Written by founder @MandyRoseJones
The Empowered Woman Project is a blog at its core but over the last few months, it has grown into a supportive and inclusive online and offline community which opens up dialogues around mental health and body positivity. It has taken so many different forms since it was born… it is pop up events, empowering photoshoots, random acts of kindness and even an exhibition! (I will talk more on that later on!).
The project was born in March 2018. In March 2017, my marriage ended and I was involved in a house fire. I suffered a great deal of tragedy in a short space of time. The year between then and March 2018 saw my mental health deteriorate very quickly, and I ended up spending some time in hospital following a suicide attempt. I hit an all time low. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and was started on medication and therapy right away. I can categorically say that medication for my mental health, something I was reluctant to try before, has changed my life in such a positive way. When I was placed in hospital, my busy, routine-led life came to a standstill. I trained in the gym every day, weighed out every gram of food and my mental health was at the bottom of my list of priorities.
Suddenly, I had a lot of free time on my hands. So, I started writing a blog. I thought I could use it as a journal of sorts and writing really became a nice outlet for me and a form of therapy. Writing allowed me to really own my truth and get a lot of demons out of my head and onto the computer. Pretty soon after that, other women started sharing their own stories on the blog. Individuals who have lived with OCD, eating disorders, bipolar and post natal depression to name just a few. That’s why I now call it a community because there’s a lot of sharing, support and learning going on. The name literally just popped into my head one day. I knew I wanted to work on a ‘project’ which would give me a sense of purpose while going through a tricky time and I really wanted to become empowered in the process. The reason I say my focusses are mental health and body positivity is because coming away from my bodybuilding lifestyle has also been a tricky step for me. Fun pointless fact: I sign off a lot of posts with ‘TEWP’ and people have all sorts of fun alternatives for what this might mean such as ‘Tiny Evil Wandering Pest’… but I must say, it just stands for The Empowered Woman Project. And I’m tall. And not evil. Haha!
The events we run are all about helping people to become empowered and happier within themselves. The first major event that we held was in June last year. We held an event called the Body Positive Collective in Glasgow which sought to bring together an array of guest speakers who champion body positivity in their own ways. We will be running the same event again this year so keep your eyes peeled! We also do regular street missions where we partner with florists to provide random acts of kindness to the streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh. The long term plan is to have ambassadors in other cities who can take this further afield for us as it’s hugely impactful on someone’s day to receive a flower from a stranger. The reason I had this idea was that… the day I tried to end my life, I didn’t feel seen. The simple gesture of giving someone a flower is a nice reminder to someone that they ARE seen and they DO matter to the world.
I feel very fortunate that my mental health recovery has been relatively straight forward but with the project, there have certainly been hurdles along the way! I have been refused all sorts of grants and funding mainly because I didn’t know exactly what I was creating! That makes nailing a ‘purpose’ down tricky. But I have successfully used “Crowdfunder” (an online platform which relies on donations towards unique projects) to hire spaces to ensure events are free and accessible where possible, but I have also found beauty in the art of asking. You never know who may have some flowers or a space you could use for an event or a person who ‘knows a guy’. This year has taught me that collaboration is key to building a successful anything! I have met so many other amazing humans who are doing incredible work and that’s all thanks to the project! I’ve also been on an educational journey where I’ve learnt so much about gender and identity and just what it means to identify as a woman. This has taken me to trans conferences to hear from individuals from the community themselves and also allowed me to discover that sometimes it’s NOT ok to be an ally to a community you don’t know a lot about but rather to allow others to use your platform to speak about things they have gone through themselves. Speaking from experience. This again allows for collaboration and further networking!
There have been a few highlights of the project so far! The first is definitely the first time someone told me that engaging with the project is the reason they are still alive. That was just overwhelming because most of it is just my truth. It’s moving to think you’ve impacted someone’s life in such a big way. The second is all of the media opportunities which have come from the project! Double page spreads in national newspapers and speaking on national radio with Kaye Adams! A little surreal but it’s wonderful to have a platform to open up challenging dialogues around mental health. Oh! One more. Meeting Amy. Amy came to me through the project and now basically runs it with me. I love that speaking at events and engaging with the community has boosted her confidence in so many ways and I think she’s found a real sense of purpose from the work we do. So that’s cool.
I just hope that in the weeks, months and years to come, the project will serve as a reminder to other women that they are seen, they are important and they matter. I’d like, through workshops, events and continued activism, to keep empowering women to take ownership of their lives: flaws and all. I want us to continue to use Social Media to support one another. Social Media is so powerful. Let’s use it to make some positive changes! Hopefully meet some of you in the new year!