According to the 2019 ‘Women’s Rights in the Ombudsman’s Activities’ report, women’s knowledge and awareness of their rights and the principles of civic society is a major social problem in Poland. Activities and research that our organisation has been engaging in indicate that many women in Białystok would like to become members of a permanent self-help group and to know more about their rights, civic initiatives, or the family and work crisis management. Many of them pointed to the need for networking with other females, for exchanging experience, information and mutual support resources, for social meetings and chats. During our initiatives implemented so far, we noticed that women were willing to initiate social activities, but they often lacked knowledge and competence to do so.
We address these needs by commencing a mentoring programme for women of Białystok, called IKAR (Inkubator Kobiecego Aktywnego Rozwoju/Incubator of Women’s Active Development). It will include workshops on legal and civic aspects of human rights, self-help, advocacy, leveraging one’s strengths, assertiveness, violence-free communication, and mediating competencies. Each participant will conduct her own project for other women, engaging local community and utilising the acquired knowledge and mentors’ support. Furthermore, we will organise a social campaign on the history and heritage of women in Podlasie, feminist ideas and philosophy, as well as the process of gaining public rights by females. Our experience shows that stories of women who had considerable impact in their environment motivates and empowers other females. We will also create a network for women representing different backgrounds – we will organise a cycle of 8 breakfasts giving participants an opportunity to present their initiatives, discuss social activity, and learn more about the IKAR project.