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Inspirational women - two

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Published: 9 March 2020

University of Sunderland in London female student in graduation robes

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day with a look at the women who have inspired our staff and students. We asked women across the University of Sunderland in London to tell us about the women they admire. 

We’ve been delighted with the response. In fact, so many people have responded to our call out for inspirational women that we’ve had to split this article into two parts. You can find Part One, published on Thursday 5th March, on our News pages.


Helena Baafi Mensah - MBA Human Resources Management    

“Michelle Obama has been my role model since she was in power as the First Lady of the United States of America. I can identify myself in her speeches and ideologies and I devoured her book ‘Becoming’ in just two weeks. That book helped me plan for my future. It gave me so much zeal to give to the community I live in without feeling intimidated about my gender and colour. To quote from her 2014 speech at the Summit of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, "No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half its citizens". She proved to me that without her as a woman next to her husband, Barak Obama wouldn’t have been a great president for the USA.”

Alisa Tsykhotsky – Health and Wellbeing Manager

 “I think I’d like to nominate a few different women that remind me about the importance of female empowerment and intersectionality in today’s diverse society. Writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Why We All Should Be Feminists) and Zadie Smith (White Teeth) who highlight black feminism and intersectionality. I’d also like to nominate my younger sister Nichole who is constantly checking her own privilege, is brave enough to question things and fights against oppression where needed and necessary.”


Desislava Vodenicharova – International Tourism and Hospitality (Top-Up)

When you say “inspiring woman”, I see Michelle Obama. The strength, the power and the ability to motivate and inspire people, to engage people from different places in life to action is admirable. Most remarkable is that Michelle Obama does it with the principles of honesty, integrity, empathy and compassion. For me, Michelle Obama is an outstanding person because she’s passionate, and has the willingness and the courage to speak out and fight for causes like poverty relief and education. Some of my favourite quotes are: “Wherever you are coming from your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude” and “Success isn’t about how your life looks to others. It’s about how it feels to you.”

"She was always supportive, even while getting her degree and working full time. So, to all the ladies working and studying while being a mother - you are amazing!Alexandra Yakoleva – BA (Hons) Business Management (Top-Up)

Kenny Tuki – MSc International Business Management

“The woman I find most inspiring is Reverend Dr Sharon Moughtin-Mumby, an English reverend from Yorkshire. She’s been involved in education for over twenty years. Beginning with a focus on adult education, she taught, lectured, and oversaw exams at the University of Oxford. After that served as an Old Testament tutor at Ripon College, a Church of England theological school. I find her particularly inspiring because she uses storytelling to educate babies, toddlers and young children, helping them become productive young adults in society.”

Salina Aktar – Student Administration Officer

“‘Don’t try to squeeze into a glass slipper. Instead, shatter the glass ceiling.’ Priyanka Chopra. Priyanka Chopra is the woman I admire. She’s an Indian actress, singer, model, film producer, and philanthropist. I’m inspired by her work ethics, wisdom, work, interviews, movies, motivational speeches and quotes. She is a powerful woman and her story will encourage other women to face the challenges of life. Priyanka’s achievements, including being appointed the national and global ‘UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Child Rights’ have inspired me to work with disadvantaged and out of education girls.”

Alexandra Yakoleva – BA (Hons) Business Management (Top-Up)

“There are many amazing women in our world that we should look up to. I can name a few for different reasons: Meryl Streep - a great actress, who plays each role as it was written for her; Jennifer Lawrence - not only a wonderful actress but funny and not afraid to be awkward. She is also an ambassador for the right of equal pay. But my true inspiration is my mom. Now that I’m older and a mother myself, I admire her for all she did for us when we were kids and for her support now, with the help of our dad of course. Raising three children in Russia in the 80s and 90s when salaries and the political situation were unstable (and there were no disposable nappies!) could not have been easy. But she did it and was always supportive, even while getting her degree and working full time. So, to all the ladies working and studying while being a mother - you are amazing!”


Alice Mcdougall – Careers, Employability and Enterprise Manager

Maya Angelo (1928 – 2014) - writer, poet, civil rights activist and performer, lived an extraordinary life overcoming a childhood of economic and racial oppression in America, to become a powerful voice for equality. Maya was a passionate advocate of, not only women’s rights but justice and harmony for all people irrespective of gender, race, faith, sexual orientation or socio-economic background. She wrote about her experiences of racial and gender discrimination with exceptional lyricism, humour and truth. Reading her first autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ in my A-Level English class many years ago, marked the start of my lifelong belief in the power of literature, strong women and equality.

This is just a small snapshot of all the inspirational women throughout history. We’d love to hear about the women who have inspired you. Find out more by following #WeAreSunLon on FacebookTwitter and Instagram..

Part One of The Women Who Inspire Us was published on Thursday 5th March. You can read it on our News page.