Today, the 8 March, is International Women’s Day and yesterday I went to a conference in Sheffield to see some inspirational women talk about their life, struggles and triumphs. Guest speakers were Penny Mallory, Lady Catherine Meyer and Arlene Phillips. The event was hosted by Forward Ladies and helped raise money for the Katie Piper Foundation. Katie was also there to promote her charity. You can read a news article on the conference here but I thought the women there deserved more so I have picked out the best parts of their speeches and put a brief outline of what they said.
In 2008 Katie had sulphuric acid thrown on her face after being raped by her ex-boyfriend then refusing to see him. Both the men involved were found guilty and sent to jail for their crimes but Katie has had to rebuild her appearance and her life. Before the attack she was a budding model and T.V. presenter but since she has become a source of inspiration and example of overcoming life changing events even though “having a burn leaves you feeling desperate and isolated.”
Now she can be seen at events like the conference held in Sheffield yesterday and her beautiful face is plastered all over the website for The Katie Piper Foundation which she set up to show “you can have a happy life with burns.”
- “Disfigurement left me insecure and made me realise I had judged people in my mind about how they see me. But, after the Channel 4 documentary some journalists asked me how it felt to know I would never get married or have children. I wanted to change that.”
The Katie Piper Foundation
Katie said the foundation was set up to: “Give people the confidence to venture out and give them the choice to wear cosmetics or not.” They help burns victims to overcome the ordeal they have been through by providing funding for rehabilitation and treatment, support the need for the constant clinical care required, give workshops to help victims with makeup, medical tattooing and image related issues, create a support network and normalise society’s view of disfigurement.
The conference was held to celebrate International Women’s Day and also raise money for The Katie Piper Foundation. In Sheffield alone over £1000 was raised which will go to all of the above but also help with the goal of opening an advanced burns and rehabilitation clinic in the U.K. To visit the website for more information about the foundation, events or to donate click here.
Penny Mallory is proud to be called the “Female Jeremy Clarkson” and being the first woman to race in the World Rally Championships it’s well deserved. Yesterday she spoke to a room of business-women (and a few men) about the trials she has had through life and the triumphs she has achieved. She encouraged them to “take control of your life” and outlined her nine steps to success which included passion, planning, preparation and a positive spin. In her speech she explained how she started training to run a marathon at a size 18, completed the feat and went on to climb Europe’s highest mountain, Mount. Elbrus.
These are just a few accomplishments in her life which all spanned from when she was a young rebel living alone, drinking and taking drugs. She said: “One day I had a moment in my life when I said enough,” showing the self motivation and perseverance which has made her so successful in her endeavours. While holding the audience’s attention with her stories she interjected with words of confidence, telling them to focus on the positives in life because “if you focus on the negative things you will likely bring that on you. You have the choice.”
- “You have extraordinary power within yourself to make things happen, power that you haven’t even tapped into yet.”
In 1994 Lady Catherine’s children went to see their father in Germany but he did not let them return back to the U.K. and their mother. This was followed by a ten year battle to get them back which took her to the European High Court and around the world. During the battle she met her husband, the now former British Ambassador to the U.S, Sir Christopher Meyer. Despite the pain of what happened she still remembered fondly how he said: “I wanted to help her but I couldn’t so I did the next best thing and married her.”
During the conference she spoke of how “you don’t take children away from a mother and expect her to sit quietly. I was like a lioness and went out there to get them back.” Even though she had the courts and law on her side it was still an incredible struggle to get her children back. Over the ten years it lasted she only got to see them for 24 hours and that was under watch from social workers.
In 1998, Lady Meyer co-founded the International Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and a year later she founded PACT (Parents & Abducted Children, Together) which she still runs today. Now Lady Catherine is a source of help for many people going through similar things. International Child Abduction is more common than even she thought.
- “When you have a passion, when you have an objective and when you believe, you can do it.”
Raised in working class Manchester and losing her mother young, Arlene has found the strength to find success in her passion and talent for dancing. After going to London for a weekend of dance lessons she never returned back up north. She said in her speech: “It was like a light bulb, I knew at that moment that I never wanted to go back.” From then she “took all kinds of awful jobs and did anything and everything to earn some money.” The job that started a chain of success was babysitting for producer and director Ridley Scott. From here her “life became crazy” and she went on to choreograph television commercials in America, West End musicals, start up famous dance group Hot Gossip and, what she’s most recently famous for, judge the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.
Initially she was not interested in the show and rejected many offers for an interview. In the end the BBC drove her to the filming of the pilot and it was then she “knew something about the programme would be special without knowing quite how special.”
But, in 2009 she was replaced as the outspoken judge by Alisha Dixon, former winner of the show. Despite it being because of her age and an attempt to attract younger viewers the BBC gave her other reasons she is still unwilling to talk about. Although this was an upsetting time, especially as someone very dear to her passed away the day before, Arlene didn’t wallow. She always encouraged her children to “move on” and took her own advice.
- “There’s only one thing in life that one needs to find and that is determination.”
Forward Ladies hosted the event and it was mainly members and their guests who went. Their Business Development Manager, Linda Barlow, said: “This is an organisation whose role it is to support ladies from all professions and backgrounds in business to be successful.” For more information or to enquire about becoming a member click here.
By Sarah Walters