Daisy Cooper, the MP for St Albans, marked International Women’s Day (IWD) with a virtual event showcasing the achievements of six local women who have been active within the local community and in supporting the COVID-19 recovery during the past year.
The third annual International Women’s Day event hosted by Daisy, this one differed from the previous two, taking place as it did via Zoom rather than at a local St Albans pub.
Nonetheless, a record 80-plus attendees joined the event to hear Daisy and a panel of six guest speakers.
A little indulgence was laid on too, courtesy of local business Cellar Door Wines, which provided ticket holders with gift bags containing Prosecco and chocolate to enjoy throughout the evening.
Raihaanah Ahmed, one of the panellists at the event, has been exceptionally busy over the past 12 months with her work at Sopwell Community Trust, where she’s a trustee.
“Starting in March 2020, we’ve been delivering fresh produce boxes to 384 people every week, rescued food surplus from 10 locations twice daily, provided 30-plus devices to local school children, offered subsidised tutoring by qualified teachers to children who’ve fallen behind with school work, and provided cooked meals to St Albans Homeless Action Group, Open Door and the NHS,” said Raihaanah.
Fellow panellist Shelley Hayles has been busy too. Following the Black Lives Matter protest in Verulamium Park in June, for which she was the leading voice, she’s been working closely with Hertfordshire police and St Albans City and District Council to ensure that diverse community needs are being met and that trust is established and nurtured.
“The impact of COVID-19 has been devastating on vulnerable young people and they need to be listened to and socially engaged with,” she said.
“The pandemic has highlighted the deep layer of inequalities in our communities. Community cohesion has never been more important.”
For Helen Campbell, an Open Door St Albans charity and Batchwood Hall vaccination centre volunteer, the pandemic has highlighted the burden all too often placed on women.
“Whether it’s losses in retail and hospitality jobs, a tragic increase in domestic violence against women, the relentless toil of caring responsibilities or home-schooling, the past 12 months have undoubtedly seen women hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic,” she said.
“I’ve lost count of the number of food boxes I’ve carried, the shopping bags delivered, the meals cooked for vulnerable people and the elderly people I’ve helped usher to have their vaccinations. I feel immensely lucky and humbled to be in a position to support the community this way.”
Liz West, another panellist and NHS project manager, echoed Helen’s praise for the event, saying: “I was honoured to speak at the event and I really enjoyed being able to share what it’s been like working for the NHS over the last year.”
Daisy Cooper MP said: “One of the reasons I love this event is because it shines a light on all the brilliant work carried out by women right here in our own community.
“The global group United Nations Women estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic could wipe out a quarter of a century of increasing gender equality. So, there’s never been a more pertinent International Women’s Day than this year’s event to celebrate the work and contributions that women make.”
Picture credit St Albans Liberal Democrats