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.

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. The aims were to improve social inclusion, with meetings taking place first in Ryde and later also in Cowes.

The 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
  • Take part in community activities.

The Group has grown in confidence and the members are happy to share their cultures with people on the island. They are regular participants in community events such as Mardi Gras, Arts Parade and the Children’s Carnival. They have 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. Currently, the Cowes Group has developed its own community project which provides an opportunity for school children and other groups to learn about food from different countries in their “Cultural Kitchen”.

Further development such as a Men’s Group and English Language Speaking tuition is in progress.

The Friendship Group became and continues to be our most successful project. Equals IW is currently preparing to celebrate United Nations Diversity Day in May 2019 which we hope will encompass most of the 20 plus cultural, national and religious communities on the Island. More information about our work can be found on our website https://www.equalsiw.org.uk and on Facebook.

June 2018