Shankea Stewart is a 30 year old woman and a Women’s Leadership for Social Change programme participant. Shankea attended the training in Cambridge 15-16 November 2018 and was also presenting in the House of Lords at the Showcase Event on behalf of her group on 11 March. She found out about the course through a local organisation in Peterborough – Extended Hands and was encouraged to attend the course.

Shankea recalls that she was a bit nervous stepping into the room on the day. However, she felt immediately it was a relaxed atmosphere and that the facilitators balanced it well between being friendly yet professional.

Reflecting on the training, Shankea says that it “drew out my confidence in public speaking and to be happy about my story. [Previously] talking about my story wasn’t easy, even though I was in the media and press. You know, at times I pre-empted thinking I was gonna be judged, but the tutors told me that my story matters”. Shankea also says that the course gave her a stronger ability to balance work and life and that she wished that the course would have been longer, especially in terms of going into more depth around intersectionality. She says that the training has impacted her both personally and professionally. She continues:

“The course has definitely changed the way I look at life. My mind-set has changed tremendously. I am now a boss lady! I’ve lived so long with this title of being illegal and that’s always been my (…) identity and I walked around with a posture of repression. I no longer have to be afraid of the system because I am empowered. I can now reflect on women in history who stood up for what they believe. (…) I know I can advocate and I can speak up for justice, through the course”

Shankea also stated that she believes that this programme could change attitudes and practices as it helps promote equality in the workplace. She continues:

“I believe that all [organisations working with equality] should use WRC as advisors, especially when making policies. It could really change society tremendously. Because sometimes as women we are underrepresented (…) we are actually not equal because in the work place men still have a higher pay scale. I think this course can definitely empower females to actually demand and state their claim in a respectable way and to actually say I am worth this and I am equal to the male counterpart. If this course was expanded it could go for younger girls to demand respect [on the basis of equality]. I think this course could change a generation of women, the mind-set. And it can change the way society relates to women”

On the question of how she thinks the experience will influence her going forward, Shankea replied:

“I know now I can do anything I want to do. I knew before but I know now, tremendously, that I can do what I want. This course has stirred up my social justice organ – cause I believe there is an organ in me for social justice – and my being now more determined to speak up. Not only about the hostile environment, but (…) period poverty, equality, gender equality, FGM, all these things that go on the quiet, you know forced marriage, equal pay. How women are not on the same par of men. But also on a local platform (…) [I want to tell women and girls] that you have a voice. You can pass your GCSEs, you can go to university, you can do an apprenticeship, you can be an entrepreneur, you can go on missions abroad. You know, you can do anything you want to do. Where you come from doesn’t [dictate] where you are going. It’s the hard work that you put in and the wisdom you have and how you apply yourself. This is what I take from the course and this is what it enabled me to do and propelled me to do and what I want to do”.

Thank you to Shankea for sharing your story and for all your valuable contributions in in this programme!