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Grassroots collective for women of colour to 'tackle the big issues'

New project WOC Azadi Collective has been awarded funding to organise around transformative justice and feminism.

Women of Steel statue by Martin Jennings no photo credit required

Women of Steel statue by Martin Jennings, located at Barker's Pool in Sheffield city centre.

The WOC Azadi Collective is a new group for women of colour in Sheffield and Rotherham to come together and work in solidarity to combat the patriarchy, white supremacy and colourism, the first of its kind in South Yorkshire.

Founder Ishah Jawaid told Now Then why she felt this new collective was needed for women of colour right now. “I noticed a gap in the region when I desperately tried to find these spaces for myself to be a part of - spaces that weren’t white led - and I just couldn't find them.”

She adds that she wanted to establish a group at grassroots level that “incorporates holistic practices into frontline and advocacy work, but also create and hold a space where we could just have conversations with each other.”

Some of the conversations may be quite challenging, as the part of this project’s goal is to challenge and discuss some of the more contentious issues that exist within communities. “As much as we can be harmed by racism, sexism and colonialism, we ourselves can sometimes become the oppressors. So this work is also about acknowledging that our identities are intersectional and our communities complex.”

WOC Azadi Collective logo
WOC Azadi Collective.

The idea behind the collective is to set up a series of free workshops for Black, brown and racialised women in South Yorkshire to talk about their thoughts and lived experiences. It will be a series of six workshops, hosted online from April to May, covering topics such as global and intersectional feminism, and collective remembering and storytelling. The workshops may run a second time during the summer, depending on demand, Jawaid says.

The WOC Azadi Collective is open to all women and non-binary people, and Jawaid has put both inclusivity and accessibility at the forefront of this project. “Accessibility is so important in any space, but especially in a space that centres those from marginalised backgrounds.”

She adds that she wants to break away from the common misconception that these communities are 'hard to reach'. If anyone does have accessibility needs, such as childcare costs or access to the internet, they can contact the collective for support.

While the workshops will work to dismantle harmful structural forces, they will also focus on how to rebuild after these forces are dismantled, envisioning an alternative and radical future that’s safe from harm.

When asked about her hopes for this new project, Jawaid says, “I want it to grow into something bigger and long-term, organising and working with other groups that do similar work across Sheffield, and ultimately across the entire region, so that we can really tackle the big issues.”

The next online workshop is on Monday 12 April, and you can book your place here.

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