Baton Awards Ceremony
On December 1st, I held my annual awards ceremony, The Baton Awards 2023. It was the 6th Baton Awards event, and it was designed to celebrate women from diverse ethnic backgrounds across 13 trailblazing categories.
I created it in the backdrop of intersectionality, inequity, inequality, sexism, racism and in the reality of a lack of diversity and representation across the board.
Representation is key because it allows the next generation to strive for better. It provides everyone with the courage to go for that promotion or become a leader in their industry because they were inspired to go beyond what they believed was realistic for them and not just a pipe dream.
I must say that every nomination, finalist and highly commended was extraordinary, and I would feature every single one if I could! In the absence of that, I simply have to share the winners. This is a snapshot of the women who are shattering the glass ceiling and defying the limitations that stifle our growth. This piece is to shine a spotlight on some of the winners who shone their light on us this year; their stories and victories are unbelievably inspiring.
Sonya Barlow is an award-winning entrepreneur who founded the LMF Network, a not-for-profit focused on empowering women and ethnic minorities in tech and entrepreneurship.
With a mission to boost 25,000 women’s careers and confidence by 2025, she has created a global community of over 50,000, facilitating over 20,000 people with career skills and fostering 1,000 mentoring relationships.
Recognised globally, Sonya has received several accolades, including Inspiring Fifty UK and Europe, Marie Claire’s Future Shaper, and Top 50 BAME Entrepreneurs under 50. Her work is a true embodiment of inclusion, gender equality, and social mobility, making her a significant figure in championing underrepresented groups.
A tireless advocate for the voiceless and marginalised, she has spent her life focusing on social and racial justice. Elected as a Councillor in Bristol and later as Deputy Mayor & Cabinet Member for Communities, Equalities, and Public Health, Asher has spearheaded transformative initiatives addressing racism and discrimination.
As the Cabinet Lead for Children, Education, and Equalities, and Chair of the Stepping UP Leadership Academy, she has been instrumental in advancing equality and diversity.
The winner of Services to education was Toyin Tanimowo, a former BBC news editor turned counsellor who has dedicated her life to nurturing and supporting both her family and countless young people.
After earning an MSc from Birkbeck College and accreditation from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, she founded her own counselling service. Specialising in child and adolescent psychotherapy, Toyin has been a beacon of hope and healing, creating safe spaces for young minds to grow and heal.
Her journey, marked by selflessness and resilience, especially during family losses, has made her an inspiration and a source of strength to many.
The creative Industry winner was Dawinder Bansal. A British-Asian artist of Sikh, Kenyan-Indian descent, is renowned for her immersive multimedia art reflecting cultural identity, memory, and migration.
Her notable works, including Jambo Cinema, showcased at the Commonwealth Games, and installations like Asian Women and Cars, brilliantly explore British Indian experiences. L
She is an influential advocate for causes like climate change, mental health, and religious tolerance.
Maryam’s advocacy notably includes her role as the youngest campaigner for International Muslim History Month in the UK, challenging stereotypes and fostering understanding.
She boldly addressed the forced cremation of Muslim bodies in Sri Lanka, affecting international policy change. Recognized as a formidable voice in social activism, Maryam utilises social media and public speaking to amplify her impactful message.
Shivani Laddha won Sportswoman of the Year.
From a small town in Central India, has made a remarkable journey to become the Marketing Manager of the London Lions. With over eight years in sports strategy consulting and sponsorships, Shivani broke barriers in India’s male-dominated sports industry.
Awarded the Women in Football scholarship at the University of Liverpool, her ground breaking thesis on women’s sport sponsorships gained viral recognition. Today, she leads innovative campaigns and pioneers the first women’s commercial strategy for London’s premier basketball team.
Her expertise in developing talent and social mobility strategies has been impactful across various organisations, including National Grid and NSPCC. As Operations Director at a youth charity, she led significant employability programs, linking universities and employers. Cordelia is also a skilled coach, social researcher, and writer, contributing thought-provoking insights on social mobility and equity.
Her role as an RSA Fellow, mentor, and Vice Chair of a school Trust Board further highlights her commitment to creating a fairer society and workplace.
With a rich background in English and law and a master’s degree in commercial law and dispute resolution, she has dedicated 14 years to various entrepreneurial ventures. Violet Simon, launched in 2015, amplifies women’s experiences to ensure equitable representation.
Sophia’s influential series, Disruptors, showcases diverse women’s stories, significantly increasing the platform’s reach.
Her work, acclaimed by BBC, Forbes, and UN Women UK, focuses on feminism, storytelling, and women’s health.
A volunteer delegate for UN Women UK, Sophia is a celebrated leader in media innovation and women’s empowerment.
A lawyer and former ombudsman, Reena is renowned for her pioneering work at the intersection of race and autism.
Motivated by her son’s diagnosis, she established a consultancy focusing on anti-racism and cultural biases in autism support. Her podcast “Unpacking Autism” explores these themes deeply.
