Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

This is the part of my job that I love.

Let’s for a minute forget that printers and computers and internet connections seem destined to frustrate me forever, and look at what happened this morning.

I’m just back in the office after a typically boisterous and joyful meeting. But this meeting was a special one, an atypical one. Held at Southampton Voluntary Services, it was the ‘only women who come to this meeting will get jobs and you have to bring all your immigration and benefits information stuff and you have to be on time as we have loads to do meeting’.

15 women brought everything. Five others brought nearly everything. Only one woman was unable to come, which was a real shame as she’s lovely, and has two brilliant daughters, and really wants to work, but I hope to be able to work out a way of getting the information from her.

And the best part? The meeting started at 10 – and nearly everyone was there. Some were there before me!

It was deliciously chaotic – 24 adults, an uncountable number of children (they were under tables, running round, playing, so difficult to keep track of) a queue of pushchairs, clattering teaspoons as heaps of sugar were dumped into tea. The lovely adviser from the Neighbourhood Advice Centre and I took to waving our arms about if we needed to be heard above the laughter and chatter, and thrillingly, amazingly, it’s sorted. Copies of all the immigration documentation we need have been taken, and those that didn’t bring any should be able to come and see me on Monday. It looks like there should be little danger of anyone’s benefits being hit – we’re going to start off with just three hours a week per woman, which will give only a tiny income – but enough to call their own, and to give them new experiences through earning it.

I’m taken aback by how relieved I am. Months of work – and I was in the room with the women that will be making YOUR pants! And mine! And theirs!

It was lovely to be able to say at the end that the English language assessments will be starting during the week of the 20th April, and have a real firm date set. The women were glad to hear that too – we’ve been talking for almost a year and I’m sure it feels like it’s been a long time coming. The issue of childcare popped up again and will continue to I’m sure – it is a nightmare trying to work out how women can work when childcare costs so much, and there are so few places anyway. The hope is that some sort of informal arrangement can be worked out for the women that have little ones, that they can share between them. This caused a bit of concern at first but it sounds like three hours should be mangeable. I wish I could do more to help, but I can’t.

And now there’s a pre holiday rush to get through. I’ve a week off from Tuesday 7th to the 14th inclusive, and so have a day and a half in the office before then. In which time I need to complete risk assessments and a contract to go to the organisation funding the training, get the remaining immigration papers sorted, let the English trainer know who will be attending (they, thankfully, will take over all the liaison with the women over that now) finalise my own job description and the business plan, and somehow find a working printer. For a brief few hours yesterday I had a laserjet which was lovely until the curse of Becky hit it and it stopped working with an error no-one had seen before.

But that’s a detail. Today has been brilliant. One of those real landmark days. Here’s to many more. Hooray!


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