Each year Manchester City Council celebrates International Women’s Day with their Strong Manchester Women campaign. The campaign recognises the achievements of some of Manchester’s women, and produces portraits which appear on billboards and posters across the city. Come and get up close and personal with these portraits at the Pankhurst Centre, where they will be on display from 14th March 2019 until June. Some of the #StrongMcrWomen will also be giving talks about their work and their experience of the campaign at the Centre throughout the summer. Stay tuned for the programme.
We are grateful to Manchester City Council and the International Women's Day Steering Group for giving us permissions to display these photographs, and for their financial support in the cost of doing so. Nelson Street has been home to #StrongMcrWomen for over one hundred years, and long may it continue to be so!
The 2019 #StrongMcrWomen are:
Nasima Begum, Poet and Board Member for Young Identity
Nasima is a performance poet, producer and creative practitioner based in South Manchester. Her work explores issues of intersectionality and personal experience. Nasima is the Youth Development Coordinator at Manchester Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation where she works closely with young Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee girls promoting confidence and resilience. She is a board member of Young Identity, a spoken word collective for young people in Manchester. In January 2019, Nasima performed with some of the Young Identity cohort at the British Council’s BritLitBerlin Literature conference in Berlin. She has recently been awarded a Jerwood Creative Fellowship to make new work for Manchester International Festival in July 2019.
Helen Brown, Founder of On the Out
Helen has worked with marginalised groups of people dealing with issues of homelessness, mental health and addiction, for 28 years. While teaching peer mentoring at Her Majesty’s Prison Manchester, she recognised the skills and passion that prisoners had for supporting each other, but noticed the lack of opportunity that they had for doing so after they were released. This is the idea behind On the Out, a community interest company which promotes positive identities for prisoners and provides practical and emotional support on their release. On the Out is led by people who have spent time in custody, providing a grassroots approach to rehabilitation. One of the greatest strengths of the company is the commitment and compassion of their workers, who share their experience and expertise.
Priya Chopra, Chief Executive of Saheli Asian Women’s Project
Priya has been challenging domestic abuse for over 20 years. She has campaigned for policy changes on forced marriage and honour-based violence amongst the South Asian community, and has highlighted the extremities of this issue on a domestic and international level. She is passionate about raising awareness of the causes and consequences of violence against women and is committed to changing the attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate violence and gender inequality. Priya has led two research projects for Saheli, conveying the needs of women with no recourse to public funds and the detrimental effects of violence on mental health.
Priya was recently invited to speak at the House of Commons and was part of the delegation to Prime Minister Theresa May’s consultation on the proposed changes to the Domestic Abuse Bill ensuring that the prominent issues faced by the survivors of domestic abuse from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee communities are salient to policy makers. In her role as Saheli’s Chief Executive, she has been working to ensure specialist services continue to work towards empowering women to live life free from abuse.
Stacey Copeland, Professional Boxer and founder of Pave the Way
Following a successful football career, Stacey pursued her childhood dreams of boxing; as an amateur boxer, she won three national titles and a European silver medal before turning professional. In July 2018, she became the first British female boxer to win the Commonwealth title. Stacey founded the Pave the Way Foundation to challenge gender stereotypes and pave the way for girls and women in sport. As a passionate advocate for women and girls in Greater Manchester, she presents a weekly show on BBC Radio Manchester and has spoken in the European Parliament and at the United Nations as well as delivering more than 100 talks to schools and businesses. She is also involved in a number of charity and community initiatives.
Chloe Cousins, Lead Organiser of Rainbow Noir
Born and raised in Birmingham but grown in Manchester, Chloe is a voluntary organiser for Rainbow Noir, Manchester's social and peer support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex people of colour. The group are celebrating their sixth birthday in 2019 and provide a vital space for people to find family and community, a place to be 100% themselves, something which isn't always possible in faith, cultural and LGBT communities. Chloe also coordinates the programme for LGBT young people of colour at The Proud Trust, Manchester's LGBT youth charity, where she supports young people of colour and works within communities of colour to raise awareness and help build confidence and capacity to support LGBT young people within their communities.
Francess Davies-Tagoe, Chief Executive Officer of Tree of Life Centre
Francess has spent 20 years supporting people and organisations in the voluntary sector to take steps towards maximising their full potential. Following a number of leadership roles at Community Network for Manchester, Voluntary Action Manchester and the (GIO Project) Growing Independent Organisations, Francess is all the more determined to make a difference. She currently leads the Tree of Life Centre, which aims to minimise social isolation, poverty and deprivation, and mental ill-health. The charity is used by more than 300 people on a daily basis and is renowned for its eight distinctive projects which include a job club, furniture reuse, community café, foodbank, community repaint, clothing, wellbeing activities, volunteering and training opportunities. Francess also organises annual empowerment conferences and retreats to train and motivate women across Manchester.
