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Ordinary women doing amazing things

CELEBRATION (left to right): Mollie Morgan, Shewtal Shah, Taniya Khan, Lydia Biriotti, Roz Thornton, Geraldine Semper, Heather Pratten, Agnieszka Lokaj, Mel Francis-Famous and Helen Thompson

AS INTERNATIONAL Women's Month comes to a close, The Amazing Women Awards celebrated a selection of ordinary women doing incredible things, uniting ladies from all different walks of life at the Grace Wellington Hotel for an afternoon of celebration, reflection and unity.

The afternoon tea and award ceremony began with a lavish registration and networking event, which saw women from different industries engage in laughter and conversation over afternoon tea and cakes provided by Luminary Bakery.

Ahead of the award ceremony, The Voice spoke to award founder Roz Thornton and PR maven Evadney Campbell about what to expect and the inspiration behind the event.

“I'm always keen to support individuals who want to give back to the community. I had no hesitation in offering my assistance in whatever way I could,” said Campbell.

“Some of the stories you will hear will be truly moving.”

And that they were - from the speakers to the award winners, The Amazing Women Awards provided an opportunity to truly reflect on womanhood as we heard stories of sadness, triumph and true bravery against domestic abuse, illnesses and more.

EMPOWERED: Author Zina Arinze and nominee Agnieska Kakaj

Host Christine Giscombe, an international speaker and founder of Born to Excel, began the ceremony with an inspirational speech about her passion for empowering women.

"The reason why I’m involved in this ceremony is because I love empowering women,” shared Giscombe.

“Because empowered women go on to empower others, and each of us are going to go on to do amazing things.”

The first speaker of the day, Kate Parsley, shared her story as a woman living with Type 1 diabetes for 18.5 years. Parsley, a community activist, and now founder of type 1 diabetes advocacy organisation Type1derful, spoke of her journey to acceptance, and dealing with self care and body image.

“When you’re working really hard at something, and it doesn’t make things better, that’s difficult. But when you factor body image into the equation, it makes it even harder,” shared Parsley, who explained her struggle with Type 1 diabetes.

“But then I got really into health and fitness, and I was making myself healthier. I was running 10Ks, joined a running group, and sought different ways to manage my body, my diabetes and the physical activity I wanted to do.”

AMAZING WOMEN: (Left) Mel Francis Famous picks up her award. Angie Greaves and Evadney Campbell watch on, right

As a result, Parlsey found many athletes who had type 1 diabetes and discovered a life-changing tool that would help her achieve her fitness goals.

“All the ultra marathoners had one thing in common - they used an insulin pump, and since I was able to use that it’s changed my life for the better.”

Following her speech, the first three awards of the day were presented for the Amazing Woman in Business Award, Amazing Young Woman Award and Amazing Mum Award.

Taniya Khan, a make-up artist who runs an academy which trains and supports other women to achieve success, took home the Amazing Woman in Business Award and spoke of her pride of winning an award for her hard work.

“This award means a lot as it represents that I have succeeded in a business which I started from scratch,” said Khan.

“Also for ladies who want to get back in employment, feel free to contact me. I’m happy to provide business support.”

Mollie Morgan took home the Amazing Young Woman Award, after her aunt put her forward for the award without her knowing.

MOVED: Paulette Simpson, Geraldine Sempler and her daughter

“My aunt put me up for a nomination, and told me that I had been shortlisted and that we’d be going to London,” said Morgan.

“I was so excited, and never thought I’d win.”

Morgan, who has struggled with dyslexia and escaped a chaotic family home riddled with drug use and alcohol, went onto excel as a student at the University of Arts London and achieve a coveted place at the BFI Film Academy.

One of the most touching stories of the day, came from Amazing Mum Award winner Heather Pratten, a mother of five, who’s life was changed when her husband and son were diagnosed with Huntingdon’s Disease at age 33. After her terminally ill son tried to commit suicide, Pratten aided his suicide, giving him the peaceful death he wanted. As a result, Pratten faced up to a 14-years in prison sentence but was acquitted at the Old Bailey.

Pratten now advocates for those suffering from Huntington’s disease, and speaks out in support of the assisted dying bill so that others can benefit from a change in the law.

“I’ve never considered what I’ve done as exceptional. What I do is what I want to do for my family and for others who are suffering. It’s natural for me to do these things.”

Speaking exclusively to The Voice, Pratten said she had no idea she’d even been nominated, and is honoured that, “people understand that I did it out of love.”

The ceremony then moved onto the enigmatic Kerry O’Dowd, who encouraged the audience to build their confidence with a range of vocal and physical exercises, that got the crowd involved. Speaking of her own personal journey, O’Dowd, a vocal coach and singer, shared her own personal journey of being in destructive relationships and learning to find her inner confidence.

NATURAL: Angela Small and Bashiyra

For the forth award of the afternoon, Magic FM presenter Angie Greaves took to the stage to present the Amazing Woman Award, which went to operating nurse Mel Francis-Famous. Francis-Famous is known for her selfless work in Ethiopia, offering life saving operations to women who otherwise would not be able to afford it. As she took to the stage, she said, “This is wonderful, it’s a honour to help people, and to see there faces after they come out of surgery and help provide them with food and water. It’s a feeling like no other.”

The final speaker of the event was Jenny Garrett, an award winning executive career coach, Tedx Speaker and author.

“Being here is great because it really fits with my personal mission to transform the world for everyone, one empowered woman at a time,” said Garrett.

The businesswoman spoke in depth about starting her own career, and acknowledging herself as the breadwinner of her household which inspired her to write the book Rocking Your Role, The How-To Guide To Success For Female Breadwinners.

The last - and arguably the most prestigious award of the night was the Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented by The Voice's director Paulette Simpson and went to the honourable Geraldine Semper. Semper is a midwife who has worked for 50 years in third world countries giving medical advice and helping to set up orphanages.

Her story, which touched so many, was amplified by the presence of her two adopted daughters - daughters whom she found along with two other children who were on the verge of dying and she nourished back to health, adopted and brought back to the UK.

“I love my children for supporting me, and I am able to do what I do because of them.”

As the award ceremony wrapped up with a hilarious raffle and dance party, Roz Thornton and Evadney Campbell took the stage to thank those for attending.

“I’m very much about empowering women, that’s my number one thing,” said Thornton.

“I was bought-up in a very disempowered household where there was a lot of domestic violence, so as soon as I was in a position to, my first priority was to help other women.”

The Amazing Women Awards did just that - it helped acknowledge those women who’ve been victims of terrible circumstances and find the light at the end of the tunnel. The event was full of inspiration, and a key reminder that not all superheroes where capes.

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