Skill-sharing with the Wanju Ladies Club

There’s a quiet revolution happening in South Korea. People are moving ‘back to the village’ in huge numbers following the economic crisis and rejection of the consumerist and competitive urban lifestyle.

For many this is a difficult transition from a highly service-orientated city culture, but there is a group for whom it is particularly challenging and that is the unmarried women who are making the shift in large numbers. These women are not only bravely embracing a new way of life with limited skills but are also tackling long standing traditions and prejudice around gender roles.

Jijeong and Bohyun with Jyoti and Paul from CAT's courses team.
Jijeong and Bohyun with Jyoti and Paul from CAT’s courses team.

This week we welcomed two such women: Jijeong and Bohyun from the Wanju Ladies Club, a cooperative established to up-skill and enable single women returning to the country. In just three years they’ve established the cooperative and created training courses and materials on heating, cooking, renewable energy, insulation, rainwater harvesting and up-cycling. Jijeong and Bohyun are two of the seven founding members who are all activists in social and environmental movements and experts in the field of alternative and appropriated technology.

By up-skilling women in this way the club hopes to enable women to be more autonomous in their homes but also to elevate their status within their communities, improve the lives of the village as a whole, and to establish these women as role models for future generations of girls to become learners and teachers, transforming culture over time to be more inclusive and welcoming.

Jijeong and Bohyun came all this way to learn about CAT’s evolution and how we’ve challenged gender stereotypes over the years, from hiring a female builder Cindy Harris to lead construction at CAT for 17 years, to continually questioning our thinking and actions to attract a more diverse audience to CAT as members, visitors and students. Our latest Zero Carbon Britain research ‘Making it Happen’ (coming soon!) also features special content on gender and race equality and the author Helen Atkins was interviewed by Jijeong and Bohyun during their stay.

Whilst here our guests have also attended a course in Traditional Timber Frame Joints with Carwyn Jones and ‘a way of building used locally sourced materials’ with Maurice Mitchell, author of The Lemonade Stand.

We are the first to admit we don’t have all the answers but hope we can help them during their visit by sharing how we aim to inspire people from diverse backgrounds. So what’s next for the Wanju Ladies Club? Well they’ll be setting up an advice service for aspiring community energy projects as well as a construction cooperative for social housing initiatives, and that’s just for starters…. We wish them all the best for what sounds like an amazing and very worthwhile project.