Jackie Driver, Chair of Breakthrough UK and Sign Health, and Advisor for ResultCIC
Jackie works in the field of equality and human rights and has been part of the leadership of the Equality and Human Rights Commission since its inception. Currently seconded to Manchester Health and Care Commissioning to design and lead their inclusion and social value strategy, she is listed as one of the most influential disabled people in the UK in the Power 100 list. Jackie chairs Breakthrough UK, a Manchester-based disabled people’s organisation, and SignHealth, the leading organisation working to improve the health and wellbeing of people who are deaf. She is also an advisor to ResultCIC, a community interest company providing coaching to disadvantaged communities.
Sharmila Kar, Director of Workforce and Organisational Development, Manchester Health and Care Commissioning
Born and raised in India, Sharmila moved to the UK in her 20s. She is passionate about the development of people and organisations, and ensures that equality and inclusion are at the heart of what she does. She is now Director of Workforce and Organisational Development at Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, and has led workforce and organisational development functions at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Disability Rights Commission and Nacro, a national social justice organisation. She has worked in the public and not for profit sectors, on a portfolio of human resources, operational development and equality related projects. She has served on the board of Amnesty International UK and is currently a trustee of the LGBT Foundation.
Denise Yuen Megson, Lecturer at The University of Salford and Volunteer for Wai Yin Society
Denise volunteers at Wai Yin Society, one of the largest Chinese community centres in the UK. She hosts live radio programmes for Wai Lin, including Radio Sheung Lok, which received a bronze award for Community Development from the National Community Radio awards in 2017. Denise is passionate about giving a voice to minority groups in the local community and is now working with Wai Yin on their oral history project ‘Crossing the Borders’ which will capture the stories of first generation Chinese immigrants. Although she is now semi-retired, Denise had a career in nursing education and was one of the team who developed a postgraduate programme for community development workers in mental health working within British Ethnic Minority groups. She continues to teach health topics at the Wai Lin elder Centre and also volunteers for the Macmillan oral history project ‘Sharing Stories and Saving Memories’.
Dena Murphy, Chair of NEPHRA Good Neighbours
A former nurse, Dena is the Chair of New Moston resident’s group NEPHRA Good Neighbours, which aims to improve the lives of people in the neighbourhood. NEPHRA’s community-run allotment feeds over 50 pensioners at luncheon clubs each week, and provides training and qualifications for volunteers. Dena is a passionate gardener and has won more than 40 awards from the Royal Horticultural Society. The huge contribution she’s made to life in her community was acknowledged in 2017 when she was nominated for the Pride of Britain Awards.
Kate O’Donnell, Artistic Director of Trans Creative
Kate O’Donnell is the founder of pioneering company Trans Creative, who make award-winning theatre and curate the Manchester trans arts festival, Trans Vegas, where trans people get to tell their own stories and be visible on their own terms. Trans Creative uses creativity to reach communities and organisations across the country, sharing trans experience to help them grow and become better trans allies. Based up north, it hopes to change the world – one trans story at a time. Kate says, “We want everyone to be as excited about being trans as we are!”
Lynne Ridsdale, Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development at Manchester City Council
Lynne joined Manchester City Council in 2017 from the National Crime Agency, a non-ministerial government department. She previously worked for 12 years at Bolton Council, where she was responsible for communications, corporate policy and managing the voluntary and community sector strategy, as well as Human Resources and Operational Development. Lynne began her career with the Capita Group and spent six years as a management consultant specialising in workforce issues and business process improvement. Lynne now works to ensure the workforce at Manchester City Council is developed, engaged and managed effectively. This involves managing relationships with trades unions, maintaining and overseeing the application of Council workforce policies and procedures, and developing leadership, management and core skills development for staff.
Bernie Wood, Manager, Talbot House Support Centre
Forty Years ago, I gave birth to a wonderful baby boy, Geoffrey. Unlike his brother, Denis and his three sisters, Colette, Sara and Louise, no one said “congratulations”. Geoffrey had Downs Syndrome and everyone thought his life and mine would be so different from the ‘norm’. I founded a parent support service called The Peter Pan Centre as a result, and, forty years on, I’m still managing the same service, now called Talbot House. Talbot House is a user-led charity run by parents, for parents of children and adults who have severe learning disabilities. We are amazing and unique. Parents arrive at our centre lonely and frustrated and leave like sunflowers. There is life after disability and I am living proof. I am now 80 years of age still working, still caring, still loving life. Our motto is “Get Mam and Dad’s heads ok and the kids will be ok”.
Photography by Barrie Leach, creative work by Chris Jennings at M-4DesignStudio.