Meet the three amazing women shortlisted in the Inspiration of the Year category for Stylist’s second Remarkable Women Awards in partnership with philosophy, then vote for your winner.
Juliet Can, 39, is the founder of Stour Trust, a social enterprise creating affordable workspaces for artists and low-income workers.
I’ve had a passion for equality and justice ever since I moved to the UK from Uganda in 1990, age 10. My parents and I left without warning, without a suitcase, without saying bye to my friends, to get away from the civil war. We tried to claim refugee status in the UK but it took a decade for our paperwork to be seen. It meant we were placed in temporary accommodation and moved around a lot. It was unsettling. Then, age 15, I fell into a coma from carbon monoxide poisoning from one of the places we stayed at. The doctors said if I woke up I wouldn’t have any brain function, but I went on to get As in my GCSEs a few months later. The experience made me realise I wanted my life to be meaningful and, as I got older, I became more passionate about people having access to a home they can afford and a space to connect with others.
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The idea for Stour Trust came about after the Olympics were announced for London in 2005. I was working as a consultant for charities that helped local communities and I felt tensions between the artistic community (who felt their towns were changing), new businesses (who were redeveloping the area) and residents (who felt pushed out). So, myself and two artists decided to convert a warehouse in east London– using recycled materials and volunteers – into a place where everyone could come together. It’s now big enough for 40 creators to use as a work and recreational space.
We named it Stour Space and, in 2014, it became the first UK workspace to be protected, so it can’t be demolished. Today, we have four sites across the city that empower locals to work and create, with more in the pipeline. Anyone can walk in at any time to work for free, and private spaces can be hired at less than half the market rate.
In December 2019, Stour Trust worked with developer Future Generation to secure 25% of their space, just down the road from our original Stour Space, at no rent for 150 years. That’s 500 square metres that will be made into affordable workspaces and studios. I wanted to achieve something that lasts beyond my lifetime, and this is it. I’ve spent more than 20 years campaigning for people to have the opportunity to thrive. The dream is that everyone in the world can have a roof over their head in which they can learn and live.
To vote for Juliet email firstname.lastname@example.org with her name in the subject line before 29 February.
Lizzie Carr, 34, founded online community and app Plastic Patrol to educate people about pollution and their environment through adventure.
It started after I went through radiotherapy for thyroid cancer in 2013 – I went to the Isles of Scilly and discovered paddleboarding as a low-impact way of exercising. I wanted to continue once I returned home to London – but gliding up and down Regent’s Canal I became more aware of the city’s plastic pollution problem. I saw rubbish everywhere, birds’ nests were full of wrappers, straws and bags, and plastic bottles would tumble onto one end of my board and pop out the other. It was disgusting. I was using the waterways as a place to restore my health, but they were in a worse condition than I was.
So I began collecting ‘data’ from my paddles; I’d log what litter I found and where it was building up. I knew I wanted to help on a wider scale but I also needed to understand more about the issue. In May 2016, I decided to paddle 400 miles from Godalming to the Lake District to find evidence of plastic pollution. Over 22 days I took 3,000 photos, and in each image there were hundreds of pieces of rubbish. I got carpal tunnel syndrome from gripping the paddle every day, but my social media began to grow and I had started to raise awareness.
People were messaging me to see how they could help, so I reached out to an app developer who helped me create the Plastic Patrol app where I could upload all the evidence. Others started doing the same,and now the app has over 300,000 uploads from more than 80 countries. It felt surreal but invigorating that there was a community ready to help, and I was blown away on our first global clean-up day last September when thousands of people from 20 countries went out on the same day collecting litter and logging it on the app for a huge simultaneous data collection on plastic pollution.
Over the past few years, we’ve also been working with researchers at the universities of Nottingham and Glasgow to help analyse and understand our data, and have just published our first impact report. It’s a call to action for industries and government by highlighting the most-found brands and major litter hotspots. There are plans to present the findings to the government environmental policy team.
I work as an environmental consultant and run Plastic Patrol as my passion project. We don’t get any government funding, but we accept corporate funding and sponsorship to keep the movement going. When I started paddleboarding, I was dealing with survivor’s guilt; many people who I met through treatment didn’t make it. I felt I had a second chance but I wasn’t making the most out of it. Plastic Patrol helped me find a meaningful purpose, and when I see the contributions from people around the world who understand the danger of plastic, it feels like I’m making a real difference.
To vote for Lizzie email remarkable. email@example.com with her name in the subject line before 29 February.
Kike Oniwinde, 27, is the founder of BYP (Black Young Professionals) Network, which connects black professionals with jobs and other people from their communities.
In the black community there’s a saying that we have to work 10 times harder to get the same results. I’ve been lucky in that I had a successful athletics career, competing at javelin for Team GB, and great opportunities such as scholarships to study a master’s in Florida and work placements at Goldman Sachs. But no matter what I was doing, I never saw anyone else who looked like me.
This frustration came to a head in 2016, during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. I felt like I couldn’t change anything. At the same time, I noticed so many companies saying they couldn’t find diverse talent, blaming it on a pipeline problem like we just didn’t exist. It was infuriating. I had black professional friends who were unemployed for no reason.
So I started BYP, a network connecting black professionals with employers, and each other, to give them access to opportunities. It began as a networking event in London with 100 people coming together to mingle. People told me they wanted more, so I started running events every six weeks, while developing an app to connect our community. It reached 10,000 downloads in six months, and led to a Sky Women Tech scholarship in 2018 worth £25,000. I quit my job and put the money into the app – now I have a team of 16 people.
Today, BYP works like a dating app – but for careers. We have 40,000 users who match and talk with employers and other professionals to get advice and find jobs. We work with brands such as Facebook, Netflix, Sky and Lloyds, who want access to our talent. Someone recently got a job in tech at Soho House. She told me she never would have heard about it or thought of applying if it wasn’t for us. And that’s exactly what we’re about. BYP exists to change the black narrative. I hope there will come a time when we don’t have to exist because opportunities will be shared equally. Until then, we’re shining a light on our community and raising aspirations for
To vote for Kike email firstname.lastname@example.org with her name in the subject line before 29 February.
philosophy is the wellbeing beauty brand inspiring you to look, live and feel your best, and is the official partner of Stylist’s Remarkable Women Awards 2020.
Photography: Louise Haywood-Schiefer
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).