Asha’s Women Together programme boosts self confidence

The Beeston and Holbeck Women Together project are an independent group which ran for one year, formed after Asha Neighbourhood Project was successful in getting a grant from Live Well Leeds in March 2023.

During the project 120 women took part in 17 weeks of baking/cooking sessions with existing service users from the Asha mums group, Asha older women’s group and  women from the South Leeds community. The members were happy for the sessions to be open for other women in the wider communities to enable learning, social networking and to prevent isolation. They reported sharing knowledge and making friendships.

The cooking was a great hit as it built the foundation of many friendships for those who are generally isolated. They sampled food from different cultures and gained new cooking skills.

Women visited the Bradford Plaza, Bradford city centre, Leeds city centre, Leeds Museum, the German Market, Dewsbury Market and Meanwood Park. The trips allowed women to build confidence travelling on public transport and to give them a break from their usual routines. Some women were scared of travelling alone on public transports. At the end of the project they reported feeling less anxious travelling in group and more confident travelling alone in the future.

The sessions and trips had a positive mental, physical, emotional and social impact on everyone who attended. Women reported feeling happy in engaging with other women, their self-esteem and confidence increased in speaking and they developed skills to work as a team in brainstorming ideas for cooking and baking, shopping together, preparing to cook, tidying, cleaning after themselves, planning trips and learning the routes. Some women also attended the wellbeing courses learning about how to support people to improve their emotional well-being.

They learned how to deal with challenges and pressures that society puts on genders. They also learned about self-care and self-esteem through discussions and activities. We prompted conversations around memories of their lives to engage them in life stories when they gathered around for refreshments or meals. This gave them the time to reflect, and reassess their life, contributing to their mental and physical well-being. Improve social skills, family, and friends and near neighbourhood relationships.

Women who took part in the project reported barriers in looking for employment, so we used some of the funding to pay for bus tickets to three job fair events organised by Smart Works project and Leeds City Council.

Women who attended a Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) session at Asha found the stories of FGM horrifying. Many people thought FGM is something that happens in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, but were shocked to know it is also happening in the UK.

They learned that FGM includes all procedures involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or any other injury to female genital organs for non-medical reasons. They learned FGM can be carried out by someone with no medical training or equipment and can be very painful and dangerous.

We worked with the Association of Blind Asians (ABA) to deliver a session for the visually impaired. Women learned about how to get help for women who are visually impaired, how to help them build their confidence and self-esteem.

We hosted a cancer awareness session to save preventable death by encouraging individuals to take action when they feel unwell.

Two women who took part in the Beeston and Holbeck Women Together project commented:

“I was overwhelmed by loneliness, isolation, helplessness. I wanted to work and do courses but because I had small children I could not. I was able to take part in cooking sessions organised by Asha because we had access to a nursery where mothers could take turns cooking and looking after children. We were able to go out on day trips with our children” I felt emotionally better making contact with the outside world and socialising.”

“I joined the Beeston and Holbeck women together cooking sessions because I needed a break away from caring for my disabled child. We learned different styles of cooking and baking such as African, Bangladeshi, English and Pakistani. I just felt happier and physically better from coming out of the house to join cooking sessions or going out with other women.”

Asha will be running two more projects:

Unfolding Volunteer Wellbeing Course to help women increase confidence, reduce stress starting Thursday 18 April 2024. Times: 10:30am to 12:30pm

Maternal Journal (Art) classes for pregnant and new mums, every Wednesday for 8 weeks starting from 22 May 2024. 10am to 12pm. Maternal Journal is a creative journaling course aimed at pregnant women to improve mental health and peer support. These art classes include antenatal education so that women can learn more about feeding, labour, birth, emotional wellbeing and signposting to local service.

To book onto either of these couses please email me: or call (0113) 270 4600.















This post was written by Tahena Ahmed

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