In the wake of the #MeToo campaign, the idea that women should support and rally behind each other has been dominating mainstream conversation. But while women are finding their voices and speaking out about traumatic experiences for – in many cases – the first time, others are focusing on how to take that idea of empowerment and turn it into a tool to serve women throughout their lives. That’s where MsMissMrs, a Firhill-based social enterprise steps in.
‘There’s not a lot we can do to control how other people behave, but we can do a lot to manage ourselves,’ says operations manager Louise McAllister. MsMissMrs – which launched in 2013 before moving into its current hub last year – runs self-empowerment programmes for women who have been through trauma. The ASDAN-accredited ‘Get SET’ (Self-Empowerment Tools), written by organisation founder Sylvia Douglas, consist of one workshop a week over eight weeks. Over 200 women have completed the programme so far.
‘The idea behind MsMissMrs is about building resilience so that we’re able to navigate our way through life’s obstacles,’ Louise explains. ‘We want to create a community of women coming together and supporting each other. In this day and age we’re quite isolated from each other, whereas we used to have these big communities – we’d watch our mother or grandmother or great-grandmother, we’d see how they managed their lives and their relationships. Nowadays, women don’t have that experience. So we wanted to create a hub bringing women together to share experiences.’
The workshops aim to challenge the ‘negative voices in our heads that tell us we’re not good enough’. Women are invited to participate in guided discussions about self-esteem, setting boundaries, self-awareness and cultivating healthy relationships – life skills which can be forgotten through hard times or which mightn’t have been taught to us at all.
With a focus on self-care, Sylvia and Louise are keen to emphasise that despite its new buzzword status, they mean it in the most practical sense of the term. ‘A lot of people think it’s putting moisturiser on, but it goes a lot deeper than that. Self-care is not a reward,’ Sylvia says. ‘It’s you giving yourself permission to say, “I am responsible for taking care of myself”. Your GP appointments, your smear tests, your dental check-ups, all of that. ‘It’s about mental health, physical health and social wellbeing.’
Sylvia, who grew up in care units, was inspired by her own experiences to establish the social enterprise. Now also training other organisations to deliver the programme she designed, she says it was only following her own recovery that she realised the importance of prioritising ones own wellbeing. She adds, ‘You get to a point where you’ve been through so much in your life that you don’t tend to believe you deserve good things. It’s almost like dimming your own light – society doesn’t benefit, your family doesn’t benefit, and most importantly you don’t benefit. I thought it would be really great to have a women-only space where you could look at the fundamentals of rebuilding yourself.’
MsMissMrs is largely funded by the sale of their signature ‘empowerment pants’ – ethically-manufactured underwear designed with the idea of women-as-their-own-superheroes in mind. Over 3,000 pairs have sold to date. The revenue generated from these is partly why the organisation is now launching new four-hour one-off workshops, aiming to cater for women who are unable to commit to the eight weeks of workshops offered on the programme.
‘Most of the women who do our courses have been through trauma, but I actually think most women have. We’ve all got… stuff,’ says Louise when considering the new intake of women for these shorter workshops. ‘I’m so glad women are talking but we need to ensure we have the tools to navigate these issues in the community on a daily basis.’ There is no referral system as such, she says, but women hear about MsMissMrs through local partners like GPs and other groups who are prominent in women’s recovery.
As well as supporting women, the social enterprise does preventative work with girls. Having developed a 72-page workbook, they encourage 11 to 13-year-old girls to think about difficult communication, setting boundaries, self-esteem, body image and stress – and discuss it with their peers. They’ve been working with Knightswood Secondary School and have received an enthusiastic response. ‘We talk to young girls and they’re so tired already,’ says Sylvia. ‘You can’t underestimate the impact social media and those daily comparisons have. But really, I don’t think there’s an age limit on the book. These issues follow you.’
Moving forward, MsMissMrs want to make their self-awareness programmes as accessible as possible to any women who might benefit from their services, as well as reaching more girls with their workbook. Until then, it’s clear that the hub will stay full to the brim with support, laughs, empowerment – and pants.