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Own My Life goes to Belfast!

We have been super excited to tell everyone about our trip in early June to Belfast, but due to it taking place during the pre-election period, we have waited until now to post about it.*

We travelled to Belfast to learn from Northern Irish women about how to make Own My Life accessible to them.  Own My Life is run with women across Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland; from Orkney and the Shetland Islands all the way down to Devon and Cornwall; from the east in Great Yarmouth to the West throughout Wales and over the sea to the Isle of Man.  As yet, we haven’t had any Northern Irish women join our training or any courses established there.

Left: Victoria Mason, Middle: Tina Pearmine, Right: Natalie Collins.

Our trip was convened by the incredible Victoria Mason; an Own My Life facilitator whose passion for supporting women led her to train as a police officer.  In that role she introduced Own My Life to supervisors in the Met police who have just started delivering the first ever Own My Life course with female police officers!  Victoria recently left policing as an officer to spend more time with her family and she is back delivering Own My Life in Kent.


Victoria and Own My Life Creator, Natalie Collins, were joined by veteran Own My Life facilitator Tina Pearmine, who has been instrumental in Own My Life’s growth across Kent.  After delivering Own My Life alongside Victoria, Tina has worked in a number of Kent domestic abuse services as an IDVA and now uses Own My Life (and the DAY Programme) in her current role with young people.  Tina and Victoria volunteered their time to spread the Own My Life good news to Northern Ireland.

Touching down at Belfast International airport, our first meeting was online with a Northern Irish domestic abuse service.  Natalie explained the history and structure of Own My Life; a transformative methology for practitioners (via our train-the-trainer online courses) and for women through Own My Life groups and one-to-one sessions run by trained facilitators.  Tina and Victoria spoke passionately about the difference Own My Life had made to them as practitioners.  Tina explained, “In my work, I use the things I learned on Own My Life every day. It’s amazing to see the women I support having light bulb moments in every session.”  Victoria echoed this, “The explanations in the training helped me every day as a police officer, the way Own My Life puts the ideas across sticks in your mind.”


One of our core Own My Life principles is “collaboration not competition”, and we were keen to convey the ways Own My Life is designed to add to service provision, rather than being a replacement to existing materials or courses offered to women.  As Victoria explained, “It will add another string to your bow.” 


We believe that every woman deserves a choice of resources and groups as part of her journey towards self-efficacy. Competitive commissioning leaves women’s services pitted against one other, threatened with takeovers by non-specialist companies who offer a worse service as a cheaper price.  In this context, we are committed to sisterhood; our sisters include women using services, practitioners supporting women and all those running provision for women. 

The following morning we explored beautiful Belfast.  First the Titanic Quarter, admiring the famous Samson and Goliath cranes, we then found our great Victoria’s very own Great Victoria street. We were inspired by Belfast’s art work, including the very moving Monument to the Unknown Woman Worker.

In the afternoon, we met with Geraldine Hanna, the Victim of Crime Commissioner Designate. It was so helpful to learn from Geraldine about the local context. Tina and Victoria shared passionately about the difference they see as women learn to own their lives, "When women go through Own My Life, you see them flourishing and finding their voice.” 

Victoria, Geraldine, Tina and Natalie.
Natalie, Victoria Gordon, Victoria Mason and Tina.

That evening we laughed until we cried with the brilliant Victoria Gordon.  She is the Templespa Manager for Northern Ireland and, alongside her family, she is involved in The Bluehouses a project working with young people and with local women and their children. 


Our third and final day saw us meeting with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and those involved in shaping the Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy in Stormont.

Due to unforeseen circumstances we were been unable to meet with Northern Irish safeguarding expert Marcella Leonard but we were delighted to refer to her work critiquing the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Concerence (MARAC). As an experienced Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA), Tina spoke with the PSNI about how the current system harms women (something echoed by most of the IDVAs we train), and the way Own My Life makes a huge difference to women she supports who are often most marginalised because of drug and alcohol use or due to their mental health diagnoses.

Tina told us about a young women she supported, who after gaining knowledge through Own My Life, was able to advocate for herself with mental health services and social care. She gained work experience in the education sector as part of achieving her goal of becoming a teacher. This was something she had thought she couldn’t ever do due to having been subject to abuse. She was also discharged from mental health services and had no further social care involvement. Wow!

Each member of the Belfast Own My Life team said of the trip:


Natalie: “It was humbling and heartening to have such skilled practitioners giving up their time and resources to travel all the way to beautiful Belfast and share so enthusiastically about their love of Own My Life. We’re so excited to see what happens next as we build on the connections from this trip.”


Victoria: “It has been so encouraging to meet colleagues with such a commitment and genuine enthusiasm for improving the lives of Northern Irish women who have been subjected to domestic abuse: a commitment I share wholeheartedly. We have begun planting the seeds, so that they too are aware that Own My Life could, and would, bring great knowledge, which can never be taken away. I am looking forward to continuing these conversations, alongside Natalie and Tina, as well as building further relationships, to help bring Own My Life to fruition, benefiting women and girls across the whole of Northern Ireland.”


Tina: “It has been a privilege to share my first trip to Belfast with Natalie and Victoria; to share our passion to make positive change in the domestic abuse field, meeting professionals who share our vision to build self-efficacy, empowerment and  joy with women and girls.  I am excited to continue the journey of bringing Own My Life to Northern Ireland and to start seeing the transformations happen that I have had the privilege to witness in England.”


What a precious three days!


We are blown away by Victoria and Tina’s commitment to women, and their passion to spread Own My Life joy, and we are grateful for the warm Northern Irish welcome we recieved.  Watch this space, as we continue conversations and work towards Own My Life being available to Northern Irish women.


 If you are in Northern Ireland, or know people in Northern Ireland (or anywhere!), who would be interested to know more about Own My Life, you can find out more about our work here: or email us:

*No party political discussions took place during our meetings, as per pre-election period guidelines.



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