By Navi Ahluwalia

Tuesday 6th February 2018 marked 100 years since women first got the vote in 1928. As we rejoice at how far we’ve come since that fateful day, it’s important to remember just how far we still have to go.

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Being a BME woman in this day and age hasn’t been the easiest ride, and though being able to vote is now something we’re all able to do - the challenge does not end there. In so many industries, despite the political landscape, BME women are still repeatedly being left in the dark. Take the fashion industry as an example; as a recent fashion graduate and BME woman, I have found it incredibly difficult to source a graduate job since graduating over 6 months ago. I graduated with a first class honours degree, have completed a total of 5 unpaid internships and have an extensive portfolio of published written work. Yet the variety of interviews I have had always seemed to end the same way; with a ‘sorry, you have been unsuccessful on this occasion’, which naturally means that someone else has filled the role. While this result seems perfectly acceptable given that fashion is an increasingly competitive industry, I have struggled to accept the fact that virtually every non-BME woman from my course at my university and in my year group seems to have found a permanent paid role, while virtually no BME woman I am aware of has.  

The variety of interviews I have had always seemed to end the same way; with a ‘sorry, you have been unsuccessful on this occasion’, which naturally means that someone else has filled the role

A range of factors come in to play here; grades, experience, and type of job role to name a few, however I cannot help but think that the lack of BME representation within the fashion industry is because the people in charge simply stick to what they know and underestimate the value of diversity.

As much as women of colour would like to believe that we’re progressing - and believe me, we’d like to - we can’t help but notice the little discrepancies. The lack of BME women as retail store managers, as creative directors, as magazine editors is, even 100 years on, still fairly hard to ignore, especially with it being so prevalent within the creative industries. What’s worse, this lack of representation is not simply frustrating or unfortunate, it is actually detrimental because women of colour from younger generations don’t believe that they can reach these positions without seeing people like them actually be able to achieve it.

Neelam Gill is one of few Asian models in the Fashion industry

Neelam Gill is one of few Asian models in the Fashion industry

The lack of BME women as retail store managers, as creative directors, as magazine editors is, even 100 years on, still fairly hard to ignore

With the graduate job market still failing to be inclusive and diverse at this stage, it’s clear that us BME women still have a lot of work to do. By encouraging more women of colour to apply for senior roles, creating new opportunities for ourselves and not being afraid to vocalise this lack of diversity by talking about our own experiences, we can ensure that within another 100 years we won’t have ‘a long way to go’, we’ll simply have come a long way.


Navi Ahluwalia is a Fashion Marketing Graduate and Freelance Writer

You can view some of her other work here:


Join us to celebrate 100 years of Women gaining the vote this International Women's Day! Get your ticket  here

Join us to celebrate 100 years of Women gaining the vote this International Women's Day! Get your ticket here

Why running the Marathon Matters



A week after the biggest physical challenge of my life so far and I am surprisingly still living off it’s amazing buzz and glory. With the 2018 London Marathon ballot now opened, I wanted to share my journey for those considering doing it or anyone who is thinking of running for charity at another event.


Firstly, let me be know honest, I am not a gym buff or fitness fanatic so if you’re looking for training or dietary tips, do not continue reading!!!!!!! I only joined the gym last April all because I couldn’t fit in my Maid of Honour dress – worse nightmare EVER. I have never been ‘big’ and it didn’t help that my silly sister bought me a size 8 (NOT a size 8, more like 10 /12).  So I had until December to get into this beautiful long blue gown and I was VERY determined to make it happen.

I got into a nice routine of lunchtime gym and after work classes and I came across something on my facebook. My friend Joe had recently completed the National 3 Peaks Challenge and after asking 5 million questions, I KNEW I had to do it. I luckily rounded up a team of 11 and trained very hard for the challenge. A week before the big day in September, my friend Tanya messaged me on whatsapp and asked a question I never EVER thought I would hear “can I sign you up to the London Marathon?” Well to be honest, it was more ‘I’m going to sign us up to the London Marathon’ haha. I didn’t have very long to decide and because I loved all the training for the 3 Peaks challenge, I thought ‘why not?’. I researched the charity Guy’s Trust and was completely moved by the story.  The video on their homepage about their son’s death was more than enough for me to say yes. I wasn’t just saying yes to an extremely difficult physical challenge, I was saying YES to making a difference, supporting the charity’s precious work abroad. So we signed up! A week later, we completed my first physical challenge climbing the National 3 peaks for a men’s mental health charity, CALM. We raised over £500. The moment I got home, I cried my eyes out due to exhaustion, but little did I know, I didn’t really know what exhaustion really meant.


The following month, I joined the East End Road Runners, my local running club. At the time, I was so focused on seeing training as a task, I spent the first couple of months, stupidly keeping myself to myself at the club and not putting in the effort to be part of their inspiring community. As well as attending their track Tuesday training, I went to the gym 4 times a week, ensuring I was on the treadmill for most of them. I eventually got the courage to run outside and once I did, I never ever wanted to use a treadmill again!

So the chairman of the club Rod sent out the marathon training pack and believe me, I was in full panic mode. It didn’t hit me until then how much work I would have to put it and how hard it was going to be. End of October came quickly and that meant early Sunday runs. I am NOT a morning person, so to wake up at silly o’clock in silly weather to run was very, very difficult for me. Tanya and I first met our coach Phill, who at the time, we did not know how invaluable he was going to be on this journey.

