Five local women are the stars of new campaign

Published Friday 3 March 2017 at 13:05

A poster campaign has been launched to help highlight some of the inspirational women who make a difference to people’s lives in Blackburn and Darwen.

Five women have been chosen to appear in the campaign to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8. The theme this year is Be Bold For Change.

They have all worked hard to make significant contributions to their communities through volunteering or their careers and in turn acted as role models for other women.

Susan Wolstenholme is the chairman of Blackburn Road Runners and has completed 16 marathons including seven London marathons, Paris, Manchester, Brighton, and Edinburgh.

Blackburn Road Runners was 30 years old in 2016 and has almost 300 members. Susan has been a member for the last 15 years and Chair for the past 3 years. She has overseen its rapid expansion in that time coordinating with Blackburn 5KGroupRun to develop runners into our club via an open progression group.

Susan said:

I took up running with a friend who suggested I enter the local Winter Warmer 10k. My goal was to just get round in under an hour which I just scraped through. I then decided to join a club to help me improve and other club members encouraged me to run a marathon.

I can honestly say the first London Marathon was the best experience of my life and that distance has hooked me for all these years. I’ve been inspired to get people running who don’t consider themselves conventional runners so we incorporate all abilities.”

Loraine Jones, general manager, The Mall, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council works with local businesses and partners to improve the shopping experience in Blackburn for residents and visitors. The Mall is one of the town’s assets that helped secure the top spot in the Great British High Street Awards.

She said: I work with business partners to ensure that shopping in Blackburn is an award winning experience.”

Shigufta Khan, Chief Executive Officer at Blackburn & Darwen District Without Abuse that supports women, men and children who are affected by domestic violence or abuse. Shigufta who has been in her role for around ten years says she is constantly inspired by the bravery of the people that they help and how many survivors of abuse go on to volunteer to help others change their lives.

Joan Connell, from Darwen, is a dedicated foster carer who is changing the lives of children across the borough.

Joan, a 70-year-old mother of four and grandma of seven, started fostering by accident. She said:

I used to work helping homeless people and those seeking refuge in this country. “I was working with a mother and daughter who had fled the troubles from their homeland in North Korea. The mother was concerned for the safety of her son who hadn’t managed to escape the country and wanted to go back.

I had a funny feeling so I went round to the house and the daughter answered the door, I asked to talk to her mum, she told me that her mum had gone back to try and find her son. I obviously couldn’t leave her on her own so I took her back to my house and made the necessary phone calls and she lived with me for four years. She’s the loveliest girl you could ever wish to meet and is now living in South Korea with her family but we still keep in touch which is nice.”

Joan added:

I’ve fostered a real variety of children and absolutely love all of them, they are so much fun and in some ways they are what keeps me young. It can be hard work at times but it’s your job to support them and show them the right way.”

Blackburn teenager Emily Hirst has been involved in several community projects and made great achievements at just 17 years old. The young leader at St Bartholomew’s Guides’ most recent project has been to restore the Pleasington Book of Remembrance Building at Pleasington Cemetery. This lets bereaved people have a quiet space while visiting their lost loved ones.

Emily said:

I am passionate about bringing my community together to help make the area we live in a cleaner and pleasant place to live in.”

The images of the woman and details of how they have been bold for change will appear in bus shelters across Blackburn and Darwen, on the large screens at the next two Blackburn Rovers matches as well as in The Mall, Blackburn and also the screens at Blackburn Sports and  Leisure Centre and Darwen Leisure Centre.

Councillor Maureen Bateson who has spearheaded the drive to mark International Women’s Day in the borough said:

We are very lucky in Blackburn and Darwen to have so many women to choose from when it comes to amazing achievements, everything from sports and business to unpaid community work.  I think it’s really important that we celebrate this strength.

I hope sharing their stories helps inspire others to follow their dreams, achieve ambitions and do something to make a difference. Women still face a lot of inequality and both men and women can’t ever give up highlighting issues and helping to change things for the better”

A packed programme of activity is planned as part of International Women’s Day. Details can be found at<>, in the special International Women’s Day section, at Blackburn Visitor Centre, Blackburn Central Library, Darwen Library and at Community Centre, Leisure Centres and Children’s Centres across the borough.


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