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The Tenth Merseyside Woman of the Year Award was won by Wirral Witches: Mandy Molby and Jane Kirkham

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THE pair set up Wirral Witches (Women in Touch with Claire House) five years ago and during that time have raised almost £500,000 for the children’s hospice. Mandy and Jane have hosted dinners; fashion shows lunches, balls and ‘audience with’ events to raise much needed funds for the charity. Last year Mandy was diagnosed with bowel cancer yet continued to work tirelessly for Claire House. Mandy and Jane have shown remarkable selflessness, often during trying personal circumstances they are kind, caring and warm individuals with a very big heart and an ability to give that simply knows no bounds.

They always put others before themselves and undertake their fundraising for the hospice with the most incredible passion. They have worked so hard and their dedication has made such a big difference to the final moments of many children’s lives and to the families left behind.

Afrah Qassim Winner of the Humanitarian Award

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THROUGH her work to help those affected by forced marriage and so-called ‘honour based violence’ Afrah has made an outstanding contribution to protecting some of the most vulnerable and marginalised women in our local communities. A Community Development Worker with Liverpool Primary Care Trust she has championed the needs of this group. She is described as truly exceptional with the ability “to break down barriers whether they are social, cultural or instituonal, in order to instigate positive change”.

Afrah achieve her post graduate certificate in Community Development work in 2008 from the University of Salford. She recently founded a charity called Savera - dedicated to tackling abuse within Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities and raising awareness among professionals and practitioners of harmful practice such a Forced Marriage, Honour Based Violence and Female Genital Mutilation.

 

Read Afrah's opinion on making forced marriage a criminal offence

Marie Gray Winner of the Community Award

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CREDIT Unions have become important parts of communities and Marie is one of the longest serving volunteers with the Lodge Lane and District Credit Union. Nominated by Peter Woods, founder member, he says he has worked alongside Marie for many years.

“Marie embraced the Credit Union ethos and filled most roles from teller to loans officer and a member of the supervisory committee, this while holding down a job as a school teacher. Beginning in rented accommodation, the branch now owns its own property, and Marie has been instrumental in turning the Credit Union into a viable business in its own right. Marie does a wonderful job and besides offering practical solutions to financial problems, is often the friendly face where people can turn in time of a crisis, and encouraging Members to become regular savers, in an area where many people have resorted to Loan Sharks and unscrupulous people."

Jackie Rotheram Winner of the Woman Achieving Award

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DESPITE a terrible road accident 30 years ago which left her with catastrophic head injuries and in a wheelchair for 12 months, midwife Jackie used her experience to raise awareness surrounding pregnant women with special needs. She has put the issue on the national agenda and transformed the care that women with disabilities receive before, during and after pregnancy not only at Liverpool Women’s Hospital but all over the country.

She has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about their special needs. With empathy and compassion born out of her own condition, she has helped thousands of women. She has given hope to women with conditions such as spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, lack of arms or legs, cerebral palsy, blindness and deafness and many other conditions that made them think they could never become mothers and she has arranged care plans and services to support them.

Minerva Group Runner Up in the Women Together Category

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IT has only been up and running for a year but already the Minerva Group is helping women who are widowed or for whatever reason find themselves alone.

There are around 360 members in eight clubs throughout Merseyside and Cheshire and Minerva co-ordinates a host of events including: lunches; day trips; concerts and theatre visits; lecturers; workshops and charity fund raising events.

It prides itself on offering support and someone to listen. “Many problem can be solved by talking to someone who has ‘been there and done that’ as they are instant proof that life can and does get better with friends and company around you.” Many members are carers who have precious little ‘me time’. They come along when they can and over a cuppa reveal amazing stories of their lives. Members also do voluntary work in the community, maybe a few hours a week but done willingly.

Josephine Wood MBE Winner of the Making A Difference Award

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A CHAMPION for the victims of rape Josephine is nominated for her work with Rape and Sexual Abuse centre in Wirral. She started working there in 2004/5 and since then has developed new services across Merseyside, most recently the Hoylake Holistics hosting retail and holistic therapy outlets to help remove any stigma from entering the premises.

She continually quests to make life better for others and her inner strength and courage shone through as she helped parents of a young woman murdered by her rapist while he was on bail. She co-ordinate a nationwide petition, a visit to the Director of Public Prosecutions and support from the former Victim’s Commissioner, together with widespread publicity dissemination and support collection has lead to the passing in March 2012 of Jane’s Law – an amendment to the Bail Act, that allows the Police and Crown Prosecution Service to challenge bail decisions made by Crown Court Judges where they feel that the decision is not in the best interest of the victim.

Leigh Best Runner Up in the Social Impact Category

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NOMINATED for her work in the field of eating disorders, Leigh, a children’s psychotherapist and lecturer in counselling, formed the voluntary group “Talking Eating Disorders” (TEDS) in Liverpool 12 years ago.

During this time, she has worked tirelessly to raise awareness and provide information and support to anyone with an eating disorder, to Healthcare Professionals, and also the Parents and Carers of sufferers.

