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Passing on the baton: black women celebrated at awards

CELEBRATION: Gillian Joseph, Diahanne Rhiney and Charlene White

BLACK WOMEN in the UK are making formidable strides in a range of male-dominated fields, from politics, business and healthcare to sport and the arts.

Many have worked hard to make advances in their chosen fields and have had to overcome countless challenges such as unequal pay, lack of visibility and support in their professional development because of their race and gender.


By leaping over these hurdles, these female pioneers set an example of what can be accomplished through determination, hard work and perseverance.

And their success has provided inspirational examples for females from all backgrounds to follow.

It was a desire to honour these women and provide greater visibility for their achievements that award-winning PR expert, psychologist and entrepreneur Dr Diahanne Rhiney was inspired to create the Baton Awards.

The event aims to celebrate the success of black and minority ethnic women who have achieved against the odds in a range of fields.

Rhiney wants to encourage women thinking about and applying for roles in industries and professions they previously hadn’t seen themselves working in, either through lack of confidence or knowledge.

She said: “In 2018, BAME women are living, learning and negotiating their lives in an increasingly complex and challenging world.

“The adversity we as BAME women face on a daily basis in trying to achieve is a challenge. But, through the hundreds of nominations we received, I was humbled to see that our female BAME community is achieving so much in spite of adversity, barriers and inequality.”

As well as celebrating success, Rhiney also had a deeply personal motivation for creating the Baton Awards.She said: “I have worked in the equality and diversity field for several decades, but my inspiration for the Baton Awards came from my own BAME hero: my best friend and mentor, my mum, Caroline Rhiney.

“She was pioneering in her field, driven, dedicated and when she died suddenly in 2010, she left a legacy that touched hundreds of people through her trailblazing work and her kindness.


“The Baton Awards was my tribute to the learning she gave me on building, boosting and contributing towards a global community.”

The inaugural event was held on November 29, which is International Women Human Rights Defenders Day. The day highlights the work of women who defend the human rights of women and girls.

Hundreds of nominations from all over the world were submitted for consideration in the 12 categories, including Entrepreneur of the Year, Third Sector of the Year, Thought Leader of the Year, and STEM trailblazer.

Winners were chosen by more than 30 judges to determine the winners of each category. With more than 200 finalists, supporters and young people in attendance, the Baton Awards were held in the Houses of Parliament and were co-hosted by ITV News presenter and reporter Charlene White and Sky TV’s Gillian Joseph.

After being formally introduced by event sponsor and supporter Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick CBE, the floor was opened for MP Dawn Butler to deliver a rousing speech about the importance of celebrating BAME women.

Winners included Brenda Emmanus, who was given the Excellence in Media award, Mona Hammond OBE, who took the Creative Industry prize, Nazia Khatu, who won the Sportswoman of The Year award and Emma Dabiri, who was given the Thought Leader of the Year award.

PICTURED: The Voice director Paulette Simpson and Brenda Emmanus

Winners in each of the 12 categories received their Baton Award 2018 from one of the pioneering predecessors (torchbearers) in the field they have succeeded in and receive ongoing mentoring from their BAME industry pioneer.


Rhiney said: “This was our inaugural Baton Awards, so it’s safe to say we were blown away, inspired and awestruck by the sheer volume of nominations we received.

“The evening itself was awe inspiring, with BAME women of past, present and future paying tribute to each other, and sisterhood, in such a moving testimony.

“Witnessing pioneer Paulette Simpson, director of The Voice newspaper, pass the baton to Brenda Emmanus was a historical moment that I’ll never forget.

“The months ahead will continue this as we facilitate mentoring, webinars and ongoing support for our winners; this is the long-term investment of the Baton Awards. Making progress, against the odds, together.”

She continued: “Recent campaigns such as #MeToo have shown us that change is happening, but it’s a slow process.

“Unfortunately as BAME women, this process is even slower.

“As a collective, we have to constantly push it and move it forward.

“We have to stand together from every corner of the planet and empower one another’s efforts in a bid to show the world what we are made of.”

Acknowledging the ethos of the awards in focusing on developing the next generation, Joseph said: “Not so long ago, I was the intern, the green hopeful in the newsroom, but now advancing years and experience have placed me firmly in the position of mentor. It’s a role I actually relish.”

The event raised more than £1,800 for children’s domestic Abuse charity Strength Within Me foundation (SWIM), a nonprofit organisation, providing comprehensive intervention in response to the prevalence of domestic abuse among young girls and women.

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