Blog Series, Gardening, International Women's Day

Integrated Research and Development Centre for IWD

In celebration of International Women’s Day [IWD], we want to take a look at some women gardeners and those who support women in a horticultural environment. We believe these women are breaking the bias against women of all different backgrounds.  Want to read the intro to this series? Check it out here!

Invited to a little chat over coffee, we recently went to meet some women who are members of the Integrated Research and Development Centre [IRDC] based in East Reading.  

The organiser Krishna told me that they have excursions to places like Kew Gardens to pique their interest in horticulture and learn about some of the plants. They have worked on different horticultural projects such as the gardens behind the Museum of English Rural Life. Also they run yoga and wellbeing sessions and communal walks in Palmer Park. 

The aims of IRDC are to promote recycling and environmental issues, and to provide training and local actions on global warming. They want to educate people and create social inclusion using horticultural projects. The group is open to people of all different backgrounds looking to reach out and get involved, and is mainly made up of members from Nepalese backgrounds. 

We spoke to some women from the group to find out how and why they got into community gardening. 

Getting involved in community gardening

One member told me: “About 3 years ago I had a tingling in my arm. I asked my English teacher  [this member was part of a class aimed at people from Jaleshwar, running locally to Reading] about it, and he suggested I try gardening. I started at the South Reading Allotment using the hoe, and this exercise really helped my arm”

Becoming interested in gardening

Another member said: “Gardening is great for whole body exercise. People suffered during Covid, it was difficult but gardening helped. Bringing a sense of belonging in nature and the community.”

The benefits of gardening

A regular volunteer said: “It makes me happy to garden – it’s satisfying and you get fresh air too. The children don’t enjoy it, but they’re little people with minds of their own so they’ll choose to do what they like! It improves health by being around nature, and for 3 or 4 months I didn’t need to buy any fruit!”

Being part of IRDC

A newer member said of the group: “I tend to an allotment, and I love sharing and exchanging the vegetables I’ve grown with my neighbours. I never expected to be part of a gardening community, learning about Nepalese vegetables (like the Nepalese cucumbers Krishna’s talking about), but I love it!”

Krishna: “Nepalese cucumbers look beautifully ornamental and taste wonderful. On hot days in Nepal, we’d scoop out the pulp to enjoy its cooling effects. Bringing the vegetables over here, it’s nice to have pieces of our old homes in our new ones.”

The running thread throughout this is that it helps the physical and mental wellbeing of the women taking part. Connecting them to each other and the world around them has helped enrich their lives. Improving health and creating bonds, this group has been an important part of these women’s lives.

Have a look at the last blog post in this series