Planning for participation

As a feminist organisation, Women’s Health West (WHW) works to increase women’s civic participation. We believe that participation in decisions that affect women’s lives is a right, not a privilege, so we facilitate that participation to increase women’s influence on outcomes and decisions. Importantly, WHW recognises that women are the experts in their lives and we value their voices, knowledge and experience.

Women’s right to, and realisation of, full social, political and economic participation is an integral element of gender equity. WHW needs local women to be involved so we have begun to develop an organisational client and community participation strategy designed to increase women’s meaningful participation in the service.

The need for meaningful community participation is now well acknowledged across political, health and social service sectors. The benefits of client and community participation include:

  • Making services more responsive, accessible and tailored to community needs
  • Ensuring agencies are accountable to the communities they serve
  • Supporting social inclusion of marginalised and disadvantaged groups
  • Engaging clients in skills development, networking, access to information and resources, and social connectedness

In August 2012 we established an internal working group to develop our strategy resulting in:

  • Preliminary consultations with community women about participation at WHW
  • A background paper to identify good practice in community and client participation
  • A definition of client and community participation at WHW
  • A WHW cross-team training workshop to explore client and community participation
  • An audit of WHW policies and practices to identify where and how community and client participation currently occurs
  • Development of a ‘Spheres of Participation’ conceptual model to guide the development of the strategy

The next steps for the working group include developing principles and goals for the strategy, looking at how we can engage clients in development of the strategy in an appropriate and meaningful way, and planning further consultations with community women on participation at WHW.

If you are interested in participating at WHW or would like more information please contact info@whwest.org.au