I love making lists, especially when they celebrate women’s impacts in society. There’s never been a bad time to celebrate women who contribute to our day-to-day lives, in history and the present day. Celebrating inspiring women should be done all year round – but especially on 8th March each year as its is International Women’s Day. The purpose of International Women’s Day is to reflect on the progress women have made in the world, honouring the courageous steps they take to create positive change in their communities.
While too many women all over the word still suffer from violence and rights abuses, it is important to recognise and reflect the amazing work women are doing in making change happen in all realms of life and in claiming their rights and transforming our society by their actions. So for International Women’s Day this year, here are 8 talented and inspirational women in my community – right here in the North East of England for you to admire.
In No Particular Order…
Sara Chezari journeyed from Tehran, Iran to Newcastle with her family in 2000. She graduated from Loughborough University with a BA Hons in History and Politics and has since worked in several organisations in diverse roles, including; light and sound technician at The Stand Comedy Club, teaching English as a foreign language at International House, helping run and grow a small independent café and setting up her own Persian Supper Club. Sara has enjoyed serving her local community through teaching, hosting events, cooking, listening and collaborating. Sara is currently working at Connected Voice, supporting local organisations to build resilience, instil good governance and improve equity, diversity and inclusion. Sara has carried out extensive governance reviews on organisations, completed comprehensive options appraisals and supported organisations to review and implement effective safeguarding policies. Sara leads Cultural Competency training sessions, using her lived experience and knowledge of culture to support organisations to work better with marginalised communities. She delivers training in Safeguarding and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, which she incorporates into all strategic and governance review work.
Sara coordinates two networks; the Gateshead Youth and Community Network and the Newcastle and Gateshead Women and Girl’s network, with the aim of bringing together voluntary and community organisations to build relationships, share information, best practice and resources, and work better together to benefit their communities. Sara’s passion is to create inclusive and safe spaces for people to learn, grow, laugh and connect.
Hannah Morrow lives in Newcastle with her husband and two kids. She have worked in the voluntary and community sector in the region for 20 years. This has involved health promotion, community development and youth work. she is passionate about working alongside communities to challenge inequalities and make our society fairer for everyone. Hannah has particularly enjoyed working alongside volunteers in Newcastle through the Community Champions programme over the last 18 months and has been completely blown away by the good will and positive attitude of local people during, and in the aftermath of the pandemic. As we know, covid has hit marginalised communities the hardest and has shone a light on health inequalities. It is a huge job to tackle this problem. Next month she will be joining Diabetes UK where she will continue to work with volunteers in communities across Northern England who are most at risk of developing diabetes due to the unfair way our society is structured.
She says; “working in the voluntary sector amongst some incredible women is an absolute pleasure. Despite the challenges and issues that we are up against, the positivity and dedication from leaders, staff and volunteers in the sector, such as Salha Kaitesi at Teakisi (Oh Hannah, that’s me!), Vicki Harris at Haref, the incredible women at the Sufferage Sisters Alliance and my good friend and colleague Fozia Haider (to mention just a few) never fail to inspire me and keep me positive”.
Clara Shield is the Operations and Development Manager for The Young Women’s Film Academy. As Director of Little Big Butterfly, an Arts based CIC, she currently works with neurodiverse children and young people. In addition, Clara is an Outreach Officer for Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums, leading on the Mental Health and Wellbeing programme. As a young person Clara was heavily involved in community led arts activities leading to studying a degree in theatre that focussed on the educational benefits of drama for young people. This was followed by a post-graduate diploma in youth and community arts. Throughout a career spanning 20 years, Clara has developed and refined her practice using creative arts to support individuals to find their voice and share their unique stories. Alongside achieving an MA in Gender, Culture and Development, Clara specialises in working with girls and young women and mental health, with an interest in engaging underrepresented groups providing opportunities that are inclusive, empowering and transformative.
Clara has worked across statutory youth services, the NHS and the voluntary sector. Clara was shortlisted for Transformational Leader of the Year at the 2021 Northern Power Women Awards. Born and raised in the North East and a mother of two sons, she is passionate about how her work can benefit local communities and young people.
