IWD 2021: Celebrating IOM’s Women of Colour

March 8th 2021 is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is also a day to raise awareness about women’s equality and push for accelerated gender parity. We have decided to take today as an opportunity to acknowledge and pay respect to some of the amazing women of colour that live on the Isle of Man. 

Some of you may be asking why we have chosen to write this article. We believe it is important to recognise the women in our community, the jobs they do, and the journeys they have been on to get to where they are today. Women all across the world already have to work much harder than men to achieve recognition and status, however women of colour have to face even more hurdles than their white counterparts. In addition to sexism, women of colour are also faced with racism and all it’s problems that fall hand in hand. This may mean having to dismantle stereotypes and negative ideologies of women of colour (for example, ‘the angry Black woman’) and working much harder to get any recognition and reward for their work and hard efforts. 

We asked the Manx public to send in nominations of women of colour living on the Isle of Man who deserve the spotlight this IWD. It was heartwarming to read what these women are doing in our community and the sheer selflessness they show. 

Our first nominee is Leyre N’Shimbi-Fernandez. Leyre, of Spanish and Congolese descent moved to the Isle of Man eighteen and a half years ago. At the time of moving, many Spaniards were emigrating searching for employment as Spain was going through a financial struggle. Leyre came to learn English, as the company she worked for in Spain was expanding and had potential business opportunities in the UK but lacked language skills to support these. She is a busy single mother, who has a passion for fundraising for charitable causes, such as IOM Foodbank, a boxing association that helps teenage boys with their mental health, and others. In her working life endeavours, she has worked in a number of places including Zurich, the Government and Santander and two years ago passed some Compliance exams with distinction.

Despite her busy work and home life, she still manages to find time for everyone. Leyre is very driven and dedicated, and is said to enrich the island and is a fantastic representative of the biracial, bilingual community, as well as single parents. Leyre is said to be very grateful to the Isle of Man, and she will never hesitate to help any newcomers to the island get settled quickly, whether that’s lending a helping hand, or inviting them to one of her historic parties, which have been described as ‘unequalled’.

Our second nominee is Medina Sharpe. Medina has been volunteering at the Foodbank for almost 2 years now (she started shortly after her son, Aziz passed away – she was Aziz’s full time carer for 10 years). Madina volunteers 3 days a week, but often spends most of her Saturdays at the Foodbank. 

Medina is heavily involved with the Community Action Trust (CAT) in Zimbabwe. She’s also held a coffee morning for a local baby called Maxwell Perry. Medina does a lot of work with and for her church which has been helping people stay up to date with bills and household items, particularly during lockdown. She was also involved in providing christmas presents for families that were struggling to do so.  

Our third nominee is Bukola Adegboyega. Bukola moved from Nigeria to Dublin in 2001 and relocated to the Isle of Man in 2011. She has a busy home and work life, being a manager of captive insurance companies, a wife, mother of 3 and a grandma of 1. In 2016, she took her love for cooking and turned it into a business venture: Taste Africa, which is a mobile catering company on the island, which is extremely popular with the Manx public at every event they cater. Taste Africa takes Manx produce and combines it with traditional African spices and flavours to create mouthwatering African dishes. 

Our final nominee is Shaheen Chowdary. Shaheen and her family were one of the first Muslim families to move to the Island. The Chowdary family paved the way for many Muslim families, and are always happy to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. Shaheen is fondly known to many within the community as ‘Aunty’, fitting to her kind, and loving nature. The Chowdry’s have been credited with creating a great community on the Isle of Man and family with the success of their Broadway restaurant: The Millenium Sagaar. 

We hope in reading this article, you have come to recognise some of the amazing women we have here on the Isle of Man, and the incredible work they do to help our community. We encourage you to take the rest of today to do your own research, and perhaps reach out to other amazing women and thank them for all the hard work they do. 

“Here’s to strong women: May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”

As part of Gef’s International Women’s Day Series

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