Who we are
For over 15 years, Women’s Inclusive Team has been supporting the Black and ethnic minority communities in Tower Hamlets through youth programmes, women’s empowerment projects, mental health support and our food bank and community kitchen.
Women’s Inclusive Team (WIT) was founded as the Somali Integration Team in 2004 by five young Somali mothers in Tower Hamlets who wanted to encourage messy play among other mothers and their young children. They established play and stay sessions for mothers and their toddlers twice a week in Mile End and Bethnal Green.
They quickly saw that older girls also needed safe environments to socialise and bond with their peers so WIT started organising trips and residential stays for young BAME girls. Part of these educational experiences included domestic violence workshops marking the beginning of WIT’s community safety work.
In 2006, WIT expanded our services to focus on adult women and set up women’s empowerment projects attracting some 300 women per session. We also established a women’s only centre at Bancroft House near Whitechapel to offer advice and guidance to BAME women on housing, raising children, running a household, community integration and learning English.
Queues of women from all ethnic minority groups snaked around the centre every morning as word spread that WIT was a source of support and help for women in the community.
In 2016, following research by Public Health England that highlighted Somali women had the fastest rates of mental health deterioration than any other group, mental health became a core element of our mission. PHE commissioned WIT to run mental health projects for the Somali community – the largest Black community in Tower Hamlets.
Since them we have embedded mental health support into all of our services including delivering mental health training for professionals and frontline staff in Tower Hamlets to ensure they understand the particular needs of the BAME communities they serve.
In 2018 we changed our name from the Somali Integration Team to Women’s Inclusive Team to better reflect the diversity of our community and the people we’re trying to help.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, WIT immediately responded, filling a gap in support for vulnerable people in Tower Hamlets. With the help of over 200 volunteers recruited during this period, we set up a food bank and community kitchen which provided weekly food parcels and daily hot meals to hundreds of people during the lockdown. We also set up a telephone befriending service to ensure that individuals were not isolated and lonely during this time.
In September 2020 we moved to larger premises in Mayfield House in Bethnal Green to centralise our food bank, community kitchen and advice and guidance services.
Our Covid response saw the amount of services we provide double. No staff were put on furlough during the crisis as we continued to deliver projects for women’s empowerment, inspiring young people and supporting mothers and their early years children, including reintegration into education for young people who were learning from home during school closures.
We now have 28 staff members, almost all women, living in Tower Hamlets. We continue to be guided by a board of trustees, which over the years has included over 20 women from the community who have led decision making, built our capacity, provided governance and vital community connections.
And after 16 years of working exclusively with women and their families, our Covid response services have allowed us to support men directly for the first time. We now serve everyone in the Tower Hamlets community.