17 March 2020 | Watford, UK [June Coombs]
Audrey Andersson, Executive Secretary of the Trans European Division received a Women in Leadership Award at a special ceremony to celebrate International Women’s Day, 8 March 2020 at Stanborough Park Adventist Church, Watford, England.
Andersson was a keynote speaker at the event and confesses she was totally surprised to also find herself as an award recipient. “Being a woman in leadership is an amazing journey, a challenging journey, a roller coaster journey; a journey which is at times gruelling, but ultimately is rewarding and offers opportunities I never imagined,” she told participants.
Having enjoyed a career in publishing and communication before becoming the Executive Secretary of the Swedish Union Conference, Andersson became the first and currently the only female Executive Secretary of the 13 World Divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “This year’s hashtag is #EachforEqual, or creating the reality where we are not talking of male and female leaders, rather just leaders,” she emphasised, noting that a gender balance in leadership allows for a richer variety of gifts and abilities to be brought to the table.
Andersson was joined by Vicki Costello, General Manager of Watford’s Intu Shopping Centre. Costello started working for a clothing retailer and, passing through a Customer Services route, became one of just four females out of Intu’s 18 managers.
“Both women gave inspiring talks detailing their own rise to leadership in what was formerly a man’s world and encouraging girls to widen their horizons and accept that anything is possible,” stated Enock Kanageraj, organiser of the event.
Perhaps the most memorable person to receive the award was 86-year-old Barbara Hankin who must be Hertfordshire’s oldest ‘Lollipop Lady’. She has stood outside Leavesden Green Primary School in Watford in all weathers for the past 11 years helping children and their carers across the road. She knows all the children’s names and is much loved by them all. She also finds the time to be a prison visitor and is a regular member of the Church’s Singing Group which visits different care homes each Sabbath afternoon. Many residents are a lot younger than her! Barbara is the mother of TED receptionist, Geraldine Hankin with whom she shares the same positive, caring spirit. She was one of two women to receive a Lifetime Achievement award.
The event provided Stanborough Park Church with an opportunity to engage with the local community through its ‘One Vision’ project, led by church member Enoch Kanagaraj. The project has brought together a large number of local groups and charities as an ‘action group’ which aims to ‘share resources and skills and provide training, empower communities, raise funds and create a better everyday life in the town. It provides a forum for members to network, exchange ideas, share information and skills, support each other and provide a voice for the disadvantaged. As the group meet monthly in The Stanborough Centre, the church naturally hosted the well-attended occasion.
Ten women were presented with a ‘Community Impact Award’, recognising the contributions they made to the local community. This included a now-retired former TED staff member, Pat Walton. She was recognised for her fundraising skills, setting up the weekly Soup Run, which has been serving London’s homeless for three decades, taking over and running the Emergency Furniture Unit before it came under the umbrella of the area’s Community Services and rebranded as ‘Nine Lives’ charity of which she is trustee, and, especially, organising the church’s highly-regarded Welfare Service and Annual Toy Service providing toys for disadvantaged local children at Christmas.
A second ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ was presented to Alicia Shaw, who has recently retired from her role as a Chief Inspector Hertfordshire police force – the first woman from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community. She was also a hostage negotiator in the process and finding herself being called out at all times of the day and night dealing with potential suicides.
Presenting the awards were Watford MP, Dean Russell; the local Mayor Peter Taylor; Deputy Chief Officer for Hertfordshire Constabulary Michelle Dunn; and Julian Rickman Regional Manager for Co_op, who sponsored the event. They were joined by many other local councillors and a range of other representatives who wanted to recognise the contribution and achievements of local women.
As Mayor Taylor highlighted in his talk, “www doesn’t just stand for the world wide web but also for the ‘Wonderful Women of Watford’.”
Michelle Dunn, reflected, “This was a wonderful event where we celebrated some of the great achievements of amazing women in our communities, whose stories were inspirational. One of the key messages from the evening was the importance of developing ambition and confidence in girls and young women so they can achieve their potential.”
tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
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