Winners of the Yorkshire Women of Achievement Awards 2017

Community Impact Award and Overall Woman of Achievement 2017: Bana Gora

Bana is the CEO of the Muslim Women’s council, which represents the views of Muslim women from across the UK. The organisation is known locally, nationally and internationally for its pioneering work – the women led mosque initiative – the first such mosque in the UK.

Bana is a champion of women and aims to challenge the stereotypes Muslim women face whilst supporting them to have a voice. She actively seeks to nurture new and emerging Muslim women by providing internships and mentoring. Bana is a leader in challenging the assumptions made about Muslim women and created initiative such as the Curry Circle, which feeds around a hundred homeless people, predominately males, with drug alcohol and mental health issues.

Through her previous role working as a domestic violence worker, Bana provided advice and assistance to Asian women and their children and realised how little women knew of their rights and how low their confidence was. Bana wanted to change this and allow women to reach their full potential, have a voice and confidence and become active citizens in their community.

Category winners 2017:

Woman of Achievement in Business: Gill Hodgson

Gill is a flower farmer and is passionate about getting more people to grow British flowers for market. The success of obtaining a LEADER grant to carry out a pilot study to encourage others to look at the business of flower farming enabled Gill to set up her own not-for-profit company, Flowers from the Farm.

Gill’s aim is to promote locally grown seasonal flowers, encouraging more people to go into the flower growing business and move away from imported flowers, which dominate 90% of the market. Gill is an ambassador for British flowers and her company now has over 420 members spread throughout the country from Scotland to Cornwall. Because of Gill there are now hundreds of SME businesses all over the country providing sustainable, seasonal flowers for their local markets, florists and brides, and she provides a wealth of advice at regional meetings for people wanting to learn about growing.

She has won several awards including the Environmental initiative in the UK grower awards 2017, which are the top horticultural awards in the country. Gill is campaigning to get flowers back by hospital bedsides and improving access to seasonal funeral flowers with the plan that these initiatives will cover the whole of the country.

Woman of Achievement in Education: Rose McCarthy

Rose has worked tirelessly to support vulnerable asylum seekers and refugee (AS&R) women in Leeds and across the UK, helping them access the healthcare system throughout pregnancy. She has run antenatal classes and was instrumental is commissioning research into antenatal care for AS&R women, which led to a specialised midwifery service for AS&R women in Leeds. 18 months later, LTHT won a parliamentary award for its services to asylum seekers and refugees.

Rose strongly believes in the importance of building inclusive communities. In 2011, Rose set up the Maternity Stream Sanctuary, a forum for AS&R to have a voice and to be heard by providers of services and commissioners, now a charity in its own right. They helped train AS&R in public speaking. Now, when attending conferences at local, regional and even international level, she speaks with them instead of speaking on behalf of them. Rose is also a founder member of the Leeds City of Sanctuary, a movement supporting AS&R which now has 150 subgroups across the UK.

Since 2016, Rose has been working for the Refugee Council training volunteers to help Syrian refugees to settle in the UK, often in town not accustomed to refugees.

Woman of Achievement in Sport: Izzy Palmer

Izzy was born in September 2000 and diagnosed with cerebral palsy before she was a year old. She began horse riding at two years of age and was inspired by Sophie Wells at the London 2012 Paralympics to compete in dressage. In 2013, Sophie became her mentor.

Aged 13, Izzy was national restricted champion and has won the Leeds Sports Awards Young Disability Sportsperson for three years running. She won her first UK based International on Sophie’s London 2012 horse Pinocchio, was Summer National Champion in 2016 and most recently became Winter Champion in the open class against adults.

At the moment she is the top grade three riders in the UK, the youngest rider on the lottery funded World Class Podium Potential programme and has just been selected for her second two-year cycle. Selected by team GBR, she is about to go to Deauville to compete in her first international abroad. A very hard-working and inspirational young ladym she combines a tough training schedule between Leeds/Newark whilst studying for this summer’s GCE’s.

Young Achiever of the Year: Lydia Mellen

Lydia was sick for much of her childhood and just before her seventh birthday she was diagnosed with cancer of the liver. After a successful partial lobe liver transplant, she took up cycle racing, but because she is unable to metabolise properly, she struggles with her energy levels. She now races against other transplant children in her age category. She is the double under-17 British Champion, winning both the Time Trial and Road Race in the British Transplant Games in Liverpool last year, and has been invited to compete for Great Britain in the World Transplant Games in Malaga where she will take part in the Time Trial.

