Creating opportunities for women to try something new, meet new people and build confidence and connection to community were the driving forces behind Janice Maples creation of Kindred Women Together (KWT) in Bangalow two years ago.
Janice had worked and lived in Bangalow and started KWT ‘to assist women to meet other women in our community and make new friendships,’ she told The Echo.
‘It was a personal mission of mine to enable other women to feel as connected to our Bangalow community as I did. The most important thing I have learnt from starting KWT is that women want and need friendships with other women. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, connection is extremely important and the friendship and support between women is very special.’
The group engages in a variety of activities from free walking groups and book club, that has a $10 membership to cover borrowing books from the library, to paid activities like a weekly Tai Chi class to other social programs.
‘Some of the programs where you create and make artworks cost more as they include the materials and tuition. It is free to subscribe to Kindred Women Together and to receive the weekly newsletter through the website. The prices for each activity are generally determined by the instructors and we try and keep them as affordable as possible so more women can participate,’ said Janice.
The feedback has been really positive Janice says with many women accessing the group relishing the opportunity to start meeting other locals as well as engaging in new activities and getting ‘out of their comfort zone’.
The International Women’s Day (IWD) #ChooseToChallange theme really resonated with what they have been doing at KWT says Janice.
‘Women #choosetochallenge every time they choose to participate in a new activity. They are challenging old, stereotyped beliefs plus their own fears that they are too old to try new things and to get out there and live their lives the way they want to. We have had 60 year old women learning to surf because we offered the program and provided a safe place for them to learn with other women and they have loved it. They are then looking for the next challenge to tick off their bucket list!’
After 20 years in Byron Shire Janice has just moved to Sydney but she says the group is continuing to grow and develop.
‘The foundations of Kindred Women have been set over the past two years in the Byron Shire. I have the support of all the instructors as well as two local women, Linda Antonsson and Lauren Julian, who have both been active participants since the beginning. I facilitate the program remotely, managing the website, newsletter and social media as well as co-ordinating the program of activities from Sydney. I am working towards it being a model that can be transported to other communities. I am in the throes of working out how I am going to introduce it into the larger population of Sydney.’
If you are interested in getting involved in the group you can find out more on the Kindred Women Together website.