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Women Side by Side Toolkit

Toolkit co-produced with Mind and experts by experience

This toolkit is for you if:

  •  you run a group, project or service for women
  • you’re interested in thinking through the power dynamics and growth opportunities for group members
  • you’d like to understand the specific needs of those with experience of trauma and abuse. 

The guide was written by women involved in running or supporting projects across England and Wales. It was funded through the Women Side by Side programme. The programme funded self-help or peer support groups in the women’s and mental health sectors. these groups were for women who’d experienced:

  • gender-based violence and abuse
  • drug and alcohol use
  • mental health issues. 



Written by Brigid Morris


  • Designing the women’s peer support toolkit
  • About the Women Side by Side Programme
  • The aim of this toolkit
  • More about who was involved in co-producing this toolkit

Peer Support Values – Safety

  • How peer support values differ for women
  • Why women’s peer support needs to be rooted in safety
  • Working with your group to create a safe and inclusive space
  • The human knot game
  • Why consider a ‘women-only’ space for your peer support group?
  • Trans inclusion in women’s peer support

Peer Support Values - Trust

  • Why trust matters in women’s peer support
  • How you can establish trust
  • Trust-building activity
  • Becoming trauma-informed
  • Encouraging healthy relationships between peers

Peer Support – Welsh Context

  • Peer support in rural isolation
  • The importance of the Welsh language
  • Case studies
  • Previous experience of poor treatment or neglect
  • Poverty and discrimination


  • The power of language
  • How to discuss language in your women's peer support group
  • The language game


  • Why leadership is important for women
  • How to nurture women’s leadership skills
  • Starting a conversation with women about leadership
  • Group exercise: leadership questions to discuss
  • How to help your peer support group recognise leadership qualities
  • Why reflection matters in the context of leadership

Networking and Learning Events

  • Learning events and the Women Side by Side programme
  • How the Women Side by Side learning events worked
  • How to improve networking for your peer support group
  • Benefits of learning events and the partnership they created in Women Side by Side

Online Peer Support

  • Different types of online support
  • Safety and trust online
  • Top tips for online facilitators


  • Why prioritise self-care in your women’s peer support group
  • Feelings and needs inventory
  • The feelings wheel
  • Self-care for peer leaders and facilitators
  • Self-care suggestions
  • Promoting self-care to your peer support group
  • Self-care wheel
  • Self-care suggestions for everyone


  • Addressing evaluation issues specific to women
  • Women Side by Side evaluation learnings and addressing barriers
  • Summary


  • Ensuring that peer support remains accessible to all
  • Taking time with women’s peer support
  • Challenging behaviour
  • Timekeeping issues
  • Feeling exhausted

Women Side by Side Toolkit launch

We launched this toolkit on Tuesday 22 November. Read our reflections on the launch. 

Read our blog


The Women's Side by Side Toolkit was co-produced with women who've had lived experience of mental health difficulties and were part of women's peer support groups. We provided leadership when creating the toolkit. We want to thank the 4 experts by experience who devoted so much time and effort. Without them, this toolkit would not be what it is. 

We'd also like to show massive appreciation to the many 'critical friends' from both the women's and mental health sectors involved in the earlier drafts of this toolkit: specifically:

  • Sarah Jane from Stockton and Middlesbrough Mind
  • Liam Pywell at National Mind
  • Nisba Ahmed, Equalities improvement leader at Mind
  • Laura Wood, perinatal peer support facilitator and lived experience research consultant at Mind. 

We'd like to thank our London women's hub, Against Violence and Abuse (AVA), for supporting the development of this toolkit. A special mention is due to Duncan Marshall, peer support manager at National Mind, for pulling this all together. 

We'd also like to thank Premier Foods, our funders, for making this toolkit possible. 

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