Celebrating our sisters

By RCM Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Jayne Bekoe on 02 October 2023 RCM UK Research Safety Wellbeing Of Women Women Equality and Diversity

Under this year’s theme for Black History and Culture Month - Celebrating our sisters, Saluting our sisters and Honouring matriarchs of movements – the RCM’s Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Jayne Bekoe salutes Black women and Black leaders in maternity care while sharing how the RCM is working with collaborators to continue to raise awareness on racial disparities in the NHS.

Black women have been at the heart of social justice and change throughout history and this rings true to the women behind the changes that we are seeing in maternity services today. So while reflecting on the past year I want to mention a few inspirational women who have been instrumental in empowering our members. 

I’d like to honour Dr Joan Myres OBE who joined the RCM in various ways from annual conference, student midwife forum bespoke workshop to Race to lunch sessions – our regular online meetings that are open to all and that focus on equality, diversity and inclusion within maternity and the RCM. As a special guest Joan always inspires us with her holistic coaching to unleash your full potential and empowers the audience to be ‘proud to be me’. Joan uses every opportunity to encourage Black leaders to showcase their fulfilling career journeys and motivating upcoming leaders in the audiences. 

Candice Brathwaite, a service user, author, journalist and TV presenter. Candice joined us for a special Black History and Culture event, and I had the pleasure to join her in conversation. Candice spoke candidly about her experience as a maternity service user, journey as an entrepreneur and a Black influencer. Candice harnessed her experiences to campaign for improvements for maternal health services, particularly targeting Black women.

I want to salute our recent RCM Race Matters Unsung Hero Award winners Maxine Chapman from the University of Leicester for winning the award for her work to eliminate the continuing influence on colonialism within midwifery education. Also, Emma Lesley from Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust who won for setting up an innovative support hub to help women and families through the cost-of-living crisis. This is extended to all the members who were shortlisted and all those who go above and beyond for women and families.

I also want to celebrate the wider achievements and engagement of all the maternity staff who have joined the RCM mentoring platform and all the members who have joined us for Race to lunch events. Likewise, to those who helped publish the Decolonising the midwifery education toolkit this year. Stakeholders will be joining the RCM on various platforms over the month to share the collaborative work. Feel free to register.

All these different platforms accumulatively work to make a difference and help towards empowering the Black leaders within all of us.

I want to also salute the Black women who had contributions ignored, ideas invalidated and voices silenced, but who continue to find the courage to ensure self-care beyond the workplace and uplift the profession.

As I transitioned in my career from being an entrepreneur to a healthcare professional and leader, I too have been exposed to microaggressions, internalised and systematic racism. It was surprising to experience these behaviours across the health sector, given that this is a caring profession. There is still a way to go.

So, let’s use this year’s Black History and Culture Month as another platform to raise awareness of how we celebrate our members for their contributions across the areas that they work.

The RCM will be joining forces with the TUC on 10 October for a panel discussion for Black women trade unionists in the 21st Century who hold leadership positions throughout the movement in the UK. I am so pleased to be a part of that panel discussion. Register free today.

The RCM will also be hosting guest speaker Cherron Inko-Tariah MBE, to facilitate an interactive workshop for its staff called Let’s talk about race. Cherron is a former civil servant and has undertaken leadership roles in various policy and strategic positions across Whitehall, including working with Ministers and Permanent Secretaries.

I will also be facilitating two assemblies for primary school children on Honouring the achievement of black women that often are forgotten heroines. I will be joined by midwife Mica Thomas a Windrush Scholar to also discuss her leadership journey and engagement on the Windrush programme. The school will then provide pupils with interesting information about Mary Seacole every week for on-going learning. Content of Mary Seacole will also be shared with parents and carers. The RCM is looking to broaden their scope of work and capitalise on the opportunity to promote the midwifery profession and celebrate Mary Seacole contributions as a midwifery pioneer at other educational organisations throughout the month.

There will be much more throughout the month including guest blogs and social media content to share with colleagues and friends and our ongoing Race to lunch events that any member can join. Join us to celebrate our sisters!