Several different female speakers were invited to share their stories to help us gain a better insight into how we can work together towards a more equitable world, starting here in our own community at the Ursuline High School, Wimbledon.
The conference was opened with a warm welcome from our Headteacher; Ms Waters who gave a brief introduction on the focus of the conference. Ms Waters also described the origin behind the term ‘Intersectional Feminism’ and how we can apply its values to our lives here at the Ursuline. Ms Waters then handed over to Ms Harrison and the student leaders, who outlined the conference schedule and what the attendees are to expect before passing the stage over to the guest speakers to introduce themselves.
Our first guest speaker, Nazmeen Amin, is an Operational Assistant at the Commonwealth Secretariat as well as an advocate for the sustainable development and the economic empowerment of women. Nazmeen graciously shared her time with us to discuss her own personal experience of navigating high-level conferences as a young Pakistani woman straddling different countries, cultures, and values and how this shaped her own identity. Nazmeen’s words gave us a deeper insight into the importance of understanding all the layers of a woman’s identity to gain real gender equality in the world.
Following on from this we were joined by Jessica Ihejetoh, an arts and cultural project manager in London. Jessica’s job allows her to meet inspiring female artists, writers, campaigners, and thinkers from different backgrounds across the globe. Jessica came on to discuss why it is important to learn from different women and girls, listen to each other’s stories (no matter how different to your own) and find joy in discovering women’s experiences. Jessica says that her own feminism is ever-evolving and is shaped by her own experiences as well as her British-Nigerian family, friends, and own desire to support girls in reaching their potential.
Next up, to generously share their insights with the viewers, was Philippa Nesbitt. Philippa has had a multi-year career as a banker, most recently as the Global Head of Trust for Citi Private Bank. She has recently retired and is now a Charity Trustee and Non-Executive Director. Philippa shared her story of success in a male-dominated industry, as well as the challenges she faced as a woman, how she has seen the industry change, and what issues she considers still need to be addressed. Philippa also spoke about her work in the field of mental health. Philippa’s impactful speech showed us that for personal growth, it is vital to be inspired by what women have achieved in many different fields and to consider what impact we too can make.
Our fourth speaker, Emma Kafero, works as an Emergency Department Specialist Caseworker in a hospital with young people aged 12-25 who are victims of violence. Emma has over 15 years’ experience working with young people of all faiths and backgrounds in school chaplaincy, on estates, churches, youth clubs and out on the streets as a detached worker. Emma also has a degree in Graphic Design.Emma’s focus was on how our lived experiences can shape us and our identity as well as our own and other people’s expectations. Emma’s words encouraged the students to overcome any barriers that society has put in their way, so that they can feel supported and empowered.
Lili Dunn was the fifth speaker to present in the conference. Lili is a recent graduate from Liverpool university where she studied history. She is now working for Save the Children as a Campaigner. Lili came along to raise awareness around the work she does and to talk about the aspirations of young women in the current climate. She spoke about her journey to becoming a Campaigner at Save the Children and about the powerful work that they do improving the lives and opportunities of girls and women today. Her focus was on community campaigning, mobilising, and lived experiences when striving to bring about change.
Next up was Natalia-Nana Lester-Bush, a specialist in Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging. Natalia-Nana blends her EDI expertise with her lived experience as a bi-cultural, women of colour with (non-visible) disabilities, to advise and support organisations and individuals in their journeys of Decolonisation, Liberation, Equity, and Inclusion. Natalia-Nana discussed her personal experiences as a WoC of dual heritage with disabilities, as well as other personal experiences which were of interest to the audience. Natalia-Nana’s thought-provoking words helped us recognise own our unique story and see our individual privileges and challenges.
Finally, our very own Dr. Sr Elizabeth Mudzimu spoke on the transformative and sustainable strategies of navigating challenges that women and girls face at the backdrop of patriarchal structures. Dr. Sr. Mudzimu is a new doctoral graduate from the University of Groningen. She is a Social Scientist, and her research interests focus on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Transformation and Sustainability. She has worked extensively on Women Development and Empowerment in Zimbabwe. She is also a trained teacher in Religious Studies and History.
Once the speeches had concluded, Ms Harrison and the student leaders hosted a panel discussion in which the attendees asked questions of the speakers to round off the ‘Phenomenal Women’ conference on Intersectional Feminism. The insightful words of the speakers as well as our own discussion reinforced our understanding of the school spirit; Serviam, to consider how we can put our talents and gifts to the service of other women and girls to help create a more equitable society in which all can thrive!