Empowerment awards celebrate inspirational women in the borough

Joelle Mae David holding her two Women's Empowerment Awards behind a bouquet of flowers

Joelle Mae David, whose film studio is in Barking, with her businesswoman of the year and overall woman of the year awards. - Credit: Barking and Dagenham Council

Some of the borough’s most inspirational women have been celebrated at a virtual awards ceremony.

The fifth annual Barking and Dagenham Women’s Empowerment Awards, held online this year, honoured winners across eight categories. 

Joelle Mae David, whose company Bluebird Pictures runs the borough’s World Cinema Film Festival, won both the businesswoman and the overall woman of the year awards. 

In a video filmed by the council, she said: "When you're running a small business, there's such highs and lows, and stuff like this really reminds me that when I'm struggling or pushing, that people do notice what you're doing and it's not all for nothing, so this is so nice.” 

The film festival had to be hastily moved online for its third year due to the pandemic. 


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The Ann Estlea lifetime achievement award went to Studio 3 Arts chief executive Liza Vallance.

She said: "This feels like a strange year to win a lifetime achievement award when there are nurses risking their lives every day, so I'm going to dedicate it to everyone that has helped the effort this year.

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"This is for all the strong women out there, for everyone that is taking a risk and making a change every day in their lives."

Other award winners included Joyce Bowness and Lindsay Rust, for parent and volunteer of the year, respectively. 

Women's Empowerment Awards winner Lindsay Rust with her volunteer of the year and a bouquet

Women's Empowerment Awards volunteer of the year Lindsay Rust. - Credit: Barking and Dagenham Council

Avril McIntyre took out the award for leadership, arts and culture while The Hive won community group of the year.

Elvire Mavusi Matu was named young woman of the year.

Deputy leader and cabinet member for community leadership and engagement, Cllr Saima Ashraf, said: “I am delighted that the pandemic did not stop us from honouring the amazing women of our borough. 

“It is always very humbling to hear stories of inspirational local women, who show that the fight for gender equality is in good hands. 

“It gives me great confidence that future generations will be able to flourish and prosper with great role models in the community.” 

Next year, the young woman of the year category will be renamed in tribute to Jodie Chesney. 

Nominations for next year’s awards are open until Sunday, January 31.  

Visit www.lbbd.gov.uk/wem for more information.

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