Crafting Communities: Promoting inclusion, empowerment and learning between older women
While social policy and planning documents are replete with ominous warnings about the cost of an ageing population, this article tells a different story about the productive and self sustaining networks that exist amongst older women in the community who do craftwork. From our research conducted in Victoria, Australia during 2007-2008 we discovered a resilient and committed group of older women quietly and steadily contributing to community fundraising, building social networks and providing learning opportunities to each other in diverse ways. Through our conversations with nine craftswomen we have been able to articulate clear links between the theory and models commonly espoused in the community development (CD) literature and the life enriching practices used in organising informal community craft group activities. From our interviews with the older women we provide evidence of sustained participation, the generation of social capital, and the fostering of life-long learning. While none of the women we spoke to were trained in CD and did not use language commonly associated with feminist ideology the relationship between the informal group work with principles of empowerment and self efficacy were unmistakeable. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of our findings for critical social work practice.
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