Empowering Icons: Women’s Voices on the Women Who #InspireInclusion

Published by: Sinéad Mangan-Mc Hale

Published on: 6 Mar, 2024

By Sinéad Mangan-Mc Hale

Celebrating the transformative power of women’s influence as we amplify voices of appreciation as part of IWD2024. We invited women to share personal anecdotes about the remarkable women who included, inspired, and empowered them. 

When the American actress Halle Bailey was cast as Ariel in the Disney classic “Little Mermaid”, the racist backlash made the headlines. Of more significant impact was the positive influence and emotional connection it had for young Black and Brown girls across the globe. One young fan said, “It makes me think I can do this; I can do it without anyone stopping me.” In an online article, the actress commented on the significance of playing a Black Ariel: “I know what it would’ve meant to me as a little girl to have been able to see a Black Ariel when I was younger, if I would’ve seen that, it would have changed my whole outlook on life.” And that inspiration to other girls and women sums up the theme of #InspireInclusion for the 2024 International Women’s Day on 8th March.

From Emmeline Pankhurst to Katie Piper, from Baroness Trumpington to Nicola Adams, we have seen the value of inclusion in building a better world for women and all humanity. By being included, by breaking down barriers of gender, race, and religion and by sharing this knowledge, supporting, and encouraging women of all ages, women provide other women with a sense of pride, belonging and empowerment.

TogetherintheUK (TGIUK) spoke to several women who shared the women in their lives who inspired them and who are, in return, #InspiringInclusion.

I was inspired by my mother, who worked tirelessly to help empower women back in Lebanon. She is my role model for everything I have done. When I first moved to London, I saw the need to increase female inclusion and break down the barriers migrants face in the UK. The passion I felt for empowering other women is the same passion I felt in setting up Migrant Voice. This is why we have so many women engaging with the organisation and supported to share their stories.  Nazek Ramadan, Director of Migrant Voice

Inclusion is reciprocal, and I am proud that the women who inspire me also ensure my inclusion and that of other women in many aspects of their lives. People like Anna Mulleneaux from MarketingKind, who role models inclusive chairing at every event I have attended and who has a deep understanding of TGIUK. And Adina Maglan, who uses her migrant experience and the depth of her studies to make a difference. She thoughtfully includes others in her journey and is truly a social entrepreneur. Working with my colleague, Sinéad Mangan-Mc Hale, has shown me that to be inclusive and work well, you need someone who has your back and will challenge you. And together, along with Victorina Press, we have provided a platform for the work of the many female authors in the TGIUK anthology, Hear Our Stories; it fills me with pride and a sense of gratitude to them for sharing their stories. I am also immensely thankfull for all the women who volunteer for TogetherintheUK. Teresa Norman, Creator and Chief Executive, TogetherintheUK

When it comes to what it means to celebrate womanhood, my ideas have shifted as I have matured. My mother (and aunties) has always been a beacon of inspiration for me growing up. To move to foreign countries, not be able to speak the language, build businesses, and pave their own way is admirable. I have always been taught that to be a woman is to be independent. However, I now realise that women are celebrated for what we accomplish in a societal system not built with women in mind. Women may be celebrated for achieving great things or breaking glass ceilings, but that is only part of our lives. I realise that breaking ourselves down to achieve what society deems successful can harm us. I now use International Women’s Day to celebrate our sheer existence. Erica Pham, artist and author, Hear Our Stories.

When we decided to go on this journey and set up Social Equity Centre, we found inspiration in one another and joined our efforts to make this happen. As women from a minority background, knowing the needs and challenges that people like us face, we are passionate about empowering different communities, especially women, to believe in themselves and break down barriers. We find that women often doubt themselves and don’t see their real potential. As women who also experience these feelings, our mission is to uplift and upskill other women to achieve their full potential. Teo Benea and Adina Maglan, Directors and Co-founders of Social Equity Centre.

The woman I salute who has fought for change within the immigration process, especially for asylum seekers, is Loraine Masiya Mponela. She puts her own struggles aside so she can advocate and campaign for better treatment and processing of asylum seekers’ applications for leave to remain. Her name should be seen where history is captured for future generations to learn. She is an unsung hero amongst so many other women I could mention. Farisai Dzemwa, author Hear Our Stories.

I know that Black sisters play a significant role in our society, and there is one woman that I admire greatly: Doreen Lawrence, now the Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon OBE. For thirty years, she has consistently and unapologetically stood up and fought for justice after the horrific, unprovoked racist murder of her son, Stephen, and the subsequent failure of the criminal justice system. She has never given up her battle for justice and equality.  Althia Anson-Barnett, author Hear Our Stories

The growth of women studying and working in STEM has smashed the belief that such “hard” subjects were beyond female capabilities. When I was studying engineering, there were only 20 females in a class of 80. Yet, when we graduated, 12 of the students were females, and only eight were males. Women can work out the maths! Women are successful; our next battle is ensuring equal STEM pay. Fatkma Bermeo, Co-founder and Commercial Lead, TogetherintheUK.

I want to praise my solicitor, Dr Sue Conlan from Tactic Immigration and Asylum, who has done an enormous amount of work dealing with my “complex case”, finally presenting it so that decision-makers can understand the situation. I pray that all asylum-seeking women are lucky enough to have a “Dr Conlan” working on their case. She has shown not just professionalism but compassion and generosity. Loraine Masiya Mponela, Writer, poet and advocate.

Individually or in a professional capacity, it is vital that we understand, value, and seek out the inclusion of women and girls in everything we do. For more information, go to International Women’s Day and ask, “Have we #InspiredInclusion? Have we done our best to support our sisters?

For a deeper understanding of migrant lives and their stories in the UK, go to TogetherintheUK.   

To immerse yourself in the rich anthology of migrant writing compiled by TogetherintheUK, purchase a copy of Hear Our Stories from Victorina Press.

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