Abuse, prison, drugs and heartbreak all form Ellie Lowther’s path to her ‘true self’.

Steve Billon’s childhood dreams always cast him as the leading lady in a Wild West film.

It would take 40 years to confront confusion and become Ellie Lowther, a Teesside nana finally happy in life.

“I knew I wasn’t right,” Ellie said. “But I didn’t have the insight to actually understand what it was.

“As far as I was concerned people like me didn’t exist back then, so I just tried to fit in.

“You end up with little ambition and led down dysfunctional paths.” The 52-year-old’s journey from man to woman put everything at risk.

Abducted by a serial killer, beaten up on the streets of Middlesbrough and disowned by her family, she managed to overcome adversity and finally find her true self.

Ellie’s school years were difficult. She felt different, but didn’t know why.

“I didn’t do what little boys did,” she said. “Getting changed in a room full of boys was the most horrible, unnatural thing – and I didn’t even know why.

“I struggled with school work. I was worrying about puberty. If you’re trans it’s a very dramatic time.”

At 15, she ran away from home after an argument with her parents.

With a stash of Bowie albums and £20 in her pocket, she finished her milk round and got in a lorry.

The adventure would bring Ellie, then a schoolboy, into the clasp of delivery driver – a man she would identify decades later as Robert Black, a Scottish serial killer convicted of murdering four girls.

“He raped me,” said Ellie, who has waived her right to anonymity as the victim of a sex crime. “I didn’t have any words to say. I thought I was going to die. I just froze.”

Ellie managed to slip out of the van and make it back to Teesside – but the incident cast a shadow that still haunts her today.

“I will always be a survivor, but my trans identity has nothing to do with being a survivor. They are two totally different things,” she said.

“I didn’t have the words to say what I had been through. I was just a 15-year-old scared of puberty.”

Alone with no one to talk to, Ellie went down the wrong path.

She got in with the “wrong crowd”, started smoking cannabis to mask her insecurities and performed petty thefts that landed her in Medomsley Detention Centre.

“I thought I would be leaving there in a box,” said Ellie. “When you’re in there, there’s no one on your side.”

On the outside, her identity struggle persisted: “My subconscious life was female. When I woke up I would think ‘wow, I’m still male’.

“When you have to wear a mask, you’re not actually your own true self.”

Ellie only came to terms with her gender identity after banging her head in Ingleby Barwick while working as a postman in 1998.

Determined to get answers and break out of denial, she underwent therapy through the NHS.

It allowed her to discover “a truth deep within” that would change her life beyond recognition.

Steve became Steph in 2011 and began physical transition in 2012. She would later change her name again to Ellie.

“I was always female. I saw the world through female eyes,” she said. “But I wasn’t trans. Why would anyone be?

“But now I realise the person I am today is the person I have always been. I now understand the value of being my true self.”

Sticking out “like a sore thumb”, Ellie suffered unprovoked physical and sexual abuse on the streets of her hometown.

She was also “disowned by all and sundry” including her dad, brother and sister.

But while others struggled to accept her, Ellie had accepted herself and became finally happy in life.

“I’m ecstatic. I’m very happy in life now. The work that I do is very, very fulfilling.

“My private life is very, very happy. I’m surrounded by brilliant friends. My friends are my family.

“It took me 44 years to realise who I was so if it takes my family a few more years, that’s OK.

“I always leave the door open for reconciliation.”

Her children – three sons and a daughter – have mixed views on their dad’s change, but her four-year-old granddaughter has only ever known her as Nana Ellie.

And although not in a relationship at the moment, ex partners from her life as Steve are now Ellie’s “girlfriends”.

“I’m now exclusively attracted to men. Some trans people’s sexuality totally flips. Some it doesn’t.

“There’s no one size fits all. I class myself as a heterosexual woman.”

Ellie draws strength from a divine source: “I’m a Christian. I always believed I should have been a priest.

