2021 Womenspire Awards: Winners Announced!
The biggest winner on the night was Doctor and scientist Bnar Talabani who has been at the forefront of the effort to tackle uncertainty and misinformation around the Covid-19 vaccine.
She received the Woman in Health and Care Award as well as the overall title of Womenspire Champion 2021 having impressed the judges with her warmth, incredible resilience, determination and fearlessness in the face of adversity.
Arriving in the UK as a child refugee from Iraq back in 1998, her harrowing start in life could never have foretold her brilliant future. Bnar has been at the forefront of the effort to tackle uncertainty and misinformation around the Covid-19 vaccine. Filling a void she saw in the availability of information in different languages for ethnic minorities, she was instrumental in the formation of Muslim Doctors Cymru. And when she’s not on the ground fighting vaccine hesitancy, you can find her on TikTok dispelling myths.
When Bnar was not required to work on the Covid wards she decided to do something else to support. Having been struck with the amount of misinformation online she noticed there was a void in different languages to counteract. She reached out to a few colleagues and formed Muslim Doctors Cymru (MDC). They have delivered 15 webinars in 8 languages, with their work influencing announcements by Welsh Government. They have also worked with mosques to open as vaccination centres. Bnar has run women only groups dispelling myths about the vaccine and has linked up with Project Halo to target young people via TikTok videos, with some viewed over 35,000 times.
Community Champion: Roon Adam (Cardiff) – advice services manager at Race Equality First who goes above and beyond her role to help and support members of her local community.
Roon is an advice services manager at Race Equality First, going above and beyond her role to help and support members of her local community. Roon has helped women who need furniture, places to live, and food. Roon teaches them their rights, and as an Arabic interpreter she finds that when people are able to communicate in their own language, they really open up and become more comfortable. Roon enjoys helping people, especially women who have come over to the UK, as she understands the language and cultural barriers they are facing.
Board Member: Karen Harvey-Cooke (Barry) – on the board for Skills and Volunteering Cymru, bringing her knowledge of equality, diversity and inclusion.
Karen sits on the board for Skills and Volunteering Cymru, bringing her knowledge of equality, diversity and inclusion to assess what they are doing and what more they can do. Karen’s main goal is to make sure people have a space where they can be themselves and feel empowered. An ally for trans rights Karen is the chair of the staff LGBT network at Cardiff University; the role “”that that makes my eyes shine”. Karen also looks after the community articles in an online magazine, LGBTQymru.
Leader: Dr Gwenllian Lansdown Davies (Llanerfyl) – Chief Executive of Mudiad Meithrin, she is an inspirational role model, constantly working to create a positive culture where everyone matters.
Gwenllian is the Chief Executive of Mudiad Meithrin. An inspirational role model Gwenllian is constantly looking at new ways of improving, and new people to learn from or partner up with so as to create a positive culture where everyone matters; ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast!’ Gwenllian is always expanding on her knowledge and sharing it widely. When Covid hit Gwenllian ramped up internal communications, with her progressive and forward thinking way of leading she does not operate on a ‘need to know basis’.
Woman in STEM: Sam Wheeler (Merthyr Cynog, Brecon) – Director at Big Lemon transforming it into a ‘tech for good’ digital agency.
A ninja strategist, entrepreneur, public speaker, and mentor who is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of tech talent – Sam has quickly become a Director at Big Lemon transforming it into a ‘tech for good’ digital agency. She is committed to fostering a community of female tech innovators and agitators, has co-founded Digital Women in Wales, is a Big Ideas Wales role model and a Prince’s Trust delivery partner. Sam is a passionate advocate for co-production when designing tech solutions and about what tech can do for people, the planet, and communities.
Woman in Sport: Nikki Sibeon (Greenfield, Holywell) – an undetected genetic condition left her blind at the age of 21, yet she has become a blackbelt in Taekwondo and champion ice-skater.
Nikki had an undetected genetic condition which left her blind at the age of 21. The following year she began Taekwondo classes and became a blackbelt under the normal rulings. Needing a new challenge, Nikki got herself an ice-skating coach and within months entered inclusive skating championships in Birmingham and won her category. When covid shut the ice rinks she began ‘off-ice skating’ and won Scottish and British Awards. When Nikki’s local rink become a rainbow hospital, she sorted the necessary arrangements to travel on trains to alternative rinks, where she meets friends and her coach.
Rising Star: Jessica Dunrod (Cardiff) – The owner of two translations firms, Jessica is the first Black children’s author born in Wales since releasing “Your Hair is Your Crown” and “Outstanding”. The books are changing children’s perspectives of what girls can be.
Jessica started the first translation firm dedicated to children’s literature, launched a black publication firm as well as being co-chair on the Cardiff Race Equality Steering group. She is currently studying for her MA. Jessica also works to combat racism in schools, having had to take her son out due to the abuse he was suffering. Jessica’s aim is to promote the Welsh minority language, enable young black girls to see themselves in books and as main characters and to empower black women to realise that they can take on any role they want.
Entrepreneur: Leanne Holder (Narberth) – set up BecauseRaceCarBox, a subscription box for car cleaning enthusiasts and works to support female entrepreneurs and inspire them into male-dominated industries.
Leanne set up BecauseRaceCarBox, a subscription box for car cleaning enthusiasts, with her partner 4 years ago. Wanting to encourage women into cleaning their cars and to move away from the male scented, male terminology that were represented in the automotive industry Leanne launched the ‘Pink Detailing Collection’. Despite the pandemic, the business has grown thanks to Leanne’s approach, and they now have distributors in France and Belgium. Being a woman in the automotive industry, Leanne has had to face a lot of adversity to be taken seriously, which drives her to support female entrepreneurs and inspire them into male-dominated industries.
Learner: Kate Bennett-Davies (Cardiff) – diagnosed with ME at 14, Kate did make it to university, but had to leave due to ill health. However, she has recently finished her first year of a Welsh learner’s course with Cardiff University.
At 14 Kate was diagnosed with ME and although she made it to university, she had to leave due to ill health. She has had to wean herself off opioids and has built herself up to be less dependent on a wheelchair. Kate finished her first year of a Welsh learners course with Cardiff University. Kate has always had a big passion for writing and during the pandemic joined an online writing group (which has members from around the world). Kate is a quiet warrior who will go out of her way to help people and grow herself – even if it’s been from her bed.
Gender Equality Champion: Mike Taggart (Rhyl) – the strategic domestic abuse officer in the North Wales police force, with a focus on helping others to not be bystanders to domestic abuse.
Mike is the strategic domestic abuse officer in the North Wales police force, with a focus on helping others to not be bystanders to domestic abuse. He is also an ambassador for the white ribbon campaign. Mike states clearly that domestic abuse affects all genders, though as a gendered crime he wants to empower men to stand up for women. Mike was inspired to take on this role after his mother was murdered by his step father. He believes that you don’t necessarily need to physically intervene, you can be a voice for people who feel they can’t speak up.
FairPlay Employer Award
Celtic English Academy
FairPlay Employer Award – for a business or organisation – went to Celtic English Academy, having evidenced its solid commitment to fairness, inclusivity, well-being and workplace flexibility.
Celtic English Academy (CEA) is a British Council accredited English language training academy. CEA has a wide range of students from different backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, locations. There are many reasons Shoko, CEA’s Chief Executive, wanted to include equality and diversity in the organisation but felt strongly about it because of her experiences. When Shoko and her husband had children, she took on the CEO role so that he could be a stay at home Dad. Having experienced a lot of judgement Shoko felt she wanted to make CEA a very gender equal organisation and show other businesses that they should and can be too.