International Women
International Women's Day

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD). It is a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Marked annually on 8th March, it is an important time to:

    • Celebrate women’s achievements
    • Raise awareness about women’s equality
    • Lobby for accelerated gender parity
    • Fundraise for female-focused charities

The pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone, but evidence shows that women have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. This year, Luke wants to use his platform as MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport to highlight the important work done by women in the city, particularly during the past year.

There are a lot of amazing women in Plymouth doing exceptional things but here’s a short list of remarkable women who have really made a difference in Plymouth in the past year from Luke:

Dr Ruth Harrell

Dr Ruth Harrell is Director of Public Health at Plymouth City Council. The past year has been a particularly busy time for everyone working in health. Ruth has done a fantastic job of keeping everyone in Plymouth informed and reassured about the situation, ensuring supplies of PPE reach relevant areas, providing advice to schools, carrying out vital modelling work for hospitals, and helping redeploy staff and reconfiguring teams to keep vital council services running.

Ann James

Ann James is the Chief Executive University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust. Coping with a huge surge in patients, hospitals have been under tremendous pressure during the pandemic. Staff on the front line have faced unimaginable challenges. Ann and her team have demonstrated the very best of our city throughout the pandemic and I am very grateful for her leadership of the city’s hospital at this critical time.

Hannah Shead

Hannah Shead is the CEO of Trevi, an award-winning women’s charity based in central Plymouth. Over their 27 years, they have helped transform the lives of thousands of women and children. The aim of the charity Hannah works for provides safe and nurturing spaces where women in recovery can heal, grow, and thrive. Whilst services for women and children are always important, Hannah’s work at Trevi has provided a lifeline for women during the pandemic.

Councillor Kate Taylor

Councillor Kate Taylor is Plymouth council’s Cabinet member for adult health and social care. Kate has led the authority’s response to the pandemic, working non-stop to ensure the provision of vital services. Her role includes overseeing the coordination of communication and messaging, controlling the infection rate in Plymouth’s care homes via testing and support for staff, delivering care packages in the form of training & funding, as well as coordinating PPE. Kate was Plymouth’s youngest ever councillor when she was elected to represent Devonport aged just 18. She has shown that maturity and competence does not just come with age. She’s a real star and the council will be poorer as she steps down in May to pursue new challenges.

Disclaimer: Kate also works in Luke’s Parliamentary team.

Jo Gorniak

Jo Gorniak is the co-founder of Street Factory CIC. Street Factory is a group that uses hip hop culture and dance as a vehicle to positively change the lives of young and disadvantaged people in Plymouth. Along with her husband Toby, Jo and Street Factory have been urging people to take part in dance challenges, as a way for children and the local community to lift their spirits during lockdown. Jo is a real inspiration and connects with young people in a way few others in our city manage so authentically and passionately. She’s a real star.

Ayshea Cross

Ayshea Cross is the co-founder of two Plymouth charities – Provide Devon and Food Plymouth. Provide Devon offers food aid and other essentials to local people at crisis point. Food Plymouth operates as a central connecting hub for all food-related matters in the city. These services have been particularly important during the pandemic, with many people and families struggling financially. There are hundreds of families who would go hungry if it were not for Ayesha’s work and her leadership. She is a true Plymouth legend.

Claire Hill

Claire Hill is the Assistant CEO of Improving Lives Plymouth who have done some amazing things during the pandemic. As a long-established organisation, working within the city of Plymouth and the surrounding area, Improving Lives have an excellent track record of delivering services and developing new ones to meet the needs of individuals and community and voluntary organisations. They run information, advice, and support services for people with disabilities and long-term health conditions.

Michelle Thomas

Michelle is Director of Transformation at Livewell South West. She is responsible for aligning teams to work more closely and to respond to people’s needs, wants, and strengths, making it easier for them to get the advice, support, and care they need closer to home. Livewell provides integrated health and social care services to people across Plymouth. Their mission is to provide support to people to stay well in the place and community in which they live. Whilst we have all been told to stay at home over the past year, the services provided by Michelle and her team have made the lives of many Plymouth residents much easier.

Hilary Knight

Hilary Knight is Co-ordinator at the Soup Run in Plymouth. The Soup Run operates seven nights a week and has done every night since the start of the pandemic. They provide donate, collect, prepare, and deliver essential food and items to the hungry and the vulnerable across Plymouth. The charity has been particularly helpful to many during the pandemic, especially the homeless, who have struggled to feed themselves or their families.

Disclaimer: Luke is a volunteer on the Soup Run.

Wendy Hart and Hannah Sloggett

The transformation of Union Street owes much to two amazing women. Wendy and Hannah are the Founders and Directors of Nudge Community Builders. Nudge’s mission is to make last change to build a strong local community and economy. This is done by nudging local buildings and spaces to be used and loved; nudging local people and businesses to be brave, creative, resilient, and healthy, supporting themselves and their local community; and nudging local and national change for communities by using our voice and leading by example.

Luke on International Women’s Day:

“International Women’s Day seeks to celebrate, thank and promote women across the world but it is also our chance to do the same in Plymouth. As a bloke I do not encounter the same barriers and obstacles that many women in our city do and that is why I want to use the privilege and platform I have as an MP to thank and promote some amazing women in our city. There are countless more people making waves and make a difference in all our communities.


“International Women’s Day should not be the only day of the year where we all take steps to promote, thank and celebrate the contribution of women and girls to our city, but it is a day that each year helps set the tone for what follows. This year’s theme is choose to challenge and that’s a powerful message I hope you take to heart.”

Find out more:

The Herald has a great article about 50 amazing Plymouth women that is worth a read. Click here.

Find out more about International Women’s Day here:

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