“God loves trans people. Jesus knows my struggles before I knew them. Bigoted Christians shouldn’t be criticising anyone.”

Inspired by God, she is focusing on making a positive change in the world by sharing her struggles and acting as a trans role model.

She established Trans Aware in 2017, hosts her own radio show on local station CVFM and has just been shortlisted for a National Diversity Award.

“There’s a lot of hatred out there,” she said. “If we can’t tackle it, where is it going to stop?”

According to equality charity Stonewall, a quarter of trans young people attempt suicide, 40% have been attacked or threatened with violence and two thirds have faced discrimination.

“I realise the general public may have a problem getting their head round it,” continued Ellie.

“But I’m not asking people to understand me. I’m asking them to accept me as myself. When we accept people, the whole world works better.

“I may have an extreme history but every trans person has a struggle. They all had a time in their life when they didn’t fit in.

“When we allow people to be their true authentic selves the world benefits.”

Written by Keane Duncan, as featured on Teeside Live – https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/abducted-imprisoned-disowned-now-transgender-16591970?ref=BNTMedia&utm_medium=facebook

An HR consultancy based in Newport, Shropshire that works with executive boards and management teams supporting their development and growth and advising them on gender, diversity and inclusivity matters is celebrating it’s a run of successes at awards this year.

Teresa Boughey, founder and MD of Jungle HR and Jungle Diversity has been announced as a finalist of the Midlands BCC (Business and Community Charity) Awards in the Most Influential Business Person of the Year category.

This category recognises not only the successful business they run but showcases how they inspire others around them, how they demonstrate their authority in their field and how they have the gravitas to be noticed and respected by others.

This follows being announced as a Regional finalist last month (July 2019) for the Midlands Female Entrepreneur in the Forward Ladies National Awards.  In June 2019 Teresa won the “Woman Who Achieves – Change Champion for Women in Business” Award for the second year running and in January 2019 she was listed as one of the top 100 Female Entrepreneurs in the peak b’s list f:Entreprenurs list. Teresa said: “Wow, what a year so far!  I’m very honoured to be nominated and then shortlisted for the work that I do championing diversity and equality and acting as a positive role model for businesswomen and female entrepreneurs. “My mission is to help over 10,000 companies to create an Inclusive workplace culture where they feel respected and valued for their unique difference.”

Teresa is the creator of the tribe5 Diversity & Inclusion Methodology™ which provides a framework to help organisations assess and progress on their Diversity and Inclusion journey.  Earlier this year Teresa’s book ‘Closing the Gap – 5 steps to creating an Inclusive Culture’, based on the tribe5 principles, reached Amazon Number One Bestseller in three categories – HR and Personnel Management, Business and Finance Reference (Kindle Store) and Human Resource Management.

It overtook other esteemed authors such as Simon Sinek, Patrick Lencioni and Sir John Whitmore, demonstrating its value to high-level business professionals across the spectrum. As a bestselling author, keynote speaker and regular commentator, Teresa is now seen as a key person of influence particularly in the areas of diversity and inclusion.

This year so far she has been a judge at two business awards, a speaker at several International Women’s Day events, keynote speaker at the Festival of Global People in London, joined the Black Country Chamber of Commerce (BCCC) Women in Leadership Steering Group committee, spoke at the BCCC Women in Business launch event and will be speaking at Shropshire Council’s Leadership Conference in September. Award winners for the 12 categories of the MBCC Awards will be announced at a black-tie event which attracts over 450 guests at Aston Villa Football club on Saturday 16 November 2019.

The MBCC Awards receives over hundreds of nominations and thousands of votes annually. Founder Zoe Bennett said: ‘This is our 4th annual awards and they get bigger and better each year. By showcasing people that are selfless, considerate to others and go that extra mile, the awards openly encourage and inspire others to do the same.

Source – Shropshire Live . com

YORK charity Accessible Arts & Media is in the running for a National Diversity Award 2019.

Based at Sanderson House, Bramham Road, Chapelfields, the charity has been nominated in the Community Organisation category.

