Today and in celebration of International Women's Day, we hear from Noreen Taylor, an incredible role model who has fought injustice both here and abroad.
Can you tell us a little bit about your role and your journey to get there?
I'm currently working for Bradford Metropolitan District Council as an Employment Hub Officer. I love this work as now, more than ever, people across our District are unsurprisingly struggling with the impact the pandemic has had on employment. This ranges from the lack of future job security, redundancy and the furlough scheme, and reduced hours. We're there to offer advice, information and support and it's a really worthwhile role.
My early days? I was a young carer for my mum who was unfortunately terminally ill. When I look back now, I realise I grew up very quickly; caring for her at such a young age matures you. It gives you an inner strength that perhaps my friends didn't quite need as much as I did at that time. I remember I was 9 years old and Airedale Hospital needed a renal dialysis machine as patients had to travel to Leeds General for treatment. I thought, I can help - I can raise awareness and funds to make this happen. So with a team of like-minded people, we campaigned - 9 years old! I don't know if that was the start of me wanting to make a difference for the more vulnerable people in society but it definitely contributed to where I am now and all I've achieved.
When we moved to a predominantly white British area in Keighley West (as we needed a ground level medical room for my mum), I remember being subjected to some unsavoury words at the start because of our ethnicity. At the beginning it was hard but over the years, barriers were broken down and the very same people who called us names, became friends.
Can you share an example of when you chose to challenge?
A local health centre was due to be moved without consultation with residents in Keighley West, Oxenhope, Stanbury etc. The centre needed to be local to support the healthcare needs of residents nearby. In my mind, no consultation and very much a feeling of a 'done deal' simply wasn't acceptable, so I campaigned against it. I was told in polite words that I would lose my job if I continued to challenge the decision but I did what I felt was right. I realised I could be a cleaner and be content, but I could never justify injustice of any kind.
Which women have inspired you and why?
All women inspire me, because they are the greatest creation of mankind. They are the backbone of every family, they care for everyone and give selflessly. Even the toughest of women are the softest from the inside - the mothers, the sisters, the friends, the wife, the grandmothers, the aunts.
What are you most proud of?
Being privileged to travel to 169 countries, experiencing new cultures, supporting grassroots projects and enabling voices to be heard. Setting up the Global Hands in Leicester, which is now an international brand that supports capacity building and skills development in Gambia, is definitely high up on the list of proud moments.
Why is it important for you and your organisation to recognise International Women's Day?
Women across the world should be celebrated as our multiple roles often get lost when it comes to conscious recognition. The donkey and the horse - one is celebrated whilst the other is persecuted, one carries the heavier load whilst the other runs fast. Labels, perceptions and stereotypes can destroy the best of societies.
If an apple does not fall far from the tree then truly we need to nurture, protect and care for that tree. A woman is that tree that stands tall, in silence and patience, and accepts the storm, the rain and the sunshine.
For International Women's Day, what is the most important message you want to give to women thinking about a career in the voluntary sector?
Three things; knowledge is worthless if not shared; support others, learn who you are and transfer positive energy; and you become the two thirds of the five people you surround yourself with.