Women Behind CLiCK - Allison
In this edition of Women Behind CLiCK, Anna sits down with Allison (CLiCK Women’s Worker, Ayrshire & Dumfries) to find out about her experience, approach to support, and the role she thinks CLiCK can play in amplifying women’s voices.
So, Allison, tell us a bit about you and your background and how started on your journey to become a CLiCK Women’s Worker.
Allison: I was involved in the Licence Trade for about 11 years, and it was in community public houses, so I was always supporting people! Then I started doing some charity working. I knew I was steering towards another career. I thought: “I’m going to go to college and do some social care stuff and do some voluntary work”. I went to college and they were like “naw, naw – we think you should be doing the HNC”. So, I thought: “Cool…this is going to be hard”. But I done it. Whilst doing some voluntary work in domestic abuse and sexual violence, I managed to get a job in homelessness – working in women’s resettlement. I then got another post working within criminal justice, working with care experienced young women in psychiatric inpatient care. It was amazing – I done it for four years and I loved it. Then I thought: “Right, what am I going to do now?”. So, I done a degree and I just kept going and going. Every time I got into a service with different women, I experienced new challenges and gained new knowledge – just new ways to support people. It’s been a tight few years, but I’ve loved it!
What was it about the role of Women’s Worker that appealed to you?
A: I’ve seen a lot of disempowerment and inequality with running community pubs for 11 year. I’ve seen how things can be between men and women. I’ve seen things that just made me think that it’s so unequal in this life. That’s probably where the passion came to help women. Just help them find their voice.
In terms of helping other women find their voices, do you think that’s part of your values that guide your work?
A: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think, you know, as I say I’ve worked with so many different women – different age groups, different ethnicities. I think some women are completely unsure about how to use their voice. Maybe they’ve never had that power. I’ve worked with women that have been in a continual cycle of abuse, that have lived in that from childhood right through to domestic abuse. I think for some people, having somebody that shows them respect and actively listens to them and offers them these other options…it just gies people that opportunity to use their voice with just a wee bit of support. Maybe sometimes for the first time in their life. So, I think that’s what guides me and makes me the person I am.
Are there any other ways, apart from the listening and empowering, that you would approach supporting someone?
A: I think sometimes we underestimate the power of just active listening, so I always make sure that I’m truly listening to a human being if they’re telling me their story. Let them vent, scream, cry. Let them communicate in whatever way they choose to do it. And I just listen. I don’t know how many women I’ve worked with that have went: “I was screaming and crying and balling and you were totally listening to me there and you didn’t interrupt me.” I think we underestimate the power of listening. Just let people get it out and be there, just be there for people.
How would you go about breaking down barriers that can sometimes prevent women from accessing that kind of support?
A: I think there’s barriers, like societal barriers, because of things like stigma and judgement. For example, I’ve worked with women that are embarrassed to go to the job centre themselves because they live in homeless accommodation or they were in psychiatric inpatient care. I think a lot of women I’ve worked with think they’re standing on the outskirts of society and that they’re not part of it. They don’t feel part of anything. I think it’s about encouraging them and saying: “You’ve no had a good journey so far, but let’s see what we can do to try and make your journey a bit better”. It’s about understanding, validating, and seeing what you can do with the woman to help make things more positive. I think that first point of contact is very important when you’re working with women. It’s about making someone feel valued instantly and treating them respectfully. Doing your best for them. And if they’ve no got the strength at that time to use their voice, it’s about advocating on their behalf a wee bit until they find that strength.
How do you think CLiCK as a service is able to meet the needs and wants of women who sell or exchange sex?
A: I think that the service offers a lot of different aspects, we’ve got our directory – I know it’s a work in progress – but we’re on that now and I think that will be amazing for women to find things in their area. I think the one-to-one support would really help women in terms of what they need and want right now, whether it’s emotional or practical support. It’s all about asking “What do you need? What can we help you with?”. In terms of women using their voices and being heard, I think working and speaking with you Anna – there’s massive potential there. I think as referrals increase, that next bit will take place. Women really do want to use their voice. Women really do want to be heard. I’m just no sure if they’ve been given a clear enough opportunity to do that in this project yet, but the potential is there. We just need to get the message out there.
What are your hopes for women that contact CLiCK?
A: I just hope that we can offer them support, whether that be emotional or practical or guidance. Whatever they need. I just know that we’ll all do our best to try and offer that. I hope that women feel we’re here for them and they know that.
You’ve talked a lot throughout our chat about women’s voices, women finding their voices, and using that voice. How do you think women’s voices and experience could shape CLiCK and other services?
A: Women are going to be the best people to tell us what we’re doing right and wrong, aren’t they? Saying “You know, if you done that differently, or if you done a bit more of that.” They’re going to be the ones to tell us. I think over time as referrals increase there’s the potential for women’s voices to really shape the health sector and social care sector – I think a lot of people are not aware of the needs of women who sell or exchange sex. I think first though, we need to keep continuing to build relationships with women. Just be proper person-centred – what do you need? What do you think would help you? What do you think would be better?
Absolutely! So, what would you say to a woman to encourage her to become involved with CLiCK? What could she expect from us?