The Bengali Women’s Health Project (BWHP)
is a community initiative run and managed by frontline voluntary
sector workers in Camden. The key aims of the project are:
• To promote the health and well-being of Bangladeshi women in
• To support Bangladeshi women in exercising their right to health
and social care services.
BWHP was established in 1990 to help overcome the cultural,
religious and language barriers that often prevented Bangladeshi
women accessing local health services, in particular having full
medical assessment from a male doctor. The project aimed to tackle
this by organising weekly health advisory session in a number of
community centers run by female Bengali speaking health advisors.
The advisors were able to conduct a full GP surgery type interview
and examination, but couldn’t prescribe. All further care was
arranged through the women’s own GP.
In 1995 the project employed a part-time worker which enabled the
project to extend its activities to tackle the wider issues which
affect the health of the local Bangladeshi women. These included
raising awareness of preventative and self-help approaches to health
and organising exercise and various other health initiatives such as
healthy cooking/eating workshops on regular basis. In 2004 the
project achieved its charitable status.
Over the years BWHP has continued to grow from strength to strength
with the dedication, commitment of the community workers guiding the
project work. Since its establishment the sustained financial
support that the BWHP received from the local health authority
(currently Camden PCT) has been instrumental in its success
particularly in tackling mental health and nutritional issues in the
In 2007 a comprehensive report on BWHP by an independent evaluator
(annual report 2006-7) concluded that the project has been making a
real difference to women’s lives by increasing confidence, enhancing
knowledge and helping women change to healthier lifestyles. Despite
this, in 2007-8 Camden PCT drastically reduced funding to the
project with the total withdrawal of funding in 2008-9.
During 2008-9 BWHP has been running its work programme on minimal
level – mainly organising workshops in partnership with a range of
providers in voluntary and statutory sectors. In April 2009 BWHP was
awarded Grassroots small grant to run a run a project
health with small steps” to provide health promotion messages on
healthy lifestyles focusing on nutrition and fitness issues with a
rolling programme of 12 workshops at four community centres that
includes talk, discussion, cookery demonstration and recipe tasting.