Humaira Khan is a member of the Overseas Pakistani Commission and the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf women Secretary for the North East . She has a Masters in English Literature, Diploma in Public Services Police and Court (DPSI) from London Greenwich University. Humaira is also a committed legal Urdu interpreter/translator, a poet , a community Teacher, an event organiser, and a coordinator for Newcastle City Council – in regards to women and girls’ general wellbeing, mental health, cultural and educational activities . She is always ready to learn new skills and other than English and Urdu, she speaks Italian, Punjabi and Mirpuri . She considers herself to be a very sensitive and considerate person especially when it comes to other cultures and races. Humaira recently completed a UNICEF and WHO’s approved mother and child health course, and in 2022 was recognised by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle City Council for organising women empowerment programmes in underprivileged communities.
In 2022, the council once again awarded her an outstanding achievement award by for taking part in Newcastle’s Community Champions programme. Humaira is a happy wife and a proud mum of 5 children.
Caroline Afolabi-Deleu is the founder of Success4All and has been the charity’s driving force since 2006. She is also the current trustee chair and is also a governor of North Tyneside Learning Trust and a governor of Northern Education Trust. After working in various places, she wanted to learn more about business, and she was given the opportunity to do a master’s in Business and Administration at the University of Durham. However, she ended up teaching French and German in a school in Sunderland. During that time, her eyes were opened to the stark differences in education in less affluent areas. Some schools also had a very high influx of new arrivals with English as an Additional Language (EAL). Speaking to mums there, they too were worried about the education of their children. So, she and other parents decided to do something about it, which led to setting up their first Learning Hub, 15 years ago, with the support of Newcastle University. Later the hub became Success4All, an education charity with an education philosophy based on two African proverbs: ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’ and ‘Each one, Teach One’.
As a trained language teacher, Caroline can speak 6 languages fluently and is currently learning Russian. Caroline’s teaching knowledge and passion for encouraging learning outside of school are invaluable to support the charity’s mission. Caroline, who is originally from Belgium, came to live in the UK in 1992, after having lived in Nigeria and Zimbabwe. She has a passion for bringing people together of different cultures and backgrounds and learning from each other in new and exciting ways.
Dr Chikondi Mpokosa is a social development scientist with over 26 years of experience in international development in progressively more leadership roles. Chikondi conveys a wealth of experience managing programmes across multi-countries and within a large variety of organisations in international development programme areas, including gender, education, child rights, human rights, humanitarian, and capacity-building. Originally from Malawi, Chikondi has gained international experience through her work in Vietnam, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Niger, Mozambique, Mali, Ethiopia, South Africa, Tanzania, Nigeria and South Sudan. She has worked with UNICEF in Zimbabwe, South Sudan and more recently Nigeria managing education programmes. She has also led global programmes for Opportunity International Malala Fund, Leonard Cheshire Disability International, VSO and Oxfam from the UK. She is passionate about setting strategies that better serve the needs of women and girls living in challenging circumstances in the countries.
She combines global leadership of programmes with country and portfolio management. Throughout her career, Chikondi has served in various consulting, management and program implementation roles that have focused on inclusion of marginalised and excluded children boys and girls including children living with disabilities. Chikondi holds an Ed. D, MAEGID, B, Ed. (Sci) and is the current Executive Director of The Angelou Centre.
Fozia Haider has had an impactful career across the public and voluntary sectors in diverse roles, making significant contributions to community and stakeholder engagement to serve women’s causes. She currently works in Public Health where she addresses health inequalities within marginalised groups. Prior to this, she worked for the Good Things Foundation to bridge the digital divide highlighted by the pandemic. In 2021, she managed the delivery of the Census for Gateshead with the Office for National Statistics, and previously, she simultaneously managed an ethnic minority women’s organisation while serving as a researcher for a mental health research foundation, mobilising women’s projects in the North East.
She is passionate about advocating for the rights of women, building strong community networks and empowering those facing multiple disadvantage.
Steph Edusei has been Chief Executive of St. Oswald’s Hospice since May 2020, is a Non-Executive Director of The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Director of the North East England Chamber of Commerce. Steph is a strong supporter of her local community as a leader with Girlguiding UK, school governor and Co-Chair of The Angelou Centre. She is also a dance teacher. She is a strong advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion and created the Black All Year events and podcast which highlight the challenges and issues faced by Black people as well as celebrates their successes and achievements.
Steph was named Northern Power Women’s Transformational Leader in 2022.
And there you have it ladies and gentlemen…. The above women are powerful examples of every day women doing extraordinary things. Each from different walks of life but each making great strides in the fight for gender equality. On this International Women’s Day – and every day, cheers to these women and all those in the world who continue to fight for the rights of others.