To mark International Women’s Day in 2012, I interviewed Senia Dedic, the remarkable founder of local group WoW Mums. This inspirational band of women support each other through some pretty hard times – and also find the energy to support the wider community through volunteer work.
Senia is an inspiration to local women – and a fun, kind and energetic presence in the life of Wandsworth.
Her journey to Battersea is all the more remarkable as it began in Sarajevo, where she was born and where she experienced the long siege during the Bosnian War. She says: “I remember being in a basement cellar hearing the bombs explode above us. In one night I counted 586, before I stopped counting. My fiancé, now husband, was in the newly formed Bosnian army and to my despair went to the front line.”
“Then water, electricity, telephone and food ran out. Bread queues were bombed. I spent four months in the local communal basement with my parents and our neighbours. Mum and Dad were begging me to leave the city and the bloodshed.
“I left the city on the last available bus to the Croatian border. After further adventures, I decided to come to London and settle in Battersea. These 20 years here are the longest, most stable period of my life”.
What is WoW?
WoW stands for Women of Wandsworth, an organisation I formed in 2007 to give parents a voice in all aspects of their children’s lives.
How did you get involved?
I was a member of the Sure Start Battersea management board as a parent of three children and had a say in forming the Sure Start family support policies and events.
After my children grew up, I felt that there is no support for parents with children over five years of age and founded Women of Wandsworth to tackle this problem and fill the gap in these services since there was a tremendous need for it in our community.
What events do you have planned in the next few weeks?
WoW Mums are all volunteers from local community and have fundraised to organise regular Taekwondo classes and regular drama classes for children.
We have been fortunate enough to have been granted funds for our DIY course for Mothers to be able to do simple repairs in the house and help their friends and neighbours as well.
We have initiated an inter-generational project to bridge the gap between the generations and have organised regular cooking events in our local Haven Lodge with our children and the elderly.
WoW members have been active in community campaigns – can you describe some of this work?
WoW Mums have been very vocal in saving our York Gardens Library last year and as a result became stakeholders in York Gardens Library Group with aim to help the library become self-sustaining.
WoW Mums have taken a key role in changing Wandsworth Council’s decision to charge £2.50 for entrance to Battersea Park Adventure Playground.
We have asked the council to have a corner of Fred Wells Gardens for children to plant and grow flowers. That has been granted and the new group has been formed to take this idea forward.
WoW Mums were the co-founders of Spacemax – campaign against overcrowding in Wandsworth and help the tenants in Council flats with decluttering, building fold down furniture and partition walls for privacy reasons.
We also support disabled children and disabled adults by organising various events.
WoW Mums have an urban child project, where we take children surrounded by concrete to Devon farm for the country life – and food – experience.
Next we will embark on a new campaign against irresponsible dog owners who do not pick up the toxic faeces after their dogs.
What are the main challenges of raising a family in Wandsworth?
We have established that most of our parents are single mothers with no paternal support, which is detrimental for the child and the mother.
Another problem our parents have is the fact that they are all from abroad or from other part of UK and don’t have their family support here, which they need.
Wandsworth has got a lot to offer, but these problems are usually left to the individuals to deal with. WoW Mums are tryng to bond the parents, since they all have similar problems, and form a stronger parental voice when saving our children’s and community’s future.
By the way, men like our group and would like to join as well, since some single fathers have the same issues as single mothers. We had to change our constitution to allow a man to join WoW!
Can you give an example of a mother who has overcome these problems?
One of our single mothers has been made homeless over Christmas period and was in a devastating situation without her family in UK.
All of us helped her with the move, babysitting, car, van, donating furniture, storage or any other help that she needed.
That ment a lot to her, since she didn’t have anybody else to help her and WBC do not offer support with this.
The children address all us WoW Mums as Aunties, since they regard us as their family.
Let’s face it – all aspects of our lives have everything to do with children and parents are crucial in council’s consultations and decision making process.
Tell us a joke!
I don’t know if this is funny or sad… When we took a seven-year-old to Dartmoor for a two-mile hike, he asked after 500 metres: Where is the nearest ASDA?
Thank you very much, keep up the great work!