A Catch Up of different kind today, with Dr Sam Collins of Aspire, who kindly took time out of her day to speak to me about her event, Footsteps - Global Gathering of Young Women, which takes place today.
I was introduced to Dr Sam Collins’ work by Zareen, just before she took part in Dr Collins’ Roadshow earlier in the month. Zareen spoke so highly of the work Dr Collins does to empower women and feels there are a lot of links between her work and Zareen’s aims for Gift Wellness Ltd and The Gift Wellness Foundation…
After many technical difficulties resulting from being on different sides of the Atlantic, Dr Collins explained to me that she first met Zareen in 2018 when she spoke at an Aspire event, and that they have been friends ever since. Empowering women and making positive change in the world is what bonds them, with Zareen being involved in charity and community work even before setting up The Gift Wellness Foundation and her daughter’s charity, The Halimah Trust. Much the same can be said for Dr Collins, who has been doing this work for twenty-one years now.
Dr Collins explains that ‘Footsteps - Global Gathering of Young Women’ is a change in direction from her previous ‘It’s a M.A.D. (Making a Difference) World’ events, in that it focuses specifically on twenty-one young women, all under the age of twenty-five, and gives them the lead in designing the shape of the event. It is an opportunity for them to speak on the topics that really matter to them, those being everything from climate change, to mental health, to modern slavery, and to LGBTQI+ rights. Dr Collins describes them as a group of highly engaged young women who want to challenge taboos and talk about issues that are being ignored, such as period poverty, which is the main focus of Gift Wellness. After doing some research I was intrigued by the idea of the event being ‘inspired by the poem “Footprints in the Sand” and that the aim is to ‘encourage girls and young women to follow in the footsteps of great women who have come before them, and leave their own footprints to inspire those who will follow’. This seemed to me to be very similar to the ‘ripple effect’ I had previously spoken about with Zareen, and our focus during the #RedRebelDay campaign on inspiring ‘Women of the World’.
I wondered how Dr Collins went about identifying which young women were best suited to leaving their ‘footprints’ at this event and she explained that they were selected from over six hundred applications that were received following a call out. She chose the twenty-one speakers herself in what sounds like a very instinctive selection process, explaining how in some way ‘changemakers’ leap off the page. She is most proud of the diversity of the group, not just in terms of their interests, but that they come from a whole range of different countries, some from more advantaged backgrounds than others, whilst all sharing the same passion for making positive change. Dr Collins noted how despite coming from different backgrounds and never having met before, they all get on well and want to work together collaboratively, not because of insecurities but because they value what each other has to offer.
I wanted to talk to Dr Collins about feeling small in the face of such huge and intersectional issues like misogyny, racism, climate crisis (the list goes on), and how we can actually begin to make an impact, something I’d previously talked to Zareen about in our International Women’s Day edition of Catch Up with Zareen. Similarly to Zareen, Dr Collins believes that everyone can make a difference, pointing out that even a small difference is still a difference, and if everyone was making these slight changes to the world, they would quickly add up. Everything you do makes a difference, she said, no matter the size or scope. Whether you’re a pupil who speaks up at school, or a someone who has a conversation about feminism with their uninterested dad, it all makes a difference, ‘you are a changemaker.’
There are a vast number of links between Dr Collins' work at Aspire and Zareen’s here at Gift Wellness, and it is clear that being surrounded by like-minded people has a big impact, not on your ability to make positive change, but to believe that you can in the first place. This is the reason that in our recent #RedRebelDay campaign, we were able to raise over a staggering £25,000 in order to provide menstrual products to those in crisis. Without our community (yes, you reading this!) and the support from our friends and ambassadors like Dr Collins, we would not have raised these funds to help menstruators in need. Every friend you contacted asking for their support, every post you shared on social media, every donation -however big or small- serves as an example of Dr Collins’ advice: that no one action is too small to make a difference.