I will forever remember hitting my first ‘wall’- my first ever 16 miles. There were four of us running and just after passing Excel, my legs and my mind had given up. I cried to a fellow runner, repeatedly saying ‘I can’t do this’. Mark reassured me that I could, and slowed his pace right down to run the rest with me. It was a moment that I look back on with pride because I did carry on. The training continued, it continued in minus degrees, it continued on my trip away in Milan, Christmas eve, even Christmas Day, on top of HITT, sprint and Crossfit workouts. My body was drained and I felt pain in muscles I didn’t know existed! Deep heat and Epsom salts became my best friends!


As well as putting my body through so much pain, I also had to focus on raising £2000 for the charity. My fear was not reaching the target, not because I do not have people who want to support me but because I have spent 5 years constantly asking for sponsors for all the various things I have completed and plus I just finished the 3 peaks challenge for charity. My WYDM team are the very greatest and we put all ideas together and organised not 1 but 3 ways to fundraise -we put on a family fun quiz night and  a 5km race along the Greenway in December and then our first fitness fundraiser in March. All were great events. However, the work did not stop there, I soon learnt £2000 was A LOT of money to raise, so I asked everyone!!, even my mum was kind enough to ask around her work and friends and on the 25th March, I reached my target and was over the moon! It took a lot of pressure off!


I jumped through many hurdles at this point of the training however it wasn’t the end. I decided to train on Sundays on my own because of my own self- doubt and I wanted to see if I can motivate myself instead of relying on my club to get me through. I was constant. I did the 13 miles, the 16 miles, the 19 miles, the 20 miles. I even did the 19 miles on my weekend away to celebrate my birthday. I gave training every inch of me. I completed my first every 10km race in October and my first every half marathon in March on my birthday week.


And then April hit.

Despite what you hear about the health benefits of running, my eczema played up throughout months of training and at one point, I was signed off work for a week. I stupidly went back to work after 5 days because I became restless! A week and a half later, I ended up in A&E and was told by the consultant that I was suffering from an upper respiratory infection and a severe case of guttate psoriasis. Two illnesses I have never suffered from before. The severity of the combination of them meant I was signed off for 3 weeks. THREE weeks before the marathon- gutted is not even close to how I felt. For the first couple of days, I cried. Crying because my body was suffering and crying because it was the worst timing ever. I had worked so hard in training and the thought of my GP not allowing me to do the marathon made me feel depressed but I was determined that wasn’t going to happen.

My very last Sunday of training, my coach took me on a walk of the last 5 miles of the marathon. I specifically remember him telling me to take note of how I am feeling now and what to be saying to myself at this point of the run. Despite feeling good, a week before the marathon, I hit my final ‘wall’, crying my eyes out on the green way. (If you are a newbie and reading this, please take note there is a lot of crying involved in training!!) I had a week to get into the mindset that my coach had worked so hard for me to have. It wasn’t about the physical training; it was about training my mind.


The day came and I LOVVEEEDDD it. For the first time ever, I felt I ran STRONG and to my surprise, I was smiling throughout. I saw my closest friends and family along the way and my running club. I completed the London Marathon in 5 hours and 42 minutes. The day was just….I can’t think of a word. I wish I could feel THAT good every day. What made the day even more great was meeting Vicky Joseph, the founder of Guy’s Trust who approached me complimenting me for all my work with What You Do Matters. She is incredibly inspiring and for her to call me inspiring was such an honour.


A week later, I am still feeling good. I raised over £2,400 (final amount soon!) for a brilliant charity that shares so many WYDM values and I also got a beautiful, big, shiny medal. I don’t think I have received many medals in my life but this one will always represent one thing – self-belief. I pushed my mind and my body to new levels of being uncomfortably and I am so proud of myself. Now the marathon is over, I am enjoying being part of an amazing running club, who I now feel, right at home with.


So should you do the marathon?

Definitely. My advice is:

Find yourself a better than good coach – a coach who will invest in your training and who will take the time to know where your weaknesses and strengths lie – that will make all the difference. I am 100% aware that it was my coach who got me through it all.

Join a running club – the running community is probably the most supportive types of community I know.

Find a charity you love - it will keep you focused on why you are doing it.

And finally, listen to your body -it speaks VOLUMES about what you need.

Team Progress raises over £532 for men's charity CALM

With the attempt to climb the 3 highest mountains in the UK - Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in Lake District and Snowdon in Wales within 24 hours.

Starting with a team of 11 they set off at Ben Nevis at 5.40am on Saturday morning. They unexpectedly faced severe weather conditions on both Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike, which meant the team took longer to climb than planned. They battled torrential rain, gale force winds that were so powerful they had to get low or stop to not be blown off the cliff, being absolutely DRENCHED (despite waterproofs), unbearable temperatures, tiredness, countless slips and falls as the rocks were wet, hunger, sleep deprivation, limited visibility due to the fog, DARKNESS, rolling down rocks AND doing this all as fast as they could.

In best efforts, they completed the 3 peaks in 27.5 hours and raised over £532 for CALM, a men's charity preventing suicide.

thank you to the following for sponsoring: Angele Bhatt, Jen Fernandez,  Lorne K Barquilla, Jennifer nicholas, Frances Trim, Raquel Subebe, Jasmin Omotunde, danielle curriem Jessica Ledda, Samuel Davies, Jazel Mesina Olivia Pickering, Michelle Alipio,  Thomas Marshall, Juan David Gonzalez Pulgarin, Melanie Sanguir, B Menzies, Alicia Bennett, Trevor Matthews, Mary Orwell, Mary West, SM Jinmie, Joseph Cheung, N Urmatam, Stephanie Quitaleg, Gladys Garcia, Loraine Fajutag, Nikki Babcock, Martha Mundy, Vanessa Vidad, Winsome Bryan, Christine Flores