SESWN (Serving and Ex Serving Womens Network) was created by a group of like minded people who had a vision to connect women from both serving and ex serving backgrounds, living in NI, with the aim to build a support system and ensure that no serving, or ex serving woman struggles within her personal or professional community. Diversity, experience, skills, and talents from all backgrounds are welcomed in this community, and it is hoped as long as a need is demonstrated SESWN will be there to help support, guide, mentor and lift each other up.
Relationships and friendships that are formed during military service are unique when compared to almost any other workplace, because more often than not you are not just colleagues, you are brothers and sisters in arms. With the exception of domestic blue light services, there are very few career paths where you are risking your life in the protection of others; and then add in the dynamics of war & conflict zones, and this presents yet another dimension on top of that.
The service of women in HM Forces has evolved beyond comprehension in the last 50 years. This year, fifty years ago, a special act of Parliament had to be agreed for the function and creation of a female role within the Ulster Defence Regiment who became known as the ‘Greenfinches’ – this inclusion of a womens role within the Regiment utilised females mostly in the capacity of searchers and radio operators. This act saw women taking a much more active role on front line operations which would go on to help shape military doctrine for the future. Indeed today, all roles within the military are open to women including Submariners, Tank Regiments, RAF Regiment, all of which previously were exclusively male career paths.
Recognising the changing landscape of female service within the military is important, and it is also important to provide opportunities for women to support each other from all walks of life, both during service and afterwards. This is particularly important for Northern Ireland which still presents a very unique security environment when compared to the rest of Great Britain. It is for this reason that the Serving & Ex Serving Women’s Network NI was born. A mechanism to allow service women and veterans based and residing in NI to come together to support, network and provide peer support where needed.
Earlier this year SESWN was launched on HMS Caroline in Belfast which brought together women from all services, backgrounds, ages and experience, giving a very diverse feel, but united in the commonality of military service. The launch event was headlined by guest speaker Liz McConaghy, a former RAF Loadmaster, who gave an inspiring and candid presentation about her life in service, the challenges that came at the end, and how these challenges followed her once she had left service. Liz has since written a book about these experiences from journal notes she wrote whilst she worked on her recovery following a significant period of poor mental health, ‘Chinook Crew Chick’. Liz’s presentation highlighted the importance of having a support network that understood the unique challenges that come with having military service and also how working in a male dominated environment, perceptions, abilities and coping strategies sometimes differ.
The Serving & Ex Serving Women’s Network NI is now on its way to become a more established entity after assessing need, and is open to any female service person or veteran living in Northern Ireland. Monthly zoom meetings alongside quarterly events aim to bring together this community of talent and experience, in a supportive environment. On Saturday 12 August SESWN held their first afternoon tea which was successful in bringing together 30 female veterans during a busy holiday period, with the next event, an activity day, to be held in October.
For more information on SESWN or attending a future SESWN event – please Register at www.seswn.co.uk or Email: hello.seswn.co.uk