IN JANUARY, 69-year-old Maureen Gleeson took up woodworking in a mixed men and women's group at Moonee Valley U3A, which is held weekly at the Aberfeldie Men's Shed in Victoria.
"I found other women in that group had previously experienced negative attitudes about using tools, but it is so empowering to learn how to use them and create beautiful things," she said.
She discovered that like her, many women were interested in learning how to work with timber and power tools to carry out simple repairs around the home and construct useful items - skills and tasks that traditionally had been the domain of men.
They put in requests to the Moonee Valley Council to run a women's only Men's Shed group, and in May a She Shed began on Monday mornings at Strathmore Men's Shed.
While it ran as the She Shed for the first few months, the name has just changed to Women's Shed.
All up 16 women have signed up and interest continues to grow.
"Many men of our age learned woodwork at school, but females didn't have that opportunity," Maureen said.
"At the She Shed there is a skilled person on hand, just like in Men's Shed groups, to mentor, guide and test us on using the tools safely.
"If you follow everything you're taught about safety and proper use and care of tools, it's not difficult.
"It opens up new horizons. I've learned how to use a band saw, a table saw and leveller, and I love them!"
The women started off making simple things like a cheese platter, but had now moved to more adventurous projects.
"We made boxes, a 3-D picture box; one woman made a door and we're keen to move on to things like cupboards and tables," Maureen said.
"One day I want to put up a new fence at home. "
They also want to give back to the community by taking on projects like making children's toys.
"In one way I feel sorry for the men because so many women are interested in the Men's Shed; but on the other hand it's great for women to have the opportunity to spread our wings like this," Maureen said.
"We're not wanting to set up an exclusive women's shed, and we have no problem working with men, but we do understand that some men don't feel comfortable in that environment with women around.
"We are very grateful that we get to use the Men's Shed for the time we do.
"I live for my Monday mornings, and that's a common feeling among the women who attend."
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