International Women’s Day offered Cornwall VSF new staff the opportunity to get to know women in the sector. With the month of March almost being over, there are a few women we spoke to when identifying women whose work inspires other women in the sector. All of us volunteer in some way and are inspired by the women we encounter and work with, and it seems that unanimously so do you! Without exception, every woman we spoke with threw some of the light back to her peers or others who inspired them.

Esme Maylam: WILD Young Parents and Breastfeeding Peer Support

Esme Maylam volunteers for Breastfeeding Information and Support Cornwall

Esme was nominated by a nominee, which immediately highlights the strength of women to support other women.

Through this work, Esme and other volunteers (she is very keen to ensure that I mention the great network of other women creating and empowering communities) are able to build up a large variety of skills. Most recently this upskilling and confidence building has resulted in Esme securing paid employment as a Group Lead for the Wild Young Parents Project. An example of the support, empowerment and inspiration of the voluntary sector to change lives.

Since becoming a parent, Esme recognises the isolation many women feel when they become parents. She began volunteering to help others overcome those experiences of isolation by creating empathic and supportive Communities where knowledge and experience could be shared to help empower families to make informed decisions around infant feeding and infant care. Esme has volunteered as a hospital and community breastfeeding peer support volunteer for over six years.

For this International Women’s Day Esme chooses to challenge why issues to do with  women’s reproductive health are largely underfunded, ignored and dismissed. In the UK. 80% of women give up breastfeeding before they feel ready to. Esme cites lack of support as the main reason why.  Locally, Cornwall Council recognises this issue and coordinates Breastfeeding Information and Support Cornwall (BISC). However, much of the support is provided  by volunteers. Put simply there is neither the recognition nor the funding for infant feeding support and the work that Esme and her fellow peer supporters do serves as an example of an area of healthcare that is heavily supported by the voluntary sector. 

Locally, Cornwall Council recognises this issue and coordinates BISC. However, this is administered by volunteers. It sets an example of an area of healthcare that is supported by the voluntary sector.

Through this work, Esme and other volunteers (she is keen to ensure that I mention the great network of women creating and empowering communities) are given safeguarding training and other skills. Upskilling and confidence building has resulted in Esme securing paid employment as a Group Lead for the Wild Young Parents Project.

An example of the support, empowerment and inspiration of the voluntary sector to change lives.

Sally Heard: School for Social Entrepreneurs

Sally’s nominator said, “Sally has steadfastly led the development of many social entrepreneurs and as a result social enterprises in Cornwall contributing to Cornwall’s economy and supporting many communities and individuals.  She established Cornwall School for Social Entrepreneurs and secured significant investment into Cornwall providing jobs and services in Cornwall.  She has always gone the extra mile and led with authenticity, integrity and professionalism impacting locally, nationally and internationally; her commitment to women, community and sustainability is truly inspiring.  More recently Sally has led the merger of the Cornwall school to ensure a sustainable future for social entrepreneurship and social enterprise in Cornwall which has the potential to grow networks that extend internationally.  Sally rarely gets recognition for what she has done and I think she deserves it in bucket loads.”

Working with the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) since 2002, Sally has played a key role in setting up SSE in Cornwall, empowering many women and men through this. Driven by supporting people to grow, she leads a team that continues to secure and deliver a broad range of social entrepreneurship programmes from pre-start to leadership, building confidence, capacity, and creating impact across our communities.

A mentor for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Sally is a passionate advocate of female entrepreneurship, and in 2018 led SSE’s first collaborative international programme, developing and delivering a 12-month programme of support for female social entrepreneurs in the UAE. Closer to home, Sally leads SSE Cornwall’s design and delivery of the hugely successful Accelerating Women’s Enterprise programme.