Kelly Langford, project manager and marketing coordinator, said: “These awards celebrate the excellent achievements of grassroots communities that tackle the issues in today’s society, giving them recognition for their dedication and hard work,so it’s a real honour for us to have been nominated.”

Liverpool Anglican Cathedral will play host to the awards ceremony on September 20, when “Britain’s most inspirational and selfless people will come together to honour the rich tapestry of our nation”, recognising nominees in their respective fields of diversity, whether age, disability, gender, race, faith, religion and sexual orientation.

Accessible Arts & Media (AAM)has been running inclusive arts and media learning programmes in and around York since 1982. At present the focus is on projects for learning disabled young people and adults, older people living with dementia and memory loss and people with mental ill health, with the aim of helping people to develop the skills and confidence to become involved in their community and have more of a say in what matters to them.

Creative director Rose Kent said: “We’re incredibly proud that our work’s been recognised with a nomination for a National Diversity Award. The awards are all about celebrating inclusion and diversity, which is what we do every day at AAM. We believe that everyone can learn, everyone can be creative, and everyone can contribute to their local community; they just need the right support. It would mean the world to us to win the award and put York on the map as an inclusive city.”

The National Diversity Awards receive more than 25,000 nominations and votes annually. Nominations for who should win are now open and will close on May 31; shortlisted nominees will be announced in June. The judging panel will take the number of nominations received for each nominee into account when making its decision. “Don’t miss out on your chance to get involved and support Accessible Arts & Media,” urged Rose.

To nominate Accessible Arts & Media and explain why you think they should win an award, visit nationaldiversityawards.co.uk/nominate/23007 or email emma@nationaldiversityawards.co.uk for a nomination form.

We’d love it if you could share our press release and encourage your readers to nominate us as well. The judging panel takes the number of nominations received for each nominee into account when making their decision so support from your readers could really help us secure the award.

Source – York Press . co . uk

Organisers of this year’s Chester Pride festival have reasons to be cheerful even before this year’s event takes place.

With one month to go before the main festivities take place in the city on August 10, the organising committee is delighted to announce it has been shortlisted for a National Diversity Award.

The honour comes following a selection process involving 28,000 nominations, with Chester Pride making it to the final eight in the Community Organisation Award for LGBT category.

The awards, run in association with ITV News, will be announced on Friday, September 20 at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.

Chester Pride 2019 will feature four stages packed with live music acts, including the M&S Bank Mainstage featuring headline act Heather Small of M People, 90s ‘Saturday Night’ singer Whigfield, X Factor’s Lloyd Daniels, Eurovision 2000 contestant Nicki French, plus a host of other acts.

Also returning will be the largest Health, Life and Wellbeing zone at any UK Pride event, with 70 stalls of information, support, and social groups, plus new for 2019 is a café space inside.

There’s also the return of the Children’s Zone, Youth Zone, the Airbus Alcohol-Free Chill Out Area with parent and baby facilities, and a marketplace featuring local traders.

Chester Pride 2019 is also one of the most accessible events yet, with an accessible viewing platform, BSL interpreter, changing places mobile toilet, and free loans of ear defenders for people who struggle with loud noises.

New for 2019 is the Kaleidoscope @ Pride stage on the Little Roodee Car Park, featuring performers of all abilities in partnership with Kaleidoscope @ Storyhouse and Vivo Care.

The colourful parade returns to start festivities, as it winds its way through the city centre.

This year, the parade promises to be bigger, more colourful, and more entertaining than ever thanks to the sponsorship from Bank of America and the parade will pass under the iconic Eastgate Clock.

Main celebrations then kick off from 1pm once the parade gets back to Castle Square.

Over the past 12 months, Chester Pride has welcomed a new chair, Warren Lee Allmark, and the committee set to work on some new exciting projects, including launching the UK’s first LGBT+ inclusive Family Activity Book in partnership with Jon Cole Arts.

