On International Women’s Day, we celebrated the inspirational women in our lives and reflected on the contributions made by the extraordinary community leaders in Wealden.
I greatly miss the late Helen Taylor Thompson OBE, who lived in Nutley and was my confidant, adviser and my favourite stop for a cup of tea on my travels helping local residents. After her key role as codebreaker during WW2, Helen devoted her life to community and humanitarian service, helping our country understand and support people with HIV and AIDS. She founded Europe’s first AIDS hospice at Mildmay Mission Hospital where in 1989 Diana, the Princess of Wales, famously shook hands with a patient, helping to break HIV-related stigma.
More recently, women in Wealden have played a key role in local response to Covid-19. It was my privilege to meet so many inspirational Wealden Heroines, who stepped up as community leaders and organised support for the vulnerable, championed mental health support, made PPE, fundraised for local charities, led local businesses, and provided essentials to the community. I want to take this opportunity to thank them, as well as all the fantastic female teachers and school management leaders for bringing up our future generation, and healthcare leaders, practitioners, nurses and volunteers from across Wealden for delivering the lifesaving vaccine.
I’m grateful to the women and men in Wealden for electing me as their first female MP. The journey has not been easy and like so many women in the public eye, I too encounter abuse for delivering change. But I’m proud to represent Wealden and to have made a bit of history when back in 2018 I was appointed the first female Muslim Minister to speak at the Commons despatch box. I know this inspired many Wealden girls like me from working class backgrounds to consider jobs they believed were out of reach for them.
In 2015 I pledged that if elected, I would do everything to open up Parliament, encourage young people to get involved and inspire the next generation of female campaigners, politicians and leaders. There is still more to be done in advancing the cause of women and I’m keen to keep highlighting the inspiring women in Wealden, so our local girls feel empowered to aim high and have their voices heard. I remain committed to encouraging women to take up leadership positions and I look forward to inviting young Wealden residents to Parliament when circumstances allow.
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