Empowerment and healing for women moving on from violence

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About Women and Girls Network

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Our Board of Trustees

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Asma Bhol

Asma Bhol | Trustee

Asma is an Independent Paediatric Occupational Therapist who specialises in neuro-disability and sensory integration. Asma believes humans to be functional beings through occupation and independence, using a holistic approach, whilst honouring the impact of trauma and the power of the persons spirit. Asma is an Imam at the Inclusive Mosque Initiative and uses their knowledge and experience to build bridges between faiths. Asma is an expert by experience and uses their expertise to work with young women in local schools who are affected by all forms of violence, more specifically gang violence. Asma has participated in a number of festivals and movements over the years and uses humour, spirituality, empowerment and activism to raise awareness.  

Donna Carty

Donna Carty | Vice Chair

Donna’s background was in support work with homeless women before becoming an equality and inclusion trainer for Challenge Consultancy. 

She has been a Trustee for WGN for over 12 years and for many of those years was Chair, she holds the position of vice-Chair. 

Donna’s frontline experience working in support environments and her later management experience has been vital in her input with the Trustee board. Her current equality work with a wide range of organisations across the sectors, has ensured continued insight into the changing face of the workplace and current expectations. 

Katy Taylor

Katy Taylor | Trustee 

Katy is the Director of Bristol Women's Voice, a charity fighting for women's equality and inclusion in Bristol. She also provides independent consultancy in the women's sector across England and Wales. When not at work, Katy likes being outside - walking, cycling, dancing, camping and sitting round fires. 

Rani Selvarajah

Rani Selvarajah | Treasurer 

Rani is a committed intersectional feminist who has worked in child rights and VAWG sector organisations, both UK-based and international. Her experience includes fundraising research and strategy development, policy research, and advocacy. Most recently, Rani joined the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition as part of their public affairs team, lobbying the government and other policymakers on VAWG policy areas. She has been a WGN Trustee since 2015 and Treasurer since 2019.

Ronke Coote

Ronke Coote | Trustee

Ronke is a qualified Solicitor, a secondary school safeguarding governor and sits in a legal capacity as a panel member for a foster care agency. She has a heart for social justice and would like nothing more, than to see people living free from harm and abuse. She would like to see young and old empowered to do good, make a positive contribution to society and live their lives to their full potential. Her main areas of interest are working with survivors of domestic violence and women who have been affected by the criminal justice system. On a daily basis she advises and advocates on behalf of people who have been unfairly treated and those who are vulnerable and marginalised. 

Runa Begum

Runa Begum | Trustee 

Runa is a leadership development expert in the NHS, she supports leaders to step into their potential and develop better leadership skills to help build an improved healthcare system. Having worked in race and gender equality, tackling poverty and empowering communities; her interest in development spans across the spectrum of the individual right through to wider systemic disadvantage. She also runs her own private therapy practice weaving together expertise from the world of corporate leadership, contemporary therapy practices and ancient healing wisdoms to enable people to dive deeper and move through their perceived limitations. Runa joined WGN in 2019.

Sabrina Qureshi

Sabrina Qureshi | Chair

Sabrina is a passionate and effective advocate and organiser on issues of institutionalised and systematic oppression, including gendered violence. Ending Male Violence Against Women and Girls is a cause that is close to her heart as she understands from personal experience the devastating effects it can have on Women and Girls, loved ones and community. Sabrina has over the years worked as a counsellor, a refuge worker, an advocate and an organiser. Currently, Sabrina works as a freelancer running workshops and providing one to one support, counselling and consultancy to individuals, campaigns, groups and organisations as well as making short films. Sabrina is the Founding Co-ordinator of the Million Women Rise Movement, for which she was awarded the Emma Humphreys individual prize in 2008 and MWR won group award in 2015. Sabrina was recently awarded an honorary doctorate from the London Metropolitan University. Sabrina’s interests are shamanism, animation, gardening and womanist philosophies, activism and ancient arts and healing. 

Sally Thomas

Sally Thomas | Trustee

Sally joined WGN in 2016. She is an experienced public policy professional who has worked in the education and sexual health sectors.  She is currently a Senior Policy Specialist working on issues of gender equality and child mental health at the National Education Union (NEU). She cares passionately about how education can be used to prevent violence against women and girls and the role of activism and trade unionism for creating a gender equal world. 

Dr Sandra Gulyurtlu

Dr Sandra Gulyurtlu | Trustee

Sandy has long worked for the voluntary sector and academia, conducting research into rights, welfare, safeguarding and well-being to create better outcomes for children and young people. Throughout her career she has developed pioneering research on policy, innovation and civic action, understanding vulnerability and inequality and how people across society are working to make change happen which has led to changes in legislation, policy and practice. She is Head of Insights and Impact at Starlight Children’s Foundation and was previously the Head of Research for the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England where she led research into promoting and protecting children’s rights, including conducting the research on two national Inquiries into Child Sexual Abuse and Child Sexual Exploitation. As a result of her impactful work, she was invited to attend the Queen’s garden party for her services to children and families and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Sandy has a BSc (Hons) Psychology and Physiology from the University of Reading, a MSc. Childhood Studies and Ph.D. in Social Policy.

