The Illuminate Tapestry – Network of International Women (NIW)

The Network of International Women (NIW) was established in 2017 in Brighton and Hove and is run by volunteers. NIW offers social and personal support to women from diverse ethnic backgrounds.  It provides a space to come together, develop social connections, build relationships across differences and participate in wider community dialogue. A range of activities are offered, including cooking and eating together, mentoring, one-to-one language support, education, training and employment connections.

The most successful and impactful activity to date has been the “Illuminate Tapestry”. Women from over 28 different nationalities have created a tapestry showing where they are from and what it means to be living in the city. Weekly sewing sessions in the central library have enabled women to tell their stories, develop friendship, gain new insights, and enhance a sense of belonging, self -confidence and achievement.

Network volunteers provide personal support and advocacy where needed, and offer a bridge to city-wide services and the Network’s other activities and events. Some women are now beginning to volunteer in the Library, which is becoming a ‘Library of Sanctuary’ in partnership with the Network of International Women. The tapestry hangs in the central library and has become a symbol of diversity and a catalyst for dialogue. It journeys around schools, inspiring children to explore their own ‘identity and belonging’, and encourage their families to become part of the school community.

Now over 14 metres long and growing, Illuminate is in demand for showing at community festivals and events. The NIW was established with a small grant of £3,000 from the City Council.