Behind the Mask is a creative well-being programme that uses a tried and tested creative methodology to give local women the time and space over a 12-month period to talk openly about the factors that impact their on quality of life. For some, there may be cultural and / or societal pressures within their respective communities. For others, it may be the lack of educational / employment opportunities. Some group members struggle with a long-term health condition; some are full-time carers; some live with the long-term effects of the negative experience of school life. Most of these women live with depression and / or anxiety.

In Year 1 we ran the course with the support of Women Centre in Halifax. The weekly creative sessions combined various art forms including visual art, singing, creative writing and breath and movement exercises. Women were referred through local support organisations, including Homestart Calderdale.

The success of BTM lies in its bringing together women representing different and diverse cultural backgrounds: they all love the opportunity to come together as one, “to explore and recognise notions of difference and celebrate the strength and comfort they find in their common and/or shared struggles.” Our aim in these fractured times is to produce a united ‘voice’ that is beautiful and harmonious.

The journey that these women have been on this year has been amazing. The baseline for most of the participants has been so low: most of the women experiencing acute social isolation and low self-esteem / confidence. At the #IWD2019 event in April they came together to tell an invited audience how their lives had been impacted by being part of this initiative (see attached case studies). The project benefits the participants, and their communities – encouraging dialogue, participation and mutual respect.

“Behind the Mask is the only place I have been where women from different backgrounds come together and learn such a lot from each other. Really – it has opened my eyes and made me realise that as an Asian women, I feel that Asian communities are already isolated – they need to be mixed in different culture – everybody’s problems are the same and we learn more when it is a mixed group.” Sidra

“Prior to the course, I rarely left my house. I was extremely isolated and lonely, this affected my health both mentally and physically. This course has given me a new lease of life, I have met wonderful women who I meet up with and I feel less isolated and alone. I am no longer fearful of leaving the house.” Sam G, Behind the Mask

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