Our story began in March 2005 when a small group of motivated people encouraged and supported by the Isle of Wight Council together with the Hampshire Constabulary was formed. We were determined to celebrate equality and diversity on the Isle of Wight and to raise awareness and promote anti-discriminatory practices and attitudes. Equals IW gained charitable status on 23rd January 2012 with registered charity number 1145585.
Our vision is that the Isle of Wight will become an even more inclusive, supportive and friendly place to live, work and visit for all people. We want the Isle of Wight to be a place of true equality of opportunity, peace and respect for all. We are working together with other organisations and individuals to achieve this vision.
As part of the aim to support equality and diversity on the Isle of Wight, Equals offers two Friendship Groups, those being Friendship Group for Women and Friendship Group for Family and Friends. Both groups have a core focuses to attract members coming from an ethnic background. Nationalities include Indonesian, Filipino, British, Thai and Bangladesh, along with Chinese, Polish, African and Moroccan.
Early Equals IW community events have included the Cultural Diversity Days in May 2006, May 2008 and May 2010 with a variety of participants such as Morris dancers, African storytelling, Irish dancers, Samba music, Latin dancing, Folk singing, Belly dancers, Fashion show and foods from different countries.
As one of its activities, Equals IW decided to do further work in outreach by engaging with members of the ethnic minority communities, organisations and groups concerned with equality and diversity on the island. This work highlighted the lack of diversity awareness on the island and that people from ethnic minority communities, particularly women, felt isolated. To address this gap Equals IW have since April 2009 supported a Friendship Group project for women, now called the Ladies Friendship Group. The aims were to improve social inclusion, with meetings taking place first in Ryde and later also in Cowes and Newport.
The Ladies Friendship Group creates a safe environment where women from different ethnic backgrounds can meet new people, take part in activities and training, get information about services and develop confidence. They have the opportunity to have their views heard by local statutory and voluntary groups, take part in discussions relevant to issues they have and take part in community activities.
It provides a welcoming place to women of both minority and majority ethnic backgrounds to come together and make new friends, get advice and find support. They usually meet fortnightly at the WOW - Isle of Wight Women's Centre, Newport, Isle of Wight.
Members take part in fun activities and may be participate in some training such as the Five A Day programme run by MCEnhancement. The groups has taken part in Island carnivals and Mardi Gras Parade, The Kite Festival, Cultural and Diversity Events, Art and Craft Fun Activities, Information Technology Training, Culture Kitchen that provided an opportunity for school children and other groups to learn about food from different countries. Other activities have included Back to Work Training, and Private Swimming Sessions.
The Ladies Friendship Group has grown in confidence and the members are happy to share their cultures with people on the island. The group has organised several events including Thai and Bengali New Year celebrations, Christmas and Eid joint celebrations and a New Year’s Party with ethnic food and dances.
Equals IW expended the concept of Friendship Groups in 2019 with formation of The Friendship Group for Family and Friends that also enables men to join activities and projects. During 2019 The Friendship Group for Family and Friends took part in Mardi Gras Parade, Newport illuminated Carnival winning a first prize entry. This was repeated at Ryde Illuminated Carnival by wining another 1st Prize at the Island’s biggest and oldest carnival against very high competition.