It’s International Women’s Day. Not only am I very fortunate to have married an inspirational woman (10x brownie points!) but I’m very fortunate to meet a lot of inspiring women in the course of my work with charities and social enterprises.

I thought I’d share a selection of quotes from women I’ve met and admire for doing something to help people in need, overcoming personal challenges or simply keeping it together for themselves or their family in the face of adversity…

“I’ve been doing this (sex work) since I was 16. I’ve completely lost track of who I am. I wasn’t addicted to drugs to begin with, that came later, and I’ve been stuck on that roundabout ever since.”
“Vicky” is a sex worker in Norwich who told us how The Rose Project has helped her get off that “roundabout”.

“He kicked me. He punched me. He pulled my hair. He put his hands around my throat. He took my phone away and he cut me off from my friends and family. I have never felt so alone.”
One of the mums we interviewed for Home-Start Shepway, which supports women experiencing domestic abuse.

“It didn’t make any sense to accept our redundancy as the end of the line. We figured that as long as there are young people out there who need our support then we’ve got a job to do, so we’ll let them decide when we’re redundant, thank you very much!”
Gill and Marj, who founded Patchwork People, a fantastic social enterprise for disadvantaged young people in Darlington, after being made redundant from their previous jobs in the local authority.

“I was working as a nursery nurse whilst studying for an NVQ qualification. I worked 5 days a week but when I fell pregnant my employer cut my days to 4. When I confirmed the dates of my maternity leave they cut my days to just one per week and increased someone else’s days instead.”
Julia, 19, was supported by Tackling Discrimination in the East, a Big Lottery Fund project by ISCRE to tackle unlawful discrimination.

“There was a point in Jessie’s life when we realised everyone was being paid to be there; it was almost as if friendship didn’t come for free.”
Jill Carter talks about her daughter Jessie, who has a learning disability. The pair founded Pulp Friction, a smoothie bar run by young people with learning disabilities in Nottingham.

“If they can manage to send us a telegram from the Queen when we turn 100, surely they can manage to send us a list of local social groups and activities when we turn 65?”
One of my favourite quotes of all time! An OAP I met in Ramsgate who attends a social group run by Thanet Volunteer Centre.

“I had severe post natal depression. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I was so tired that I worried constantly about dropping my baby… my Home-Start volunteer kept telling me I was doing a good job and that meant the world to me because it’s something no one else ever said.”
I’ve interviewed lots of mums supported by Home-Start, this mum was supported by Home-Start Exeter & East Devon.

Finally, I couldn’t write a blog about inspirational women without mentioning my good friend, Sue Poole. Sue was a mum, a nan, a wife and friend to many; and real inspiration to me as a teen starting work in the voluntary sector. As a school Social Worker she helped countless teens to build their confidence and self-esteem and, as a Domestic Abuse Coordinator, she helped countless women to rebuild their lives. Sue lost her battle with cancer almost 5 years ago, otherwise she would have (rather fittingly) celebrated her birthday tomorrow, one day after International Women’s Day.