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City Gateway Women's Programmes - Confidence building as pathway into employment

Geographic Area

United Kingdom





Type of Information

Case studies


City Gateway

Contact Person

Lucy Ferguson (Login to send email)

Contact Person Function

Stepney Life Centre Manager

Project Start


Ongoing Project



For its Women’s Programmes (CGWP), the charity City Gateway works with marginalised and vulnerable women aged 19+ in the East London borough Tower Hamlets to build their confidence and skills. The aim is to enable these women to become socially engaged and economically active citizens. Therefore, CGWP runs language classes and vocational courses alongside well-being sessions on fitness or healthy food for example.

Set up in 2007 through a contract with the London Development Agency, the organisation has grown dramatically over the last 10 years, in response to high levels of need. CGWP now runs a wide range of services from 3 different centres and works with more than 450 women a year, predominantly from Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.

Issue/Challenge and Goal/Assumption

According to the British Office for National Statistics, the borough of Tower Hamlets had England's second highest proportion of people with poor or no fluency in English in 2011. As a result, women here face language barriers to engage with local services and to enter the labour market. This adds up to other obstacles such as low skills, poor health, low aspirations and inability to afford childcare. Consequently, Tower Hamlets had Britain's second highest proportion of economically inactive women in 2012 and the highest levels of child poverty in 2013, according to the Child Poverty Commission.

The aim of the CGWP is to break the cycle of disadvantage by encouraging women to learn English and employability skills while also gaining confidence and peer support.

How does it work

To create progression pathways into employment, CGWP provides several courses, trainings and drop-in sessions for women, including:

  • English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes and literacy
  • maths and ICT literacy classes at various levels
  • one-to-one communication and public speaking classes
  • vocational courses in Childcare, business administration and customer service 
  • employability workshops on how to write a CV, how to prepare for a job interview, etc.
  • informal social activities such as fitness classes, health education and money management sessions.
  • art workshop

In addition, CGWP offers free on-site childcare, a translation service, extensive information, advice and guidance, as well as ongoing mentoring. It also runs employment projects partnering with international and national firms and community projects to offer apprenticeship opportunities to the local women.


Measured through a combination of a ‘distance-travelled’ self-assessment tool (used to review progress beneficiaries make), tutor observation and service-user interviews, it was established that women participating in the Women’s Programmes experienced increased confidence, reduced isolation, increased independence, improved health and well-being, and a sense of community cohesion and social integration. Currently 93% of learners believe their confidence has improved since joining the programmes and 64% report that their health has improved.

Improved English language skills were measured by initial assessments used as baseline assessment and repeated later in time to evidence progress, with 84% of learners reporting that their literacy skills have improved. Women participating in the work skills courses and/or employability workshops demonstrated increased job readiness. There is more than 80% positive progression for learners onto further learning or work.

Consult City Gateway Women’s Programmes’ compilation of case studies to read about the experiences of participants.


According to an Independent Economic Impact Study (2016) each year City Gateway contributes £30.2 million to the local Tower Hamlets economy. The same study found that in return for society’s investment in City Gateway’s services, City Gateway delivers £92.5million in the form of an expanded tax base and a variety of society benefits related to lower unemployment and increased health and wellbeing.

The City Gateway Charity was awarded the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award in 2012, particularly recognising the City Gateway Women’s Programmes as a vital network of support to the community and helping confidence in local women needed to progress into work.

Who will benefit?

The project is beneficial for non-EU national women and their children, local volunteers, partners. City Gateway projects, including the Women's Programme, add value to the economy and generate long-term savings to public services. 

Source of funding and Resources used

Gateway City's activities are financed by the UK Government Skills Funding Agency, public and private foundations, corporate sponsors and a small number of individual donations.

In addition to the permanent staff, activities are carried out with volunteers. Registration is possible here.