This year, Harper’s Bazaar announced a new and very special category of our annual Women of the Year Awards: the Change Leader Award. This recognition has been designed to commemorate the actions of extraordinary women who have stood up and supported their local community during the past very difficult 18 months. We wanted to celebrate the women who have dedicated their time to helping others, but who may otherwise go unnoticed.
We received countless inspiring nominations, but, after much deliberation, we are proud to present our three worthy finalists.
In December 2020, Herman set up a community project called All Yours, dedicated to raising money and awareness about period poverty in her local area. She was inspired by her 15-year-old daughter Cara and their conversations about those who would need help during the tough winter lockdown. What began as a small plea for donations soon engaged the entire local community, who pooled their resources and provided boxes of sanitary products for those who couldn’t afford or access them over Christmas.
Herman’s initiative has now spread beyond her village, with a team of 27 volunteers running All Yours projects in communities across West Berkshire, South Oxfordshire, Reading, Basingstoke and Swindon. They have distributed more than 3,500 period boxes and work directly with food banks, libraries, schools and local MPs to reach everyone who needs help and reduce the taboo surrounding menstrual-health discussions.
This year, Herman also directly responded to the recent Afghan Refugee crisis. She provided large quantities of period products to various organisations working with the newly arrived refugees and established plans to support them long-term once they were settled in the area. She has done all this as an unpaid volunteer.
Find out more about Caroline’s work here.
A teacher and local activist, Parekh has always dedicated her time and efforts to helping those around her, even recently rescuing a young girl from attempting suicide in her local area. She is particularly active when it comes to promoting diversity and bringing together different cultures in her community in the North West of England. During the pandemic, she stepped up her efforts to support the elderly in their isolation by calling care homes and aiding those who felt forgotten.
When it became clear that certain communities were reluctant to get the Covid-19 vaccine and had been targeted with inaccurate anti-vaccination messages, Parekh created short videos in her spare time in numerous languages to try and break down barriers in the understanding of the vaccine. She created these with local children, who all learnt different languages – from Punjabi to Urdu – and the videos took on a life of their own, spreading online all the way to India, where they became part of the government’s own vaccine-outreach project.
She also works part-time as a BBC Radio Lancashire presenter, a platform she has dedicated to community activism and used to spread messages of hope and inclusion over the past 18 months.
Find out more about Neetal’s work here.
Dr Wioleta Zelek
A frontline worker and key research scientist during the past 18 months, Dr Zelek has devoted her life to helping others. This year, she won two significant fellowships to carry out vital projects investigating drugs to aid those suffering from Alzheimer’s – a cause she is personally invested in after seeing a close relative fall victim to it.
As an immunologist, her work was crucial during the pandemic. She worked on the front lines at the ICU of Heath Hospital in Cardiff, and was on call 24/7 to help critical patients, often putting her own health at risk. She was heavily involved in running seismically important clinical trials with Covid patients, many of whom were brought out of comas and into recovery as a result. Much of this work is still ongoing in order to best battle this debilitating virus.
A teacher and leader, she works hard to inspire a younger generation of scientists and doctors and describes her endeavours as a passion she is happy to work at “seven days a week”.
Find out more about Wioleta’s work here.
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