“If you do one thing today, send a voice note a woman leader who inspired you" - CHI celebrates International Women's Day

March 10, 2023

On Wednesday 8th March, CHI welcomed attendees online and in person to our Women in Leadership forum in the Wood Quay Venue, Dublin. The forum featured two panel discussions exploring different aspects of what it means to be leader and was MC'd by Sabrina Ryan from Near FM 90.3.

CHI Members Caoimhe McCarthy, Marianne Ward-O'Leary Maughan and Mamy Nzema Nkoy sharing their experiences with MC Sabrina Ryan of Near FM as part of the Inspiring CHI Leaders panel at CHI's Women in Leadership Forum.

CHI were delighted to have Near FM partner with us to deliver this event to a wider audience.  The event was recorded for broadcast on Friday 10th March from 3:30pm. You can listen live at Near fm 90.3 – Community Radio for Dublin North East

Inspiring CHI Leaders

The first panel focused on Inspiring CHI leaders and comprised of CHI Members who have contributed significantly to their communities, been active Members of the CHI board, or grown their own businesses. Joining the discussion were CHI members Mamy Nzema Nkoy, Caoimhe McCarthy and Marianne Ward-O'Leary Maughan.

CHI Member Mamy Nzema Nkoy shared her experiences of supporting people in education, academia, and finding her feet as a leader in her community. Last year, Mamy was presented with a Leader in the Community award by the Ballyfermot-Chapelizod partnership for promoting education in her area. At the Women in Leadership Forum, Mamy said the most important thing a leader needs to have is a “clear vision that others can get behind and support”. Women who have inspired Mamy include her own mother and Julia Gillard, the first female prime minister of Australia, whom she admires for having risen to a role in leadership after settling in a new country.

Member Caoimhe McCarthy discussed the steps she took when setting up family-run business, Sitto Z, who make their own signature artisan chilli sauces, dry rubs and juices. Discussing the business, Caoimhe described how in 2016 her husband, a chef by profession, suffered life altering injuries which rendered his chef days over. Sitto Z was created to bring the skills of the family together into a viable business. During the discussion, Caoimhe emphasised the importance of teaching her teenage girls practical interpersonal skills to be successful, especially in business. These skills included “engaging with the public at marketing events, offering samples, and being well-versed in explaining a product.” When asked about women leaders who inspired her, Caoimhe said she always looked to her own mam, who was “constantly reinventing herself”.

CHI Member and Board Member Marianne Ward-O'Leary Maughan joined the discussion to talk about the importance of encouraging women to take on leadership roles. Marianne was recently voted onto the national board of CHI and is the chair of the Members Association in Kilcronan Court. Marianne described a good leader as someone who has “support, empathy, passion and drive”. She emphasised that women have a lot of “life education” to bring tot he table, which should not be overlooked by others or by women themselves. She described her move from the halting site to her forever home in Kilcronan Court in 1996. She said that she was “very proud” of her “traveller heritage and traditions” and that her move was something she did so that her children would have “a better chance” at pursuing their goals. Speaking about women who inspired her, Marianne said her mother was a “strong women” and a huge inspiration for her, having lived “most of her life by the roadside” which presented many challenges for her and her family.

Sharon Hughes, The Leadership Academy, Bernie Walsh, founder of Sunflower Recycling and  Eco Mattress recycling, Aoife Smyth, CEO at The Great Care Co-op (GCC), Linda Blake, CEO of Aspire, Rosemary Kunene, founder of Dignity Partnership discussing the importance of supporting women in leadership with MC Sabrina Ryan of Near FM.

Supporting Women in Leadership

The second panel was themed ‘Supporting Women in Leadership’. The panel featured activists with a wide area of expertise working in areas such a social integration, leadership development, sustainability, social entrepreneurship, neurodiversity, and workers’ rights.

Rosemary Kunene is a community activist and a social entrepreneur who founded Dignity Partnership, a work integration social enterprise delivering personal and enterprise development programmes for people from a refugee and asylum seeking background. Drawing from her experiences of direct provision, Rosemary spoke about the significance of having valuable “life experience” to contribute to society and the workplace. She also spoke about the importance of gaining such hands-on experience, especially when trying to integrate into a new country and culture.

Sharon Hughes works for The Leadership Academy, run through The Wheel, Ireland's association for the nonprofit sector. Sharon shared the importance of supporting women who take on leadership roles, especially giving constructive feedback to ensure people grow in their roles. Sharon encouraged women to connect with each other to celebrate the day, and for women to acknowledge and celebrate the women that have inspired them. Speaking at Women in Leadership Forum, she said, “If you do one thing today, send a voice note a woman leader who inspired you. It's so important. Give women a little encouragement and it'll do a lot."

Bernie Walsh is the founder and Board Member of Sunflower Recycling and founder of Eco Mattress recycling. She is a community development activist who has been involved in setting up co-operatives and Social Economy businesses for more than 30 years. Bernie emphasised the important role that social enterprises play in supporting people to evolve and play an active role in society, especially those who may experience social exclusion. Speaking at the Forum she said, "If you're developing a community, the only way to do that is develop the people. People looking after each other is the strength of social businesses." 

Linda Blake is the Chief Executive Officer of Aspire, with over eight years 'management and leadership experience within the Charity, Education, Homeless Residential and Family Support Sectors. Linda spoke about the importance of “succession planning” in the workplace, and flexibility needed to ensure that women can contribute to the fullest. Linda said having a female-led board in Aspire changed the dynamics of her role in a positive way that allowed her to balance her commitments.

Aoife Smyth is CEO at The Great Care Co-op (GCC) Ireland's first homecare workers cooperative. GCC was established to provide better terms and conditions of employment for women working in care. Aoife spoke about the importance “giving voice” to workers to allow them to have more control over their work product and labour. Many of the women Aoife worked with at GCC have immigrated to Ireland, and the importance of their work was often overlooked and undervalued. Working together, the group have advocated for policy and legislation change and secured several HSE SLAs.


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