In no particular order, here are my Women of the Year for 2009.
Sarah Brown: for supporting, actively, such great causes as the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and Women’s Aid and for creating her own path in that most difficult of jobs, wife of the Prime Minister. And for embracing Twitter and using technology to both reflect her authentic self and to support her chosen causes with warmth and humour – all in 140 characters.
Lee Chalmers and Indra Adnan: for seizing the nettle of women in politics in general and the concepts of soft power and balanced leadership in particular, and establishing The Downing Street Project. May 2010 be a year in which all the three main British parties work with you to support the ideas of being the change we want to see – and we come to experience a more balanced group of representatives in the House of Commons and elsewhere in public life.
Dame Vera Lynn: for having a Number One album aged 92. Respect, sister.
Joanna Lumley: for refusing to take no for an answer, hijacking the system (and government minister Phil Woolas) and forcing a government U-turn on the issues of Gurkha soldiers having the right to remain in Britain. “Ayo Ghorkali!”
Jordana: for giving me straight hair via the miracle hair treatment that is the Brazilian Blow Out, for being the reason that I flew to LA twice in four months and for making it possible for me to refer to, with something approaching a straight face “… my LA hairdresser …”.
Victoria Wood: for being the funniest thing on TV over Christmas, particularly with her sublime “Lark Pies to Cranchesterford” spoof.
Anita Edgar: for allowing a kernel of an idea which came to her whilst on holiday in Goa in 1996 to flourish and grow into El Shaddai – a charity which, through homes, shelters and programmes now supports 3000 children in India. And Stella, manager of the children’s home Rainbow House, who, with almost no resources other than huge quantities of patience and love, manages a team of 4 staff who in turn support and care for 50 girls aged between 8 and 13.
Jade Goody: for encouraging the tragic circumstances of her illness and subsequent death in March, aged 27, to be a springboard for women to become more aware as to the fact that cervical cancer can kill – leading to a 12% rise in the number of women aged 25-49 having cervical smear checks.
Michelle: who I met at the nail bar earlier this week whilst having a post-Christmas manicure – and who told me that Tuesday was her first day off of the “Christmas break” because she’d been working, as a residential social worker, to ensure that the ten teenaged kids who live in the local authority’s halfway house had a decent Christmas even though many of them have no friends or families. She hadn’t been scheduled to work, but she decided to do so on Christmas Eve rather than leave the kids alone without “someone who cared for them”. Bravo to Michelle and everyone else like her who does these difficult jobs, often unseen and unthanked – and I’m glad that she managed to take some time for herself and get her nails done!
And finally – to my many girlfriends (Annette, Carolyn, Christine, Kristina, Lee, Leisa, Lisanne, Liz, Maureen, Pauline and Priya, to name but a few) and my amazing mum Sandra: who have all done so much to support me both personally and professionally during what has been the most challenging of years. You have made me laugh, poured Sauvignon Blanc and skinny lattes into me, sent me books, magazines, articles and job listings, listened to me moan, helped me raise money for Plan UK’s “Because I Am a Girl” campaign, invited me to events, read the blog and commented on it on-line and off and generally been the very embodiment of Fantastic Women. I love you and thank you and wish only Fabulous Things for us all in 2010.