This article appeared in the Friday 8th February 2019 edition of the South London Press.
On Thursday 31st January I was delighted to join my neighbours, Ellie Reeves (MP for Lewisham West and Penge) and Janet Daby (MP for Lewisham East) at the Lewisham Eleanor Marx awards ceremony.
As MPs we spend a great deal of our time trying to address the difficulties people are facing in Theresa May’s Britain, so it was fantastic to have the opportunity to take part in something positive for a change.
The awards, organised by the Lewisham branch of the GMB union, have been created to honour the contribution our borough’s young women make to their communities, families and schools.
This is particularly appropriate given that Eleanor Marx – youngest daughter of Karl Marx – lived out her last years in the borough. You can find a blue plaque commemorating her life on the house in Jews Walk, Sydenham where she lived and died.
She was a proud feminist who spent her life fighting to improve the lives of working people and was instrumental in the founding of the Gas and General Workers Union, which went on to become part of what is now GMB.
Each secondary school in Lewisham was invited to nominate one inspirational young woman from Year 8 and above. The judging panel – consisting of me, Ellie, Janet and National President of GMB Barbara Plant (who also happens to be a teaching assistant from Lewisham) – then had to choose a winner.
I don’t mind telling you that this was no easy task. We had to choose between five anonymised entries, all of which described hard-working and dedicated young women who are making a mark at a young age, often against difficult odds. We were asked to select the candidate who we felt had made the most difference to their community, overcome adversity and taken steps to bring a positive change to her school.
We eventually chose Roni Hawkes from Haberdashers’ Aske’s Knights Academy as a very deserving winner. Her nominator told us that, despite being a young carer, she “continues to shine…She is a role model to others in our school…and has represented our school at football, cricket, netball and handball. She is also performing well in all her lessons and is above her target grades.”
The award was presented by the Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan. Our borough has a strong track record of bringing young people to the heart of local government and I am very glad to see that we are continuing to honour our young people for their contributions.
Many congratulations to Roni and to the fantastic runners-up: Chelsea Aifuwa, Matilda Strickland, Safaa Ahmed and Flavia Mensah. We are sure you all have a very bright future ahead of you!