International Women’s Day – In Conversation with Dr Helen Pankhurst plus other workshops
By Nix Bhachu
It was an honour to be invited by West Midlands Women’s Voice to an incredible event at the Custard Factory in Birmingham on 6th March to celebrate International Women’s Day. The itinerary for the day was outstanding with an array of panel discussions and activities organised. There were women from the armed forces, public services, sports, music and the arts and politics and special guest Dr Helen Pankhurst. The turnout at the event was phenomenal and I am so happy I got to experience the day.
The panel consisted of; Lt Commander Suzanne Lynch (Navy) LAC Caitlin Boudewyn (RAF), Colonel Rosie Stone (Army), Assistant Chief Constable Sarah Boycott (Police), Station Commander Sam Samuels (Fire) and Chair Colonel Richard Mayberry (Army -retired)
The women in uniform not only looked powerful but empowered us in the audience by sharing their stories with us.
Ellie Harbinson’s speech was probably my favourite of the day, she is so young but powerfully inspiring, so much so that her words made me feel really rather emotional. A definite goosebumps moment!
The sports segment was rounded off with a sports panel too chaired by Kate Dale (Sport England – Strategic Lead for Campaigns including ‘This Girl Can’), Nick Eastwood (Chief Executive of WASPS), Laura Nicholls (Senior manager, Wolves Foundation & Coach educator for the FA and the Premier League), Liz Birchill (Head of Communications at British Athletics) & Ian Reid (CEO of the organising committee for the Commonwealth Games Birmingham).
The line-up was pretty impressive and so was the key message from this panel;
BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO BE!
Dr Helen Pankhurst
She was actually introduced as the woman that needs no introduction, a thoroughbred women’s rights activist… well that got me a little bit excited to hear Dr Helen speak!
The great granddaughter of Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst & granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst, fighting for women’s rights is certainly in the bloodline of the Pankhurst family. Dr Helen Pankhurst gave an eye opening speech and reiterated the importance and power of using our voices and continuously fighting for our rights, we’ve come a long way but there is still a long way to go. Her speech was motivational and the audience was captivated in her every word.
We had the pleasure of sitting in the audience whilst Deborah Cadman OBE (Chief Executive West Midlands Combined Authority), Dr Helen Pankhurst (Women’s rights activist) & Sam Smethers (CEO of the Fawcett Society) shared their fascinating life experiences with us. The key message was all about promoting the role of women, we’ve come so far which is good but we can’t give up, we need to continue to achieve greatness.
Women in the arts
A selection of extremely passionate and talented people from across the music and arts world formed part of the panel hosted by Marika Bee (Singer, Songwriter and founder of The YAP Network), Dr Sarah Browne (Head of the School of Performing Arts at the University of Wolverhampton), Mary Wakelam Sloan (Manager of Jazzlines at the Symphony Hall), Emma Harrabin (Programme coordinator for the Coventry City of Culture Trust), Alison Delaney (Award winning executive coach, motivational speaker and published author) & Truchio Powell (Entrepreneur and the Creative and Events Director for Aston Performing Arts Academy). The work that this panel do across the city is remarkable, nurturing talent, bringing communities together and instilling pride in the city of Birmingham through music and the arts.
Activists and politics
Chaired by Andy Street (Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority) this was a lively panel made up of a mix of politicians and activists, each sharing their views and motivational messages. These women were inspiring because they used their voices as their power. We had Beverley Nielsen (chair of the West Midlands Liberal Democrats), Cllr Ann Lucas OBE (Coventry City Council), Dr Helen Pankhurst (Women’s rights activist), Sam Smethers (CEO of the Fawcett Society) & Cllr Nicola Richards (Kingswinford North and Dudley Council).
This panel was nicely rounded off with a reminder of Andy Streets pledge; “We pledge to embed inclusivity in our organisation’s ethos and culture, so that every employee has a fair opportunity in recruitment, promotion and progression. We pledge that under-represented groups will be actively supported so that we can collectively make a difference to the leadership of the West Midlands.’
As someone from the West Midlands and an aspiring leader it makes me proud to learn everything I did and be a small part of all the good, positive movement that is happening across the city.
Of course we had to ask Dr Helen Pankhurst for a picture! ‘Deeds not words’ is the motto of the suffragettes and also the title of her book.
We would like to give a massive thank you to Sharonjit Clare (WIBF Birmingham Advisory Board Member) who also works as part of West Midlands Women’s Voice and was a key organiser for the event. Sharonjit is an incredible individual with tons of passion to help people progress; she always leads by example and is a real role model.