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14 March 2011

Inspirational speakers 'inspired'
on International Women's Day

Several female inspirational speakers invited to speak at a 'hugely successful' event to celebrate International Women's Day found themselves too being 'inspired' by the amazing stories of their fellow speakers.

The event, which was organised by BritBangla, and the Diaspora Volunteering Alliance (DVA), saw women who have climbed to the top of the success ladder of their professions in the fields of science, entrepreneurship and volunteering inspire more than 120 women from diverse cultures and professions.

A list of accomplished women speakers included Sandra Kabir (DVA), Lynne Berry OBE (CEO of WRVS), Hannah Simcoe-Read (Psychologist and Industrial Analyst, UEL), Karishma Huda (Research Manager, BRAC Development Institute), Katie Walsh (Science Council), Ariel Vaagen (Assistant Cultural Attache, US Embassy London) and Perez Ochieng (CEO of SACOMA).
Among the inspirational speakers were Dr Lena Ciric, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at University College London, who specialises in microbiology; Dr Priti Parikh, a Research Associate at the Business School of Imperial College on the Energy for Development project; and Dr Rim El-Rifai, a consultant paediatrician and Neonatalogist. These inspirational women shared their passion for science and highlighted to see science not only as a fulfilling career but one that can change the world and contribute to our quality of life.

Lynne Berry OBE, CEO of WRVS, who received an Honorary Doctor of Health Science award last year for her inspiring role within the Third Sector; and Bola Ojo, a Diaspora volunteer participant who volunteered in Rwanda and Nigeria and now works for African Child Trust's Volunteering programme in Tanzania, were also among the inspirational speakers.

One of the outstanding speakers Perez Ochieng, CEO of the successful and sustainable social enterprise, SACOMA (Sahara Communities), spoke of her personal challenges she faced in her early career path and why this led her to set up the organisation to support and empower people to reach their potential in becoming entrepreneurs.
All speakers shared their stories of success, their inspiration and passion and amazed attendees their rise to the top regardless of barriers and challenges they faced along the way.

Dr Ciric said: "It was wonderful to hear about the remarkable achievements and amazing stories of the speakers. I was asked to be one of the inspirational speakers, but in anything I felt more inspired by the amazing stories of the other speakers.
"The event has motivated me to go out into the community more and speak about my research and science in hhgeneral, and to encourage any aspiring women scientists to reach their goals."

Describing the event as "truly inspirational and an eye-opener", Dr Parikh said: "The evening managed to bring together women from diverse cultures, countries, professions and age groups. "It was refreshing to know that everyone faces similar challenges in their profession and that these challenges can be taken on."

The evening celebration treated attendees to Indian head massages and henna art applications by Green Purity, and the evening ended with delightful music from Japan-born violinist Mansoon Bow, a Japan-born musician who studied the violin at the age of three and received scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music (London).

Organiser Taryn Khanam, from BritBangla, said: "The evening was an enormous triumph as my aim was for every women at our 100th International Women's Day celebration to feel proud of themselves and to honour their actions and achievements and recognising the continuing challenges in achieving equity and fairness. After all it's only one day out of 365 days that is dedicated to women!"

Guest member, Shamim Chowdhury, Journalist, Al Jazeera said: "What an excellent job of finding some of the most inspirational women of our times as I came away feeling humbled and empowered at the same time!"

The event was held at The Abbey Centre in Westminter, London, and was supported by UKAid, VSO, European International College, WRVS and the Science Council.


For further information Colette Machado on 07803 606072 or Jenni Asiama on 07852 224078 or email

Notes to Editors

1. The Diaspora Volunteering Alliance (DVA) brings together UK organisations with a common interest in engaging and sending Diaspora volunteers to support projects in their countries and continents of origin. Visit

2. BritBangla is a network of professional Bengalis who collectively celebrate the achievements of British Bengalis from all over the country and their contribution to British society. Visit

3. WRVS is a registered charity which aims to give older people the opportunity and choice to get more out of life. Visit

4. Photo Credits: Nirja Raam