International Women’s Day.  An important day in the global calendar to honour the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and to bring recognition towards the challenges they continue to face. It is a vital platform that allows us to advocate for gender equality and the global empowerment of women. It serves as a call for action and encourages people to challenge stereotypes, support women’s rights and promote inclusivity – the theme of IWD 2024.

In my 10 years of leading the Foundation, I have had the pleasure of meeting truly inspirational female leaders from across our region, leaders who are working hard every day to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable women. But what is most inspiring?  That their work is not determined by recognition. These women often work at the heart of their communities, receiving no reward or acknowledgement for the work they do to change women’s lives. Their reward is seeing the change in women who access their services, growing in confidence, empowerment and watching a brighter future unfold; one that is not just about surviving, but thriving, a future where these women are included, not excluded, from society.

I love this region and the vibrant voluntary and community sector that operates within it. The Foundation has supported so many projects that empower women and girls to participate in sport, explore positive mental health, initiatives to help young female carers, and projects which offer diversionary activities to keep girls out of the criminal justice system.

I could highlight so many organisations, but one particular project led me to meet women rescued from modern slavery. Can you possibly imagine being sold for domestic servitude? Where you have been locked away, like a prisoner, for almost 6 years? Can you imagine thinking you’re coming to the UK to go to university and live a peaceful life, but you’ve been sold as a sex worker at just 18?  I simply cannot put into words the emotional affect meeting the women from Black Country’s Women Aid had on me. These women were isolated and alone with nowhere to turn.  Black Country Women’s Aid became a lifeline for them, offering holistic therapies, counselling and advocating for them with statutory services to ensure they have a right to remain. Without charities such as Black Country Women’s Aid where would these women access help?

I appreciate that many of the organisations we support help the most vulnerable people in our communities, but today it’s important to highlight those organisations that have a specific dedication towards helping women and girls, offering them opportunities and brighter futures. 

This, for me, is inspiring inclusion. We all want to feel like we’re part of society, we all want our voices to be heard, we all want the same opportunities so lets continue to create an environment of true inclusivity.

Happy International Women’s Day everyone,