Vanessa Freeman

Vanessa Freeman | Trustee

Vanessa is a mother, a vocal teacher, singer, Foodhub Co-ordinator, a primary school governor, with the responsibility of monitoring school behaviour. She has also been a foster carer. Her time working for Lambeth Council summer holiday projects gave her the opportunity to be a support to children on a child protection plan, creating trust and giving them the confidence to feel safe. Vanessa has a vast social care experience, she has worked with young people, the elderly and people with learning difficulties. Being a foster carer for nine years and looking after predominantly children from a variety of backgrounds, she feels that her main tasks were to help them fulfil their goals, while in her care and to prepare them for the transition of becoming independent adults. Vanessa, also has a love for art, dance, drama and music and when possible tries to use these in the healing process. She is committed to seeing positive change for both the young and old in the community around her and the organisations she works with. 

Our Senior Leadership Team

Akima Thomas

Dr Akima Thomas OBE | Clinical Director & Co-Founder

Akima is a black feminist activist and comes from a background in nursing, social work and psychotherapy. Akima has pioneered working from a trauma informed approach and developed the Holistic Empowerment Recovery Model (HER), a strengths based non pathologising clinical model; integrating healing of mind body and spirit. Akima continues to research women’s healing journeys chronicling strategies of resistance, rebellion, and resilience to ensure survival and wrote a chapter in the book ‘Drop the Disorder! Challenging the culture of psychiatric diagnosis’, which challenges the culture of psychiatric diagnosis. Akima was awarded an OBE for services to Supporting Women and Girls, in 2019.

Foziha Hamid

Dr Foziha Hamid | Clinical Manager

Foziha is WGN’s Clinical Manager, having worked for over 15 years within the VAWG sector.  She is responsible for WGN’s clinical services, delivering specialist support in the context of a trauma-informed approach. Foziha is a qualified psychotherapist (MBACP accred.) and clinical supervisor. She has a special interest in developing practice-based research and specialising in working with sexual violence in a digital world.

Gurpreet Virdee

Gurpreet Virdee | Director of Operations & Development

Gurpreet is a black feminist activist with a strong commitment to anti-racism and fighting the injustices and inequalities faced by women and girls. Gurpreet has spent the last 25 years working within specialist black and minority led organisations supporting women and girls who have experienced violence and abuse. Gurpreet has led on delivering, developing and managing a range of pioneering services focused on young women, mental health and sexual health. Over the last decade, Gurpreet has played a pivotal role in strategically responding to the impact of austerity and the survival and sustainability of VAWG organisations in London through the development of partnerships and consortia, campaigning and lobbying. Gurpreet has been Director of Operations and Development at Women and Girls Network since 2010 and is trustee at the End Violence against Women and Girls Coalition and Race on the Agenda, and is also a School Governor.

Lucy Hayton

Lucy Hayton | Rape Crisis Centre Manager

Lucy is WGN’s Rape Crisis Centre Manager. Lucy began volunteering on a rape crisis helpline over 10 years ago and began her role at WGN in 2017. Lucy manages the London Survivors Gateway and Independent Sexual Violence Advocacy (ISVA) services and supports the monitoring, commissioning and policy around WGN’s Rape Crisis work. 

Michelle Springer-Benjamin

Michelle Springer-Benjamin | Training Manager

Michelle is a trained social worker, counsellor and life coach and worked for over 12 years with young people aged 13-25, at a young people’s advice, counselling and therapy centre as a counsellor, senior counsellor and clinical services manager. Michelle has also worked as a senior consultant for the NSPCC providing training and consultation to organisations in relation to safeguarding and child protection, delivering training and undertaking training needs analysis. Michelle is currently WGN’s Training Manager, having been involved in WGN’s training department for over 20 years. Michelle’s specialist area of work includes gender based violence and child sexual abuse. In her self-time Michelle writes children stories and tries to stay connected to spirit.

Nicole Walsh

Nicole Walsh | Young Women’s Services Manager

Nicole has been WGN’s Young Women’s Services Manager since April 2020, having previously worked with us as a Community Development Worker and initially as a Young Women’s Advocate. Nicole leads our Young’s Women Team who provide a range of specialist young women’s support services, which include one-to-one advocacy, group work, prevention work (in community and educational settings), counselling, young women’s voice (known as Experts by Experience) and the recently launched CouRAGEus Project (for Black and minoritised young women affected by violence and abuse). Prior to joining WGN, Nicole worked with young people in a number of other sectors, including education and homelessness.

Away from WGN, Nicole recently invested in (and found use for) a new pair of wellies.

Tal Rosenzweig

Tal Rosenzweig | Advice Service and Helplines Manager

Tal began her journey with WGN in 2011 as a volunteer on the Sexual Violence Helpline. Since 2013, she has led WGN’s Advice Team and is responsible for overseeing the management, development and direction of each strand of this service provision. This includes the delivery of an Advice hub, one to one advice casework, a Sexual Violence Helpline, Young Women’s advice casework and WGN’s recently launched Web-Chat facility.

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