Reena serves on the co-production board at Aubilities and is a Trustee at the Race Equality Foundation. As an Inclusion Governor, she has significantly impacted her local school.
Her talks and workshops have transformed understanding in various organisations, empowering global majority communities and reshaping attitudes towards autism and neurodivergence, fostering a more inclusive society.
A recent report by WISE stated that women occupy just 16% of tech roles.
However, the divides in STEM do not just link to gender. Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, and in particular BAME women, are vastly underrepresented in STEM fields across both education and the workforce.
Specialising in ageing research, she transitioned to medical communications in 2021, educating healthcare professionals in areas like lung cancer and leukaemia. Co-founder of SiSTEM, she’s dedicated to increasing black female representation in STEM, offering mentorship and inspiration.
Her work has greatly impacted public health research in areas like HIV/AIDS and Alzheimer’s. A first-generation British Ghanaian from Brixton, Abigail is a powerful role model, advocating for diversity and inclusion in STEM.
A former Chair of the firm’s Multicultural Network and a key figure in Deloitte’s Black Action Plan, she works tirelessly to enhance diversity and inclusion. Her advocacy for underrepresented groups is reflected in her efforts to drive cultural change within the firm.
Recognised as one of the top ten Future Leaders in the Ethnicity Awards’ Top 100+ List 2020 and featured in the EMpower Ethnic Minority Role Model Future Leader list twice,
I’m finishing off this piece with the winner of my own category, the Against All Odds award.
I created this award to recognise the work of ethnic minority women who have succeeded in their field despite adversity. Hayley Mulenda truly is a bright light of the next generation.
Award-winning international speaker, author and change agent who has inspired tens of thousands of people across the world by sharing her story on how she turned her pain to purpose.
After nearly taking her own life at the age of 18, Hayley realised how mental health issues are increasingly affecting millennials and she was passionate enough to do something about it.
Hayley Mulenda has profoundly impacted millions with her transformative presentations for top global organisations.
Overcoming challenges in her youth, Hayley has channelled her experiences into empowering others, especially young girls from similar backgrounds.
Recognized by The Diana Award and as one of the top 10 black students by Rare Rising Stars, she’s also a school governor and founding brand board member for Wagamama.
Hayley’s dedication to mentoring and her work with government officials and celebrities have been described as life-changing. Her journey, marked by resilience and a commitment to positive change, makes her a remarkable figure in entrepreneurship and public speaking.
One thing is for sure, and that is that my sisters are truly making waves.
For those of you reading this who are slaying it at school, university, professionally and personally, my advice to you is to keep on keeping on!
The evening, featuring a special live performance by soul legend Junior Giscombe. Catch his amazing performance below.
The evening also featured a captivating poem recital by Savia Rocks, the charismatic photographer, author, and podcaster, who is also credited with the stunning photographs published in the article. Her poetic expression added a layer of artistic brilliance to the event, resonating with the theme of celebrating women’s achievements and resilience.
”Let’s continue to show the world just how much we are capable of.Black Wall St. MediaContributor
Shade of Resilience
Written By Savia Rocks
In the spirit of the universe, where destinies intertwine,
A story reveals women, their spirits beautiful, fearless, and divine. Women, of colour, of culture, of strength,
Who’ve walked through the ages, tra-versed every length.
Authority says, “You are ours, your destiny we own,” But the women laugh, their power has grown.
For they are the weavers, the architects of fate, They are the dawn, the hour growing late.
Whispered about, yet questioned in fear and in fate,
Their existence a challenge to an old, unjustified law of state. But they stand unbroken, their heads held high,
Their voices were thunderous, reaching the ambient sky.
They are the descendant daughters of the sun, embraced by its light, Their skin a testament, cour-ageous and bright.
They are the transporters of ancient tales,
Their journey marked by triumphant and trails.
They’ve swayed with the wind, sung with the sea,
Their songs echoing, “We are free, we deserve to be free.” They’ve painted their dreams on the canvas of time,
Each stroke a revolution, each word a powerful rhyme.
Their authority is feared, their strength often shunned, Yet they rise, undiscouraged, each and every one.
For they are the guardians of their own destiny,
Their existence itself, a beautiful testimony.
In the archives of history, their stories we find,
Of courage, of resilience, of a formidable kind.
Women of colour, of culture, of grace,
Who’ve engraved their legacy in time and universal space.
So, let us celebrate, their journey, their fight,
Their struggle for justice, their pursuit of what is educational and right. For they are the pillars on which we stand,
Their power and wisdom, forever motivated,
For generations to appreciate and understand.
Their stories inspire, their triumphs and power,
Their existence a testament to every single hour.
For they are the women who own their fate and fight for every hour, Their voices vibrating, Saying “It’s never too late to own or empower.”
In the atmosphere of the universe, where purpose intertwines, Their inheritance continues, forever to contribute and shine. Women of colour, of culture, of might,
Their spirits unbroken, eternally forever bright.
This woman is you; this woman is me, she is the universe of inspiration So, you and I deserve to be equally free.
Written For The Power of all Women To See The Light Within the archives of history.