SWINDON'S female role models are being celebrated for the important they play in the town's community to mark International Women's Day today.

Wiltshire Community Foundation is highlighting the work of three charities whose efforts help vulnerable people around the town: the Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service, the Nelson Trust, STEP Swindon and the Harbour Project.

Joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “We fund some wonderful groups whose projects protect, nurture and champion women and we think that is worth applauding every day, but particularly on International Women’s Day, which exists to honour the achievements of women, raise awareness about equality and fundraise for female-focused charities.

“Among the many groups we support in Swindon there are many, many amazing women doing wonderful work to make life better for their communities and we want to highlight their contribution too.”

The Nelson Trust in Victoria Road empowers women who are trying to overcome a range of issues including addiction, abusive relationships, working in the sex industry or suffering mental health problems.

The group works with around 400 victims and received a community foundation grant from its High Sheriff’s Fund to launch an art group to help women express themselves and give them a creative outlet.

STEP Swindon works with young people on the margins of education and received an £8,000 Tampon Tax Fund grant to run a project with teenage girls from two schools deemed to be at risk of exploitation online.

The project is based at The Nythe Centre and looked at body image, self-esteem and the impact of reality TV with girls who felt pressured to post inappropriate pictures on social media by boys and even older men.

Project leader Johanna Bryant said: “We were finding we were getting more schools identifying concerns that they had young girls who were putting themselves at risk and we had more girls that were meeting with the wrong peer groups, sending indecent images, using social media excessively and bullying other females because they had an image to keep up."

The Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service, formerly known as Swindon Women's Aid, has worked in the town since 1975 and in the last year alone has had three coronavirus response fund Grants totalling more than £18,000. The latest grant for the group, which operates helpline and a refuge for women in abusive relationships, will revamp the gardens and create seating areas at its shelter.

Director Emma Rawlings said: “We want to have the capacity to be able to grow plants that give the staff something to pick for posies to brighten up the apartments when residents first arrive from whatever hell they’ve escaped.

“When new women and their children come into the refuge, it will be delightful to show them, a lovely welcoming space, which is inviting and where women and children will want to go. This will really add value to the women and children's mental health and wellbeing.”

The Harbour Project supports 200 asylum seekers and refugees in the town but has been forced to switch its regular English lessons from face-to-face sessions to Zoom because of Covid restrictions.

Chief executive Claire Garrett said the easier access to lessons has encouraged more women to take part.

She added: “Some of the women are quite nervous in a male-dominated environment and are having one-to-one help but they wouldn’t have felt able to come in before, so we will look at continuing that.

The group received a £4,500 grant from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund.

Fiona Oliver added: “These are just a few of the groups, many run by passionate, resourceful and inspirational women, who are working to give girls and women more self-confidence and more opportunities to change their lives and reach their potential. We are really proud of the part we play in that and also very humbled by the work they do.”

Find out more about the community foundation at wiltshirecf.org.uk