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IWD 2022 speakers

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

We're so delighted to introduce to you our inspiring female speakers for this years International Womens Day Celebration

Below you'll get a taste of who they are and what they'll be speaking about.


7pm start

Councillor Sakina Sheikh

Event Host

Sakina Sheikh was elected to the London Assembly in May 2021. Sakina serves as a local Councillor in her home borough of Lewisham representing the Perry Vale ward. She has served on Lewisham Council’s planning and the Strategic Planning committee for one year.

For the past six years Sakina has worked on the issue of climate change. She is interested in how we create worker-led and community-led solutions to the climate crisis.


Poppy Soetens-Hall

'Studying languages and the world of opportunities it creates'

Poppy Soetens-Hall is a Programmes Manager working in education and conflict resolution. She completed a BA in Arabic at The School of Oriental and African Studies, where she also studied Hebrew. Her degree led her to spend a year studying in Nablus, Palestine before spending time consulting for women's legal aid and youth organisations there. Poppy also runs a social enterprise helping more women enter the bike mechanic industry.


Kemi Williams

'Being a feminist civil servant'

Kemi Williams is Development Director at the British High Commission in Tanzania. She has worked for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) for 20+ years, delivering UKAID including in Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa, and worked previously on girls’ empowerment with the Girl Hub in Rwanda and Nigeria. She is passionate about gender equality and will share her experience of being a feminist civil servant working on gender equality in developing countries.


Farhana Yamin

'Let's go all in for climate justice'

Farhana Yamin is an internationally recognized environmental lawyer, professor, climate change and development policy expert. She has advised leaders and ministers on climate negotiations for 30 years, representing small islands and developing countries and attending nearly every major climate summit since 1991. She was voted Number 2 on the 2020 BBC’s Power List with the judges describing her a “powerhouse of climate justice” and is active in numerous community-based initiatives and social justice movements.


Carol King - Midwife



Niamh McCloskey - Structural Engineer

'Engineering the future'

Niamh is a structural engineer at Curtins in Leeds, graduating in 2016 with a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering.

Niamh is the current chair of the Institution of Structural Engineers Young Members Panel and part of the Climate Emergency Task Group.

Working in the male dominated construction industry, Niamh shares her experience of being a young woman in the industry and passion for representing young engineers voices. Particularly advocating for sustainability and challenging the outdated stereotypes of what engineers do and look like, and the role they play in society.

'Engineers are problem solvers, creative thinkers and drivers of positive change. As Engineers the work we do can be so rewarding. It isn’t just maths, concrete and steel; it is designing hospital buildings which support equipment that will save people’s lives, regenerating local areas and designing schools which will inspire a whole new generation of people.'


Abigail Balfe

'A Different Sort of Normal: Embracing What Makes You YOU'

Abigail Balfe is a queer, autistic author/illustrator and Emmy Award-winning creative producer. Original storytelling has always been at the heart of Abigail's career and she has spent a decade leading social media campaigns for some of the biggest TV & entertainment clients in the world. Abigail's debut book A Different Sort of Normal was Puffin's lead non-fiction launch of 2021 and was longlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards.




Carmody is a singer-songwriter from South East London, and former Sydenham student. Renowned for her poetic sensibilities, peerless songcraft and soaring vocals, Carmody draws as much upon the 70s folk magic of Joni Mitchell and Joan Armatrading as she does contemporaries including Jordan Rakei and Lianne La Havas. Never one to settle for platitudes or cliché, Carmody’s rich lyrical style explores themes as diverse as spirituality, depression, identity and grief.


Monica Carlesso

Constructive disruption,

sustainable disruption

Monica is a disruptor in the Financial Services market with a strong background that spans across many industries, having developed digital products at the edge of innovation.

Monica is remarkable for her comprehensive, innovative and digital background in a world which is rapidly evolving. In her leadership roles she is always looking for new ways to answer customer’s needs, as well as identifying needs they are not yet aware of.


Sandra Shakespeare

'What's not to love about museums?'

Sandra Shakespeare is a director for Museum X CIC, home to the Black British Museum Project. Sandra started her career with MTV Networks Europe. Previous projects and clients include BSkyB, the V&A Museum, The National Archives, Black Cultural Archives and Courtauld Art Institute. In 2014 Sandra became a co-founder of Museum Detox – establishing a growing minority heritage network with over 1,000 members in the UK and allies from around the world.


Leanna Burnard

'The campaign to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe'

Leanna is a lawyer at REDRESS, a not-for-profit which seeks justice for survivors of torture. She leads REDRESS’ work on securing the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Before joining REDRESS, Leanna was based in Iraq, building prosecution cases against members of ISIS for the Yezidi genocide. She worked for several years prior as a criminal defence lawyer for Aboriginal people in the Australian outback.


Tia McBurnie

'The Social Exclusion of Black Women'

Tia is currently studying Politics, Sociology and Psychology at SFH6. She has a keen interest in intersectional feminism and black womanhood and is completing an EPQ on the subject. Tia has an offer to study these subjects at the University of Cambridge in October and she hopes to pursue a career in these in the future. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, baking, and going out with her friends.


Nadine Rae

'Strength in difference'

Nadine Rae is Organising Director for the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association leading on organisational change for equality, education and now health, safety and wellbeing. Originally from Aotearoa New Zealand, Nadine has supported unions in many global contexts including India, South Africa, Chile, Peru, and South Korea. In 2019 Nadine was nominated as Future Leader in the UK British LGBT Awards for her role leading TSSA's ground-breaking Inclusive Rail campaign, to make the rail industry inclusive of LGBT+ people by 2025. Having been out since her early twenties and travelled to over 25 countries, Nadine has lived experience of being in positive environments and those that are not inclusive of lesbians and has found being different to be a powerful strength more often than not. A proud mum of three, Nadine believes being a role model is important so young people can see possibilities for themselves.


Dr Teresa Wolowiec

'Psychology can change the world'

Dr Teresa Wolowiec: Clinical Psychologist. My first career was with an NGO training journalists and photographers in the developing world to tell their communities stories. I later retrained as a clinical psychologist where I continue to support marginalised groups to have their voices heard. I work for East London NHS’s Forensic service, supporting mentally ill offenders to rebuild their lives. I am a consultant for The Listening Place which supports people who are suicidal. I firmly believe that mental illness is a social justice issue: we need to ask and understand what has happened to people, not what is ‘wrong’ with them.


To close

Gloria Lowe – Sydenham School Head Teacher


Thanks to Hamptons and Taylored Lofts for supporting the event.



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