March is Women’s History Month
People across the world are marking the month by remembering inspiring women from the past, and celebrating achievements in the now.
We’re doing the same in islington, by taking a look back at a pioneering figure in our borough’s history, and highlighting some inspiring women changing lives today.
We’ll also celebrate International Women’s Day on Friday 8th March with a breakfast reception hosted by our partners Macquarie. Building local connectivity between people with diverse viewpoints and experiences can help improve the lives of everyone in Islington. Well over 100 women connected to the borough are joining us, sharing their stories and experiences. A full report of the best bits will be available here and on our social feeds on the day.
This year’s IWD theme is #BalanceForBetter, and recent news that the pay gap between women and men in the UK continues to widen is just one indication of the progress still required. In Islington, wider national trends of discrimination, inequality, abuse, and reduced economic potential combine with acute local challenges to entail difficulties for many of the more than 110,000 women living here.
And yet there are stories of inspiration and tangible change from Islington’s past and present. We work with some truly inspiring women who are helping to shape the future for local children and young people, and make life better for everyone who lives here.
To mark Women’s History Month, we’re taking a look back at a true Islington history maker. Valda James was the first black woman elected to Islington Council, in 1986, and became Mayor of the borough two years later. Part of the Windrush generation, James moved to England in the 1960s and raised her children as a lone parent. This experience apparently helped inform her work in social services.
Launching an art installation in homage to James on the side of the Peel Centre, her granddaughter, the artist Phoebe Collings-James, said “I remember her telling me that even when she was in that privileged and well-earned position of Mayor, she didn’t believe she deserved to be in the room. […] It is an important reminder to me as a black woman artist to always have the confidence to know that I deserve to be heard. I want that message to be heard by many.”
Continuing with a tradition of women’s prominence in local politics, in 2018 Kadeema Woodbyrne was appointed as the borough’s first women and girls champion.
Women supporting women in Islington
Today, women across the borough give money, time, skills and energy to help others. Mothers meet each week to support each other and share advice, mentors help local students shape their futures, and volunteers give time to local families.
Local parent Amel (pictured above) has been coming to the Parent House for over three years. It is like a home to her, and everyone else who attends is like family. Each week, she spends time with other parents, many of whom volunteer to reach out to other local families who may be finding life tough. Read Amel’s story.
For mum Ingrid, the challenges of being a lone parent, in a new country, have been made a bit more manageable by the kindness and support given by volunteers of Chance UK. Chance UK helped to connect Ingrid and her son Ramarn with a local mentor, Amy, whose friendliness and support have been life changing. Read Ingrid and Ramarn’s story.
Thinking big, preparing for life after school, recognising and celebrating potential; these are the inspiring themes we hear from young cohorts (like those pictured below) of the BIG Alliance (Businesses for Islington Giving) Mentoring Works programme, now successfully running in Islington for five years. Hundreds of women working in high-profile roles at leading businesses have given time to support children and young people from almost every secondary school in the borough. Read more about their story.