She has realised that many people will not engage in the services that the NHS provide, so her and her small team of volunteers operate a befriending service, listening to anyone affected. She has provided training and mentoring, all on a voluntary basis, developed and delivered Body Image workshops in schools, and she arranged the first Eating Disorders Health conference at Liverpool John Moores University in 2009.

Jacquie Johnson-Lynch Winner of the Social Impact Award

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FOUNDER of the The Brink in Liverpool, a social enterprise which helps people recovering from drink and drug addiction, Jacquie welcomed royal visitor The Duchess of Cambridge to the charity’s dry bar this year. Jacquie is passionate about helping addicts after her own brother Garry was tragically killed by a drink driver 20 years ago. All the profits from the bar are re-invested in other Action On Addiction recovery projects in Merseyside.

The Brink is a social enterprise and three-quarters of the staff are recovering alcoholic or drug addicts. It is open to all members of the public, but it also has private areas set aside for alcohol counselling, run by the Charity. Most cafes don't have a 'night-out' feel and they close by 6, it's just like a normal bar, but with pots of tea on tables rather than pints of beer.

Michelle Paton-Watson Runner Up in the Caring Category

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MICHELLE is currently the manager of a successful step 2 intervention for people with anxiety and depression on the Wirral. She runs a programme for Advocacy in Wirral that has helped over 500 people in the last year alone, and has assisted service users into voluntary and paid work as part of their recovery process. Michelle believes that access into free services for all communities is paramount and works with other organisations to provide pathways for service users who need support and guidance in their times of need.

After finishing her degree in 2009 she started working on the ‘Beating the Blues’ Program and she has help those who are vulnerable and need support and guidance through their recovery. She manages 3 paid staff and has a bank of 15 volunteers who also help out with sessions.

Ann Parry Winner of the Caring Award

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NEONATAL nurse at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital with more than 30 years experience, Ann has pioneered an innovative “butterfly” shaped pillow that will dramtatically improve the care of premature babies by helping to keep their airways open and prevent a condition known as “head flattening” which premature babies can develop through lying too long in the same position. Her invention has been patented and is now being marketed throughout the UK.

Ann has gone that extra mile to achieve her dream of making a brighter future for premature babies all over the UK and Europe. Ann says "It's all about nurturing the environment in which we nurse our babies, trying to make them as comfortable as we can. I had thought for a long time about a way in which we could give their heads better support and came up with the idea of her special pillow.

Sylvia Jones Runner Up in the Inspirational Woman Category

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CELEBRATING her 80th birthday this year Sylvia is an inspiration for her volunteer work within Liverpool’s art and culture scene. For the past 25 years she has been a committed volunteer at National Museums and makes an outstanding contribution to the Walker Art Gallery Education Team. She leads adult tours and supports Big Art for Little Artists, preparing material for workshops and even taking costumes home to mend.

Sylvia ensures provision for our youngest visitors is always to the highest standard. As a retired primary school teaching her experience is an invaluable resource as she is able to adapt her classroom experiences to the gallery setting.

Sylvia’s approachable, warm manner and her ability to gauge the needs of her audience, means that all members of the public get something from her tours. Sylvia is a true ambassador for the city and for culture.

Montse Benitez Winner of the Woman in Philanthropy Award

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HAVING made Merseyside her home after moving here with her football manager husband Rafa, Montse Benitez has supported many charities in the region. She is passionate about helping others less fortunate than herself.

She is a patron of the Lily Centre, which supports women with breast cancer, and in October last year she launched the Montse Benitez Foundation and set about organising events to help as many worthy causes as possible. In five months, she has raised £130.000.00, and made a huge difference to the lives of the people who she has touched.

Montse’s determination to become fluent in the English language and gain British Citizenship shows how much passion she has for the people and organisations she sets out to help.

Nicola Byrne Runner Up in the Entrepreneur Category

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OVER the past 10 years entrepreneur Nicola Byrne has grown the Urban Beauty Group from a small salon in Ormksirk to a chain of three stores employing around 20 staff. She has also launched the Lash Out! Lashes brand which is stocked in salons across the UK, and in concessions across Liverpool and Manchester.

Nicola built the business up while working full time, but after not going to University, was determined to gain a Master’s Degree, which she did in 2008.

In 2010 she took redundancy to concentrate on her business, and she also acts as a business mentor offering support to start-up businesses, and is vocal about Staff being the best asset to her business

Afroza Ahmed Winner of the Inspirational Woman Award

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A SENIOR Occupational Therapist in Liverpool, Afroza was nominated for providing care “above and beyond the call of duty” and organising an emergency heating service which will save lives of the elderly across Merseyside. Over the past three years she has given a huge amount of her own time to improve the care of vulnerable elderly people who use Mossley Hill Hospital including raising £40,000 to establish a 24 hour emergency heating provision across Liverpool, which is now being replicated in Sefton and Wirral. She did this having heard about an elderly man who was found dead with his coat and cap on sitting next to a broken heater. At first Afroza bought radiators with her own money but when shops ran out of supplies she contacted Dimplex and Mersey Fire Support Network and used her charm and expertise to persuade them to donate vital supplies.

