“I’m a 23 year old student from Birmingham currently in my final year of studying Illustration at Plymouth University. I have an interest in representation, mental health and climbing. I am one of the facilitators of the Plymouth University Women’s Group”

Rumbi is a facilitator of the Women’s Group at Plymouth University and found out about the training through the leader of the group, “it sounded amazing. I don’t get many chances to get that kind of training so when I found out about it jumped right on it. I just wanted to have something that was outside my course that would make me feel more confident with everyday life”.

Stepping into the room, Rumbi recalls feeling a bit nervous but was quickly feeling comfortable as all the participants were kind and friendly.

Rumbi says that her favourite elements of the training were those about self-care and feminism. The self-care element helped her recognise the steps needed to keep a good balance in life. She says that “talking about feminism in a room of women was amazing, by empowering ourselves and talk about all the things we can do and how we thought coming to the training would make us women leaders but realising we were already women leaders by being there”.

The Plymouth group decided to create a booklet with stories of all the women involved in the project. Reflecting on the process on creating their social action project, Rumbi says:

“As part of the training we were asked to share one experience that had shaped us and when deciding the project, we felt like we had 10 amazing stories in the room. We felt really trusting of each other. I think it was that kind of space that we had, with that honesty. Pure raw honesty that you don’t normally share with strangers. I didn’t think it would be that powerful but it was. And that kind of birthed the booklet and that’s sort of what we want to share with other people who read it”

Rumbi says that the booklet feels really personal to her and the group. She continues:

“When it comes to those kinds of connections, especially in the climate we’re in now, we’re so isolated in the way that we think and the worlds that we have. And this booklet that I guess is anonymous in a way but you also know it’s a mixture of people and you can read a story and you don’t know who’s written it or you can know who’s written it and that allows I guess the boundaries to be broken down. (…) I feel like hate is started from not understanding other people. So when you feel you can understand another person, and understand their story because it’s so similar to yours, I feel like that starts allowing not only tolerance but care for other people and it opens up conversations with other people that you wouldn’t have talked to in the first place. Especially with the mental health element. I’ve felt really alone when I talk about mental health and then when I hear about someone else talking about mental health, I’m like oh it’s not just me, anyone can experience this and anyone can have a lived experience that I don’t understand but having that conversation makes me feel much closer to someone I did not know and would never have talked to”

Rumbi states that the project has impacted her personally in a variety of ways. She says:

“I’ve already noticed the change! I feel more sure with the decisions that I make. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. Never in my entire life did I think I’d be going to Westminster or the House of Lords! As a young black woman, I don’t get those chances like every single day. So when it came to [making the decision about who was going to present] I was like ‘yeah I want to talk’. I don’t feel confident in talking in front of people but I knew that putting myself down to talking and speaking about this project would make it easier for me next time that I had to do it. Looking back at this (…) programme, looking back at the House of Lords, I’ll be like ‘oh I did that, I can do anything’. I feel confident about anything else.

Because of this project I auditioned for a play and got the part. I just felt so empowered ‘if I can do this I can do anything else that I’ve always wanted to do’. I’ve always wanted to act but never felt confident to do it. but now I was like I don’t lose anything by trying, and that’s what this has taught me – I can try and fail but I don’t do anything if I don’t try. I’m applying for my masters as well because of this”

On the question of how this experience will influence her going forward, Rumbi said:

“It will give me more chances to take risks. Even with the Westminster talk and event, I never really thought of myself as going into politics ever and I left feeling I could do it! I felt so empowered being around other women that can make change. I felt like small things I do can make change. And I started thinking about big things that I can do (…) Leaving this project I feel like I can make a change and that the small things I do will actually make an impact of the world. I feel much more confident feeling like I can make a difference”

Thank you very much to Rumbi for sharing your story about this programme and for all your valuable Illustration of woman with text voices (un)heard) at the top and stories (un)told at the bottom. Front cover of the booklet.contributions! Rumbi attended the 2018-2019 pilot of the Women's Leadership for Social Change programme and was a member of the Plymouth group. This case study was written in March 2019. For a version of the booklet created by the Plymouth group, please contact WRC on [email protected]