At Forever Manchester we believe that a connected community is a happy, healthy community and our experience of working in neighbourhoods and supporting grassroots organisations shows us that women are excellent communicators who are often the ones bringing a community together.

A quick glance at the projects we’ve supported in the last year suggests that up to 70% are led by women. They have the knowledge of what goes on in their local area and where things happen, the friendships and the wider relationships to bring a project life. The social, economic, cultural and political reasons for this are complex, but long may women use their skills and passions to embrace community potential and long may we continue to support them to do so!

To celebrate the fantastic women in our communities Forever Manchester has held a quarterly networking event for the last three years, Forever Manchester Women, that brings together inspiring women from our communities and successful businesswomen to share their experiences and stimulate conversation and action. These events have helped to raise over £25,000 for Forever Manchester.

We thought we’d take the opportunity to reflect on some of the great women who’ve joined us to speak at Forever Manchester Women.

One of our earliest speakers was Fran Barker who had experienced extreme difficulties in her life including abuse.  Fran turned her life around after attending a bakery course while on probation.  This inspired Fran to open her own bakery which, in turn, has provided employment opportunities for people who have suffered similar experiences.

One of our most popular speakers was Sandy Lindsay MBE, Founder and Chair of Tangerine Communications and the Juice Academy, who shared her experiences and advice in developing on the largest and most successful communications agencies outside London and providing opportunities for young people to secure social media apprenticeships.

At the same event we were moved to hear from Peggy Mulongo of New Steps for the African Community who talked about the serious issues for young women who have suffered female genital mutilation across Greater Manchester and how her group offers help and support.

In April 2017 we were inspired to hear from two fantastic women. Our first speaker was Jen Atkinson, Chief Executive of The Inspiring Travel Company who had joined the company as Marketing Manager and progressed to chief executive and developed the company to great success.

The second speaker was June Kelly MBE, who reduced the audience to tears with her stories of working with children in Cheetham Hill on a variety of positive sport and literacy and numeracy projects for young people with Abraham Moss Warriors Junior Football Team providing opportunities that can prevent them from entering potentially dangerous situations.

In October last year we heard from Nicola White MBE.  Nicola, from Oldham, is an Olympic gold medallist in the GB Hockey Team and provided a fascinating insight to the dedication, discipline and strength required to achieve Olympic gold.

We also heard from Sandhya Sharma of Safety4 Sisters.  Sandhya told us about the serious issues faced by women with fragile immigration status who have often suffered abuse and have little access to help and how Safety4Sisters offer support to help make a safer life for themselves and their families.

We’ve heard some inspiring, traumatic, positive and challenging stories from some of the fabulous women who have joined us at Forever Manchester Women.

International Women’s Day provides a great opportunity to celebrate these women who provide such a valuable contribution to our region.