22 March 2024

Celebrating Via Redbridge’s Women’s Safe Space

At the end of 2023, the team at Via Redbridge invited valued local partners, service users, and colleagues to the launch celebration for their Women’s Safe Space. Attendees were able to learn about and recognise the significance of the women-only space.

A roundtable discussion took place which was incredibly impactful and led by women sharing inspiring stories about their experiences with the space. Everyone also had the opportunity to give important feedback about the space, such as how it can be improved, and how more can be provided within the community.

The conversation was chaired by Service Manager Helen O’Connor, who’s a White Ribbon Champion and part of the organisational steering group. Our organisational White Ribbon Ambassador Tom Sackville was also delighted to listen and take part.

Many women spoke about how the space is somewhere they can relax, and speak openly with other women in the group.


Here are what some of the women said about the safe space:

“I like coming to the safe space because I enjoy the company, joining a craft, encouraging one another and hearing everybody’s progress.”

“This is what I look forward to throughout my week. Coming here on a Wednesday, sharing experiences, love, and stories with one another.”

“I come to the women’s safe space because it’s somewhere that I feel comfortable, it’s good to keep busy and socialise with others. It’s just a good space to come if you feel down. Everyone’s really supportive and the staff are amazing as well.”


Helen O’Connor, Service Manager at Via R3 said:

“In Redbridge, our local authority has unequivocally committed to take measures to end violence against women and girls. As well as conventional crime prevention methods, they have also conducted safety walks, bystander training, and conducted a survey to understand the experiences of women and girls in the borough.

Via, as a White Ribbon accredited organisation delivering several services for the communities of Redbridge, stand with others to be part of the solution to ending violence against women and girls whilst also making sure our services are accessible and safe for women and girls who are currently experiencing or have survived it. But whilst our Safe Space – and others like it – can provide a crucial haven where women can access essential advice and support that is related to their experiences of violence and abuse, these spaces have so much more to offer than protection.

As our launch has shown, and as our service users tell us, these spaces can be the catalyst for women to find their voice and confidence, express themselves creatively, develop their employment skills, where they can be seen by a wide range of services ‘where they are’, learn and practice self-care, and pursue a wide range of goals with the support of peers and professionals.”


Tom Sackville, Executive Director of Services at Via said: “It is brilliant to hear how what the women in the service said they needed has become the fantastic space that we saw. We heard from the women how important it was that they had somewhere they felt safe and able to be themselves, and it was incredible to see how they support each other in that space. We know how important it is that women have these spaces, and the difference it can make to their lives. It was really exciting to see a number of our partners in the community in attendance and I am really looking forward to seeing how, by working together and really listening to those who need the service, the space continues to develop.”


Charlene Samuda, Recovery Practitioner who runs the space said: “I couldn’t have hoped for anything better really. When we started this safe space it began with one of our ladies saying that they didn’t actually feel comfortable in some of the mixed groups that we were doing, and it would be really good to have a space for women who just wanted to have groups with women only – so I decided to start that as a group. It went from a group, to a ninety minute safe space, and from that it’s now grown into four hours an afternoon – so it’s really good! I think the women kind of speak for themselves about what they have achieved here, what they want here, and I’m just glad to be here to be able to support them!”


Nakisha, Volunteer/Peer Mentor and Art Project lead said: “The Women’s Safe Space is very important for me as it provides a confidential, welcoming environment for women with shared lived experience with supportive female staff. The safe space is a creative, therapeutic time for women to participate in activities such as art, acupuncture, meditation, and complete accredited self-development courses such as Next Steps and Nova. There’s also a chance for women to pamper themselves once a month with a nail technician. Many of the women have expressed that they look forward to coming to the safe space and socialising with other women, and are grateful for the service as it’s aided their recovery journey and abstinence. I’m thankful to contribute to such an amazing service supporting vulnerable women.”