Empowerment and healing for women moving on from violence

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Our Board of Trustees

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. 

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. 

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.

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 | Treasurer

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 | CEO Services & 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.

Gurpreet Virdee

Gurpreet Virdee | CEO 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. Gurpreet is now our CEO Development.

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Mehreen Mir | Director of Finance & Resources

Mehreen is a Fellow Chartered Management Accountant, holds an honours degree in Accountancy and is an Associate member of the CIPD. Having initially started her career as a financial analyst, Mehreen moved into the non-profit sector and has mainly worked with various Educational Charitable trusts until joining WGN.

In her most recent role, Mehreen successfully set and managed budgets up to £11 million ensuring value for money. She was also responsible for initiating and implementing several policies, benefits and pay awards to improve team member’s wellbeing and to recognise their valuable contributions.

Mehreen is a qualified coach and volunteers as a Life & Career Coach working with women and those from the neurodiverse community and so has an in depth understanding of the challenges women face day to day, in particular challenges those faced by those from black and ethnic backgrounds. Previously Mehreen also created a formal link between CIMA and one of the largest Asian female university’s to support young women to achieve the best possible business / finance qualifications.

Mehreen is committed to continuing to develop WGN’s business and resources functions further to underpin the charities future goals and aspirations, and is passionate about making a difference to the lives of girls and women, working towards ensuring diversity and inclusion in the workplace, as well as achieving the best possible outcomes for team members by focusing on their wellbeing.

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Ifeoma Williams | Director of Services

For over two decades Ifeoma Williams has proudly worked in a sector dedicated to providing holistic support to victims of crime and to eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls. She has over 15 years management experience at leading London charities and is skilled in strategic development and operational delivery in the voluntary sector. Iffy has excellent project and program management skills with a successful track record of delivering on projects and managing multi-million pounds contracts across London. In addition, she considers herself as an innovative, proactive and supportive leader. 
As a intersectional black feminist activist, her belief, ethos and values are based on equity, fairness and the acceptance of women in all their forms. She is passionate and committed to ensuring the black woman’s voice is heard and acknowledged. She has great admiration and respect for the work and activism of WGN and all they have achieved for the global majority women in the UK. 

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.

Lorraine James  | Young Women’s Services Manager

Details to come...