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International Women’s Day: ‘I didn’t ever realise I was so powerful’

100 inspirational women gather to celebrate the contributions women make to Islington

14 March, 2017 — By Joe Cooper

Abi Billinghurst, Nicky Ludgate, Val Henney and Maggie Eliiot

One hundred inspirational women gathered on Wednesday to celebrate their contributions to the borough on International Women’s Day.

Women from the business, charity and voluntary sectors enjoyed a breakfast at the Hilton in Pentonville Road, organised by Islington Giving.

Val Henney, from Help on Your Doorstep, spoke about how she started the Good Neighbours Scheme on the New River Green Estate in Canonbury in 2011. The scheme, which brings tackles isolation and improves health and wellbeing, has been so successful that it has also launched on three more estates – Priory Green, Andover and Bemerton.

Abi Billinghurst founded Abianda, a social enterprise which supports and empowers young women who have been affected by gangs in Islington. It tackles problem such as sexual exploitation and women being used in County Lines drug dealing – exporting drugs to towns outside of London – by encouraging women to take the lead in one-to-one support sessions. Rather asking what a woman is doing wrong, they are asked how they have managed to survive.

“By flipping the coin in that very simple way, we open up a whole tapestry of resources, skills, and strategies that she’s been deploying to navigate the adversity and risks in her life,” said Ms Billinghurst. “What we then find with a focus on competence, rather than on problem – where it feels like change can never really happen quickly – is that young women are actually taking control of change, and being real change-makers in their lives and in their communities.”

She added: “Often women who we work with feel things can never change. But one woman who works closely told me ‘I didn’t ever realise I was so powerful’.”

The day before, on Tuesday March 7, Mayor of Islington Kat Fletcher presented certificates to 150 graduates of the e3 project, which teaches English and other skills, at migrant and refugee charity the Evelyn Oldfield Unit.

Islington Giving has raised £5million since starting in 2010, to fund over 60 carefully selected groups in the borough – including Abianda and Help on Your Doorstep.

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