Women's Empowerment Centre

Women's Empowerment Centre

We are embarking on an exciting new chapter in the organisation’s structure: we are launching a social enterprise trading arm.

Women’s Aid’s groups have done an outstanding job over the years of ensuring that women feel like they can speak up about domestic abuse, be heard and receive the support that they need. This means that there is increased demand for our services.  We want to meet this demand, maintain our high standards, and keep on meeting the changing needs of people who use our services. To do all this, we need to become more financially independent and sustainable. So, we have turned to entrepreneurship.

Globally, only 29% of women’s rights organisations use income generation activities.
In the UK, only 4% of social enterprises focus on women’s empowerment.
Less than 5% of OECD members’ aid budgets go towards projects that explicitly target gender equality and women’s empowerment, and of this only 0.5% goes to women’s rights organisations.

[Source: “Activist to entrepreneur: The role of social enterprise in supporting women’s empowerment” (The British Council)]

We always did like to buck trends!

The Enterprise

Our vision is for a Women’s Empowerment Centre. It will empower women through promoting women’s entrepreneurship by providing a much-needed women focused co-working space in Midlothian. It will also enable us to deliver holistic and integrated support for our service users.

Multi agency co-location in an accessible building will:
  • Make our service more inclusive
  • Reduce stigma and danger for those engaging with services
  • Create a much needed one stop shop for the numerous support services required by our service users
  • Increase ease of access to additional holistic therapy
  • Increase the long-term impact of our support.
A social enterprise trading arm bringing in un-reserved income will:
  • Help us mitigate our vulnerability to socio-political changes
  • Ensure consistency and stability of service provision
  • Improve staff wellbeing by increasing job security
  • Increase our ability to respond to service user feedback and changing needs
  • Enable us to grow, evolve and adapt to changes to the environment we operate in.
A safe space designed by women for women will:
  • Provide an oasis for women who need respite
  • Increase access to social activities and personal development
  • Encourage community building and, in turn, peer-to-peer support
  • Support and encourage women’s empowerment through entrepreneurship
  • Promote a culture of self-empowerment rather than a more passive “empowered-empowered” model.
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Holistic Support

The Women’s Empowerment Centre will become a place for holistic support and long term healing. The centre will be the home for Women’s Aid East and Midlothian’s head office, where we will deliver our core services from, including drop-in support, group work and training. But it will provide a one stop shop for survivors of domestic abuse to access all their essential support needs, as well as various types of therapy, group work, community building activities and other means of empowerment.

Domestic abuse has a broad range of impacts, including from social isolation, decreased feeling of self-confidence and self-worth, financial dependence, job loss, homelessness and substance misuse. It is essential to provide survivors with support to understand and make sense of their situation and the abuse they have been subjected to, but it is also paramount to provide support to help rebuild those aspects of a women’s life that have been taken away by the abuse.

Did you know?

1 in 4 women

will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime

40% of all homeless women

state being subjected to domestic abuse as the main contributing factor

15x more likely

to abuse alcohol due to being subjected to domestic abuse

1 in 3 women

who experienced domestic abuse experience mental health problems as a result of trauma

[Sources: Women’s Aid, Scottish Women’s Aid, Shelter]

The Women’s Empowerment Centre will include:

Drop in sessions for complimentary statutory services

Survivors of domestic abuse require access to a range of services, from financial aid to substance misuse support, housing support and more. Currently, they are required to proactively engage with each of these services individually, putting them in danger and increasing their stress in an already difficult situation. The Centre will provide drop-in session with all relevant services survivors frequently need to consult, so they can access the well-rounded support they need in a safe and familiar space.

A space for learning and development

Lack of confidence in their own ability to live independently due to perceived lack of skills can be a barrier for women to leave their abusive partners (e.g. not knowing how to maintain the car, pay for commodities or use online banking). The centre will provide an array of learning sessions and workshops for women to learn and build their confidence in their own ability

A space for community building and peer to peer support

Women who experience domestic abuse frequently experience isolation. Perpetrators will prevent their partner or ex-partner from having any form of contact with friend and family, leaving them alone with their abuser. This has many impacts on the survivors, and building new connections and support networks is a highly effective way to heal from abuse. The centre will provide a space for women to meet new people, socialise and develop new bonds. This community building process is extremely powerful, particularly as it can also create a peer-to-peer support network that can strengthen the impact of formal support.

