Book tells ‘inspirational’ life stories of ethnic minority women

October 18, 2021
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“When I was developing my career, I encountered many obstacles and I wish there’d been a role model to guide me.”

Meena Upadhyaya fought her way to become a professor of medical genetics at Cardiff University.

But her experience led her to found a charity celebrating the lives and achievements of ethnic minority women in Wales.

“It’s absolutely necessary to have role models,” said Meena.

“So I’m very pleased that now, as a result of our awards, we are recognising many inspirational role models for ethnic minority women and girls.”

The awards ceremonies she organises have grown dramatically over the decade since her charity, Ethnic Minority Welsh Women Achievement Association (EMWWAA), began.

For Meena, the event on Friday evening is particularly special because it will see the launch of a new book telling the stories of 40 women who have been finalists at previous awards ceremonies.

‘Extremely inspirational’

Seventy Years of Struggle and Achievement, which was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, was launched at the awards ceremony in Cardiff City Hall.

“It outlines how the cultural heritage of ethnic minority communities have made an impact on Welsh culture,” said Meena.

“It’s an extremely inspirational book and I’m sure it will inspire not only ethnic minority women and girls but the wider public.”

Humie Webbe is one of the women to feature in the book after winning the social and humanitarian EMWWAA award in 2019.

Born in Wales to parents who moved from the Caribbean as part of the Windrush generation, she used her community arts background to help those from disadvantaged communities.

“I used those performance skills to engage with communities, so that helped me develop the Butetown community choir with Betty Campbell.”

“I led the choir for 10 years. During that time the junior choir sang for Prince Philip, we met the Queen, we sang for Paul Robeson Jr. We did a lot of things.”

As a single parent to an autistic son, Humie’s activism soon focussed on breaking down barriers to health care for people of colour.

“I’ve challenged where people are frightened to challenge and that’s brought me into contact with people who say, ‘can you be on this committee or that committee?’

“And in the work that I’ve been doing, I’ve found that I’ve been the only person of colour, or the first person of colour to be in that space.”

‘We deserve it’

Currently, Humie is the co-chair of the Learning Disability Advisory Group, which advises the Welsh government on improving the lives of people with learning disabilities.

So how does she feel about winning an award and being featured in the book?

“I was very touched,” said Humie, adding: “It was an honour when I did get the award because it was voted by my peers.

“And that’s the thing about these awards, there’s a lot of women just quietly going about their business and doing such great things in their communities.

“There’s little focus on our achievements and the way Meena has set these awards up is like giving ourselves a clap on the back.

“We deserve it.”

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