Lydia is aware that she is different from other children her age but throws herself into everything with great enthusiasm. She has done much to raise awareness for transplants and wrote to a newspaper last year asking them to run an article to build awareness and ask people to join the transplant donor list. She is a very caring sixteen-year-old who always puts other people before herself.

Jane Tomlinson Award for Courage: Leanne Owen

Leanne was an operational fire fighter. Aged 42, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and, as a consequence, had to leave the job she loved. In her own words: “For as long as I can remember I lived in a bubble, a beautiful bubble big enough to share with my husband, our two sons and our dog. Six years ago I was told the news that burst my bubble.”

Since then, for Leanne, life has been quite a journey. Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition that affects the part of the brain that is responsible for movement. At present there is no cure. Despite the daily challenges Leanne faces as the condition affects her ability to do simple things such as cooking, walking or washing her hair, she has taken it upon herself to help others with Parkinson’s and is leading by example.

In 2016, Leanne set herself the target of raising £1,000 by cycling 477 miles during Parkinson’s Awareness Week, an unthinkable challenge for someone whose ability to move could vary not only day by day but hour by hour. Leanne not only completed the challenge but managed to raise £10,000 for the charity. She is an inspirational speaker and has reached thousands of people along her journey to raise awareness of this condition and Parkinson’s UK as a charity.

Woman of Achievement in the Arts: Nicola Greenan

In 2009, Nicola helped set up LS14 Trust, a locally driven organisation in Seacroft, making a significant impact on local people’s pride and ambition. With over 2000 members, LS14 Trust is a catalyst for local change and creativity. It invests time into local people, providing a voice for many who have never been listened to. Nicola has chaired the Leeds Music Trust, supporting young musicians with disabilities to have the same access to a professional music environment.

She is currently a Director at East Street Arts. In this role, she has supported hundreds of artists across the region in sculpture, digital and performance art, and given funding, careers advice and mentoring, creating opportunities and introductions.

Also as part of her role at East Street Arts, Nicola led the setup of ArtistHouse 45 working with the council to provide an empty home in Beeston. She raised the funds to renovate it and offered a five-year artist residency programme in Beeston to support artist-led neighbourhood regeneration. She also chairs the engagement advisory group for Leeds Bid for ECOC 2023 and sits on the steering group.

Woman of Achievement in Science and Technology: Dr Sarah Heath

Sarah has developed a distinctive research programme in nuclear engineering, and is an innovative and inspirational university teacher. Most of her research relates to sensitive topics associated with defence and national security that have led to an updated UK response planning for nuclear terrorism.

Sarah is also an inspirational undergraduate teacher. Invariably when she takes on a course, student feedback statistics improve.She has driven innovation in teaching. She taught using ‘flipped classroom’ techniques before the term was widely used and has developed and implemented a method to run workshops single-handed with large number of students (200+).

Sarah also led the development of a programme for two nuclear Doctoral Training Centres, now recognised as best practice by US national academies. She has recently taken on a faculty role promoting equality, diversity and social responsibility, and she actively mentors graduates from the Doctoral Training Centres, in particular women who are following careers as diverse as nuclear security, civil engineering and nuclear regulation.

Yorkshire Rose Award: Jo Cox

Last June, Jo Cox, a young Yorkshire woman, a wife, a mum and a member of Parliament for the local constituency of Batley and Spen – a place that was her home where she was born and brought up – was murdered on the streets of Birstall. The murder of a British Member of Parliament on the streets of her own constituency was deeply shocking.

This woman was dynamic, principled and loved. Since her death, we mourned the passing of a woman who believed wholeheatedly in her politics and was a humanitarian. Jo believed in so many things: a fighter of loneliness, she had a spirit of optimism about bringing diverse communities together and wanted us all to be united. Jo Cox was a firebrand, full of energy, compassion and Yorkshire grit.

Jo Cox’s legacy is now being powered by her husband and her close family. We are all being invited to take part in the ‘Great Get Together’, a tribute to Jo, where we are being asked to get together with friends and family and in communities for street parties, picnics and bake-offs to remember this remarkable young woman. The Royal Family and several charities are involved.

For all she did, for a life worth celebrating, for her courage and her humility and for showing the world her compassion, it was an honour to invite Jo’s sister Kim Leadbeater and Jo’s parents Jean and Gordon to accept this award.