To celebrate International Women’s Day, we are highlighting the personal reflections of women who lead the various Home-Start Worldwide member organisations and the impact their organisations are making. Read below for Alžběta Candia’s (National Director, Home-Start Czech Republic) insightful account.

Tell us what motivated you to get involved with/set up a Home-Start organisation?

When I first encountered the ideas of Home-Start, I was very young (23 years old), I had no children or work experience at that point and I was still studying at university. However, I was very touched by the idea of “reciprocity;” parents supporting each other. Very simple yet hugely effective.

Can you describe any challenges your organization has faced and overcome?

For our organisation, we must always operate within the financial and legal framework. Finances are not evenly distributed or fixed within our country’s child protection services. We always work with uncertainty about how much the ministry or municipality will allocate to us next year. But in the years we have been working (20 years), we have already built a more stable position and it would be harder to leave us out. The legal framework regulates the way we work and educates employees to work with children at risk. We had to significantly defend the position of volunteers so that they would not place them in the rank of people with compulsory education. We did it.

With International Women’s Day in mind, can you describe any programs or events over the years aimed towards the female community within your organization e.g. mother & baby programs? If so, what positive impact has there been for both service users (families) and volunteers?

We will be organising activities at the local level in branches. Unfortunately, we are very absorbed in the current situation in Ukraine. But certainly, as soon as the situation calms down a bit, we would like to dedicate some special programmes to our women volunteers.

What have been some of your own personal highlights in the organization’s growth and the impact volunteers and services have made?

Despite enduring years of resisting financial uncertainties, I still planned new activities for the volunteers and families with the team. Also, even with the great financial demands on us, we have expanded to four places in the Czech Republic and we have been holding them for over 20 years. I have managed to establish good contacts and relations in the ministries and local authorities that support us. Our organisation has a good professional reputation and level.

With the theme of International Women’s Day being #breakthebias and a focus on gender equality, can you describe any positive experiences / observations you have had working for Home-Start that promote gender equality? For example, parenting programs that encourage shared parenting between mothers and fathers.

Yes, as part of our Montessori therapeutic and educational program and the community activities we organise. We also hold lectures on parenting and the needs of children for our client families.