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Girls On Side: Commemorating International Women’s Day with Everton’s charity initiative

Discussing this female-only wellbeing programme with co-ordinator, John Bilsborrow

With International Women’s Day being commemorated today, Royal Blue Mersey felt it only right that its next Everton in the Community (EitC) feature focus on a women’s only programme.

Launched in partnership with Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust in 2014, Girls On Side delivers weekly sessions and work done within the programme has been proven to help its participants improve their psychological wellbeing, confidence, and reduce their use of medication under guidance from their GP.

EitC’s Living Well Co-ordinator, John Bilsborrow, spoke exclusively to Royal Blue Mersey to further explain what the wellbeing programme offers and the benefits it give its participants.

“Using the five ways to wellbeing (connect, be active, keep learning, give, take notice) as a guide to create a fulfilling programme, Girls On Side offers women who have suffered with mental health issues a safe and welcoming environment to learn new skills, make new friends and become more physically active,” he said. “This can be seen first-hand in how our participants interact with each other, staff and any visitors.

“We currently have two sessions; a physical activity session on a Wednesday, which include yoga and self-defence classes, and we have started mindful walking sessions in time for the spring.

“On a Friday we hold a coffee morning where Girls on Side participants sit back with tea, coffee, toast and catch up on the week. However, we also use this time to take part in a variety of different activities.”

Guest speakers at Girls On Side sessions have included representatives from The Women’s Organisation, whose aims are inspiring all women to aspire and achieve in whatever they set out to do. Even in 2023, many women from a number of professional and personal backgrounds still face an uphill battle for equality. The growth and impact of Women’s football is also breaking down barriers, but John believes that this is not the main reason Girls On Side participants remain engaged in the programme, as he explains:

“Though the growth of women’s football is an amazing thing, and we hope it continues growing at the pace it is, Girls on Side has been a popular programme for women’s mental health since 2014 and, other than the COVID lockdown, it has had great levels of interaction,” he said.

“With the success of the Lioness’, women’s football is at an all-time high in England, but EitC’s Girls on Side focuses on improving mental health, so football is not the main driving force for the ladies to remain engaged in the programme.”

Everton in the Community has been changing and improving the lives of so many Merseyside residents for 35 years. Programmes focus on sport, education, health and support. To find out more, or to be a part of the charity’s life-changing work, click here.