the Community Foundation for Calderdale.

Some background to the project:

“So many women we work with hide behind a mask as they try to cope with some of the most complex issues in their lives. Their mask hides their pain and suffering and allows them to portray a face that can cope. They could be coping with domestic abuse, a child with an illness, childhood abuse and so many other things. We believe this project will help our women to cope without their masks as we reach out to new groups in the community.” 
Angela Everson, CEO Women’s Centre C&K

“Our local Pakistani community has some of the highest health inequalities in West Yorkshire: this impacts particularly severely on women, with higher than average regional rates of domestic violence and depression. Younger women already being prescribed anti-depressants as there are few mechanisms available to offer them the kind of bespoke support they need. This project would contribute to breaking that cycle of social dislocation and poor mental health.” Kashif Ahmed, Commissioner for Mental Health CMBC Adult Health & Social Care

The Creative Communities (Stronger Together) programme is supported with funding from the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund.

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