Reena Ranger, Chairwoman of Women Empowered addressing guests alongside Nina Wadia, Nihal Arthanayake and Sadia Siddiqui

In May 2013, under the high glass ceiling at Bright Courtyard Club in Baker Street, Women Empowered (WE), on its 1st birthday, held an event focussed on image, self-confidence and perception with the title “Make an Impression” sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group.

Over 140 guests came to hear the experiences and advice of Nina Wadia, national icon and British Asian television pioneer best known for her roles in Goodness Gracious Me and Eastenders. Sharing the stage was Sadia Siddiqui an entrepreneur, former model and TV Presenter and a male perspective was provided by BBC Asian Network and Radio 1 DJ Nihal Arthanayake. 

Bhavini Kalaria, guest at the event during the Q&A session Reena Ranger, chairwoman (left) and Mona Remtulla, co-founder

Reena Ranger, chairman and founder of Women Empowered, explained that the social initiative decided to hold an event on this topic by using the experiences of people in the media eye who are arguably more scrutinised than most. This would allow others to apply their approaches and advice to their circumstances to learn how to make the best impression one can and to keep going when faced with difficult situations. She went on to explain that the perception of her and co-founder Mona Remtulla over the last year was that they were both staunch feminists and the perception of the clichéd image that word conjured up was different from their understanding. 

Dr Kamel Hothi of Lloyds Banking Group and the sponsor for the evening, opened the discussion with saying that, “no matter how hard you work, how dedicated you may be unless you give the impression to people around you that you need to be counted, you won’t make the right impression”. 

Guests at the event Guests at the event

Nina Wadia explained that for her the best way to make a first impression was her sense of humour. She said, “When you walk into a room you need to have something that people remember you for and for me that was slapstick”. She captivated listeners with a humorous account of her journey into the world of theatre, TV and radio. She emphasised she is always learning. She advised to learn from who ever is around you and that is one of her life lessons. Learning leads to a level of confidence. She talked about taking things and making them your own by adding your own qualities as she had done with her character in Eastenders. 

Sadia Siddiqui opened with the words of her father, “if you can dream it you can do it” and said during her time as a model she was scrutinised and fell foul of many of the stereotypes associated with models. She explained that it was not the prejudices of men that she had to overcome, it was the prejudices of other women and we must learn to nurture young women and help them to realise their full potential. “Look good, stand tall and make eye contact, and be sure about the message you want to deliver” She went on to say that even if a first impression goes belly up, get up, shake it off and carry on. She said of her journey, “in the end my father was right”. 

DJ Nihal spoke of embracing new situations and being strong and confident. He feels as a British Asian that he can go anywhere, do anything and achieve anything now as he has every right to be where he wants to be. His father had always warned him that he may have to work twice as hard to get where he wanted to but this was not necessarily a negative thing and one can not always use race as an excuse for not achieving things. 

Mona Remtulla, co-founder, said of the event, “today marks one year of WE and we are also seeing what impression Women Empowered has made on those who have attended our events or followed our progress. Both Reena and I are proud of what we have achieved and we are receiving positive feedback and hearing some wonderful stories from people who WE has touched. It seems that WE and we are making the right impression!”

July 2013

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