Leadership in the Community

The SOAR Project is committed to developing programmes in response to communityneed, and therefore welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with the Southern Traveller Health Network (STHN) to support the development of leadership capacity within the Traveller community. The STHNwas established in the 1990s as a regional community development network for five Traveller projects: The Traveller Visibility Group (TVG), Travellers of North Cork (TNC), Cork Travellers Women’s Network (CTWN), West Cork Travellers (WCT), and Kerry Travellers Health and Community Development Project (KTCP). The network engages in developmental work with Traveller women building their confidence and skills as well as addressing issues pertinent to the community. In 2020, the STHN identified the need for accredited, culturally appropriate leadership training for participants. The part-time Level 6 Leadership in the Community Certificate was co-designed and co-delivered by the STHN and Adult and Continuing Education (ACE), UCC.

Twenty-one Traveller women completed the programme that consisted of four modules: Social Analysis of Community, Principles and Practices of Community Work, History and Theory of Community Development and Group Work Skills.Due to the success of the programme and the women’s aspiration to progress further, a second year was developed offering Level 7 accredited qualification; nineteen women completed the additional year.  An evaluation of the programme identified factors that enabled Traveller participation:

  • Project Support: Traveller Projects played a key role in preparing and supporting participants.
  • Inclusive Environment: Flexibility from ACE in adapting the course to respond to students’ needs.
  • Family and Class: Support from family and classmates.
  • Teaching Staff: Teaching staff were non-judgemental, supportive and approachable.
  • Course Costs: The SOAR Project funded course fees; Access UCC funded course materials.
  • Participation Costs: The STHN funded a participation allowance, Access UCC supported the women to apply to the Student Assistance Fund.

This programme demonstrates that a partnership approach between Traveller projects and third level colleges can provide inclusive and effective progression opportunities for Travellers. It also highlights what measures can be taken to improve access to higher education. The evaluation report Pavee Beoir Leaders: Traveller Women in Higher Education can be accessed on the Evaluation and Publications page.