Janet Dunn Runner Up in the Arts & Culture Category

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CHAIR of Trustees of the Plaza Community Cinema in Crosby, Janet Dunn is nominated for working tirelessly for the last 17 years since it was rescued from closure by its conversion into a predominantly volunteer run community enterprise.

Janet has done almost every job in the cinema, including regularly going in to do the cleaning herself in order to minimise the costs of paying for professional cleaners. She oversaw the refurbishment carried out by a team of volunteers, and acted virtually as Clerk of Works to ensure that the project was fulfilled.

She chairs the Trustees meetings every month, motivates and supports the army of volunteers and tirelessly fund-raises. She is a key figure in the survival of a marvellous amenity for the people of Crosby and Waterloo. Jan is now leading from the front in the major campaign to raise the money needed to upgrade the cinema’s antiquated projection equipment for the digital age.

Kate Kingston Winner of the Entrepreneur Award

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ENTREPRENEUR Kate Kingston has set up two successful property businesses, the second launched only last year, despite the recession. In 2003 she launched Kingston Shaw Interior Design and last year she set up estate agency Kingston Shaw Residential which is already making a profit. She now employs over 10 people and soon to expand further.

Already an award winner, the Wirral businesswoman is also a mentor with the Prince’s Trust supporting and realising the potential of young people across the region. She does not shrink from a challenge but instead rises to it and builds strong teams to help with the delivery. With the right people around her, Kate focuses on delivery by motivating, being enthusiastic and leading by example. Generous, with a belief that anyone can achieve their ambitions, Kate supports and encourages both all around her to forge ahead, as evidenced by several of her former colleagues launching their own successful businesses.

Stacey Barlow Runner Up in the Learning Category

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A SCHOOLS and community development officer for Ormiston Bollingbroke Academy in Runcorn, Stacey was nominated for her work on the 02 Think Big project run by the telecom company which aims to inspire and empower young people to make a difference in their community.

She has gone out of her way to help behaviourally challenged students to find the courage to make new friends, and find new skills. She has helped pupils create a mural and set up a school allotment. She is described as a true professional who “whenever approached no matter the challenge or timescale always delivers”.

Barbara Phillips Winner of the Arts & Culture Award

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HAVING enjoyed a varied career in the arts from a singer in Liverpool vocal group Distinction to a TV scriptwriter, Barbara is nominated for her achievments with Positive Impact which works primarily with young people from the city’s black communities. She helped co-found the organisation which aims to provide opportunities for young people to learn new skills in the performing arts, free of charge. Barbara is a driving force in the organisation producing, managing, writing and composing music for various stage productions and radio dramas including The Grove broadcast on Radio Merseyside which won a Sony Award in 2005.

She has produced sell-out performances such as ‘Strictly Motown’, ‘Misunderstood?’ at venues such as the Everyman Theatre, the Contact Theatre, Liverpool Playhouse Theatre and Royal Court Theatre, and has enabled people from local communities, both professional and non-professional, to get involved. The recent production is the Classic Motown Show which showcases local young singers.

Runner Up of the Community Award - Freda Rowlandson

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A STALWART of the bowling scene in Liverpool, 80-year-old Freda is nominated for her hard work and fundraising activities. She has served as secretary over many years on the Liverpool Parks and Gardens Ladies Bowling League, and is currently secretary of the Halewood Indoor Bowling League. Due to her organisational skills in arranging bowling competitions, she has ensured that many hundreds of ladies from all parts of Liverpool have enjoyed their afternoon and evening bowling throughout the summer months. She has organised many charity bowling events and has raised thousands of pounds for charities including Broadgreen Heart Foundation, Marie Curie, Dogs for the Blind and Deaf.

Her hard work has been greatly appreciated by all of the Liverpool bowling community, and she is an inspiration to all who know her. She is still going strong and she has given so much, so selflessly over the years.

Norah Button Winner of the Learning Award

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LIVERPOOL Theatre School matriarch Norah Button is something of a Merseyside institution herself. The 73-year-old has devoted her life to improving facilities for musical theatre students in Merseyside. She is still dancing, and has the drive and energy of a 40 year old.

She somehow has managed to find the resources to make the dreams of students happen, and fulfill their ambitions. Her School is recognised as being one of the top 18 Musical Theatre Schools in the Country, enabling it to provide the coveted Dance and Drama Awards. In 2009 she was only the second woman to be awarded the Freedom of the City of Liverpool.

She also received an honorary degree from Liverpool’s John Moores University for her outstanding contribution to performing arts.

Runner Up of the Woman Achieving Award - Marie Furlong

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PASSIONATE about helping young people Marie has worked tirelessly in her local community for almost 40 years. The 73-year-old from West Derby was instrumental in developing youth clubs and summer play schemes. In her local community she has fought to develop mother and toddler groups, pre-school playgroups, lunch clubs and bingo sessions for older people.

Marie continues to lobby the local authority, councillors and officers on community matters and was instrumental in securing the funding for and the building of a new community centre when the previous one was demolished.

Marie is very much an integral part of her community, and one of her proudest moments was being selected by Granada TV as a finalist in their “Local Hero “ Awards, which led to her being selected for the National Finals at the Grosvenor House in London, where she won a “ Pride of Britain “ Award.

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