From education to employment

Black in the Ivory awards celebrate phenomenal women of colour

Credit: n_j_d_photography (Instagram).

Women of colour who have helped shape and steer race equality and public service across the country were celebrated at the GEM Network’s second, Black History Month themed awards.

The awards were held on Wednesday 19 November and were part of the third, annual Black in the Ivory conference from the University of Northampton’s Global Ethnic Majority (GEM) staff network. The theme this year was Honouring Phenomenal Women of Colour.

The conference – opened by the University’s Vice Chancellor Anne-Marie Kilday – featured presentations from three women Professors of colour from across the UK and paid tribute to the work of female academics who have championed race equality within and beyond academia.

Following the conference, the second GEM Black in the Ivory awards also recognised women of colour (pictured above) who have achieved success in social enterprise and entrepreneurship, human rights, and women’s advocacy. The full list of winners is:

  • Councillor Rufia Ashraf for outstanding contribution to public service, social work, and community empowerment.  As the first female mayor with Bangladeshi heritage, Rufia is commended for her tireless campaigning for local charities particularly as a trustee for the Northamptonshire Domestic Abuse Service (NDAS).
  • Diana Belfon is the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Specialist at Integrated Care Northamptonshire. Diana is commended for distinguished leadership in facilitating and fostering partnerships for EDI networks across various public sector bodies in Northamptonshire.
  • Councillor Sylvia Erskine, who works for Wellingborough Town Council, is commended for outstanding contribution to public service and as a community activist. Sylvia’ s notable work with the Saturday Morning School and the Wellingborough African Caribbean Association (WACA) have etched an enduring legacy of advancement and inspiration for the local community.
  • Lorraine Lewis is the Co-Founder & CEO of the Lewis Foundation. She is awarded for local and nationally recognised achievements in providing support to adult cancer patients in Northamptonshire and the wider Midlands community. She is a consistent, dedicated, and determined provider of care, comfort, and hope across the region.
  • Runtendo Nyatsine is the Chair of the Zimwomen Association Northamptonshire.  She is awarded for distinguished contribution to the local community. There is wide commendation for the Association as an anchor of support for women from Zimbabwe and extending to other ethnic minority women and youth. Over the years, under Runtendo’s inspirational leadership, the group has earned distinction as a grassroots collective that has succoured and empowered women and girls in the county.
  • June-Elizabeth White Smith-Gulley is an International Windrush Advocate who has positively impacted the lives of the Afro-Caribbean community with 20 years’ experience as a Health Councillor at the Northamptonshire Drug and Alcohol Service.  June was the first Black police officer to be appointed in the county and is a Co-Founder of the Northamptonshire Black History Association.
  • April Ventour-Griffiths is a mentor and coach and outstanding advocate for women’s rights, health, and wellbeing.  April is highly respected for her impactful work as a domestic abuse trainer and motivation coach.  With her ESTEEM Women Initiative, she is a leading voice in the county for the empowerment and upliftment of women.
  • Beverley Ward, Founder of Vicky’s Kitchen. Beverly is awarded for her exceptional achievement as a female entrepreneur of colour in Northamptonshire.  Beverly is held in high regard for her business acumen, establishing the Vicky’s Kitchen brand of award-winning condiments that have been showcased at exhibitions and on television.

Dr Marcella Daye, Senior Lecturer in Tourism Management, is also co-chair of the GEM Network. She says:

“Black in the Ivory is an opportunity to highlight the achievements of people of colour and to listen to their opinions and research.

“We also welcomed back our second annual awards, this year celebrating some outstanding women for their work and service in Northamptonshire; we were delighted to add to the worthy praise they have already received.

“By throwing the spotlight on their sterling achievements, we hope to highlight what these women have done to shape a more equitable and supportive Northamptonshire.”

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