A welcoming, inclusive and accessible safe space

A common myth is that women experiencing domestic abuse understanding what is being done to them. Many women do not identify their relationship as abusive, and would not identify themselves as a survivor. The centre will provide a women-focused community space where all women, regardless of whether they identify as a survivor of domestic abuse can come and relax. It will provide an oasis for those who need it, while also reducing the stigma for all women who go through the centre’s door, making support more accessible and inclusive.

Women’s Co-working Space

The Women’s Empowerment Centre project aims to create a women-focused co-working space. It will provide a safe environment for women to work, network and access the support they need to run and grow their businesses.

Scottish women want to become entrepreneurs. A reported 2.5 million women want to launch businesses in the UK, which would equate to an additional £10 billion being injected into the British economy. However many barriers are in the way of women accomplishing their goals such as lack of investment (less than 1% of venture capital investment is spend on women led enterprise), lack of gender sensitive resources and networks.

women in co-working space

Did you know?

52% of women

will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime


could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as UK men

2.5 million women

want to launch their own business

69% of people

said they feel more successful since joining a co-working space

[sources: The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, TUC & The Everyday Sexism project, Emergent Research and GCUC; UK based statistics]

Benefits of the women’s co-working space:

Access to resources

Access to resources has been highlighted as a key barrier to women’s enterprise. Providing accessible, gender sensitive business advice, support and tools has been marked as a priority to enabling women’s entrepreneurship. This is what the centre will do: collate the wealth of information, training and support available for women in Scotland in one location, as well as being a focal point for partner organisation working on enabling female enterprise.

Access to networks

64% of entrepreneurs believe that networking is important to business success, but women report low rates of networking connections and a lack of confidence in their networking skills. Co-working spaces are an excellent way to create and grow networks: 82% of people working in co-working spaces globally said co-working has expanded their professional networks, and 80% said they turn to other co-working members for help or guidance. The centre will be a hub for women’ networking and for mutual support.


Successful entrepreneur and CEO Eileen Carrey was shocked when she moved her business into a new, state of the art co-working space, that had a pump for beer but nowhere for women to pump breastmilk! Many working spaces are designed without taking women’s needs into consideration. The centre will be designed by women for women. Through consultation and research, the centre’s design will reflect what women running a business truly need to work effectively.

A safe space to work

The #MeToo movement has shown how ubiquitous sexual harassment truly is. This is obviously not conducive to a productive work environment. Currently, women entrepreneurs who are just starting their businesses can either work from public spaces such as coffee shops, or work in traditional rental office spaces, both of which expose them to harassment. So, many entrepreneurs opt to work from home. The centre will offer an alternative option, a safe fit for purpose work space within which to thrive.

[Sources: Emergent Research and GCUC, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, The Alison Rose Review, Scottish Government]

What difference does this make?

Women are more equal and they are empowered
There are more women-led businesses and increased investment in Mid and East Lothian
Women have improved financial security and better health and wellbeing
More opportunities and fewer barriers for women
Women are more visible
Midlothian is seen as pioneering a new and exciting approach to women’s empowerment
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Get Involved

Partner up

Are you a budding female entrepreneur thinking ahead? A networking expert who could use this space? An investor looking for the next innovative project? Partnership working is the best way to get great results, so let us know how and why you would like to be involved with us by emailing info@womensaideml.org.

Let us know your thoughts

The centre will be designed by and for the community it serves. We are always looking for feedback and suggestions of how to make it reflect the needs of both our service users and female entrepreneurs. Drop us a line at info@womensaideml.org to let us know what you think the centre should include.


Want to support the project? We are running a fundraising campaign to support the cost of setting up the centre. Every little helps! Consider making us your official sponsor charity for your next marathon, or for you next birthday give away. If you need any promotional materials sent to your to do this, let us know. And if you can’t afford to donate yourself, please share our crowdfunding page on social media.