Their Family Fun Days are also proving ever popular, with a second free Family Fun Day taking place on Sunday, July 28 in Grosvenor Park.

It promises to be packed full of free activities, stalls, and entertainment for the kids including a Kids Got Talent show between 11am and 3pm.

Warren said: “Our committee have been working non-stop for the last 12 months to deliver the biggest free event we have produced in Chester, plus working on several projects for the wider LGBT+ community.

“2019/2020 sees some great additions to the Chester Pride programme of events including the planned launch of our first high street and online shop, selling a range of great LGBT+ inspired gifts and treats which will help further fund Chester Pride alongside our amazing sponsors and public donations.

“Our outreach programs will only increase as we work with Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Public Health, and Equalities, teams plus several other local community organisations.

“We are also furthering our working relationships with local and national business to deliver a network of training, education and inclusivity. A huge focus for me is mental health, and we are working on ways to increase visibility of support services to our guests.

“Early 2020 will see Chester Pride launch its first Awards event that celebrates local LGBT+ Icons, inclusive businesses, and public services, as part of our commitment to insuring Chester Pride keeps its community focus at the heart of everything we do.”

Source – Chester Standard . co . uk

South Yorkshire Police has been shortlisted out of tens of thousands of nominees for a prestigious national award celebrating equality, inclusion and diversity.

SYP is the only force in the country to have been selected for recognition in the National Diversity Awards, a glittering black-tie event which showcases the work of those dedicated to embracing the excellence of our citizens irrespective of race, faith, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability or culture.

SYP in the running for the Diverse Company Award alongside a host of big household names. Shortlisting was undertaken by a judging panel following a public vote.

Helen Maxwell, diversity and inclusion lead for SYP, said: “I’m humbled and beyond excited that we have been shortlisted for this award. When we were nominated months ago, being shortlisted was an impossible dream – especially considering there were 28,000 nominees!

“This recognition has been achieved thanks to a team effort and I’m absolutely delighted that we’re in the spotlight nationally for our hard work in South Yorkshire.

“We’re incredibly passionate about recruiting a diverse and inclusive workforce of officers and staff to represent all of our region’s communities and it’s fantastic that this has been recognised. Thank you so much to everybody who voted for us.”

Helen’s role is primarily to encourage and support those from the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic), disabled and LGBT+ communities to see SYP as the employer of choice. However, she feels strongly that an employer’s ‘house’ needs to be in order to ensure those from diverse communities are retained and progressed within the organisation.

With this in mind, she has led on the creation of a whole range of staff support networks within SYP. In addition to existing BAME, Muslim, Christian, disability and women’s networks, the force has also established a menopause action group to make reasonable adjustments for employees experiencing the menopause; a dyslexia assessor group to provide in-house evaluation for anyone who feels they may have dyslexia; and the ‘4D’ network to support those with dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia. In addition, Helen is working with Assistant Chief Constable Tim Forber to establish the first men’s engagement network.

Helen has also hosted careers fairs, organised mentoring for under-represented individuals for a variety of roles, and organised a Gender in Policing event. In addition, the force will be strongly represented at Pride Cymru in Cardiff by its LGBT+ network later this summer.

Helen added: “All this has been achieved with the support of many officers and staff who have worked so hard at ensuring our force has the right culture and support in place to allow current staff and new recruits to thrive and progress, while allowing them to be themselves in a safe and supportive environment.

“We are not lowering the bar, but widening the gate.”

The winners of the National Diversity Awards will be announced at a star-studded event in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral on Friday 20 September. Find out more here: https://nationaldiversityawards.co.uk/shortlist/

 

Source – https://sheffield.bigstamp.uk

Bradford Council’s Colours Youth Network has been shortlisted for the community organisation award category at the National Diversity Awards 2019.

Over 28,000 people were nominated for this year’s awards, with 124 nominees being recognised for their various achievements nationwide.

Community organisations and role models from across the UK will head to Liverpool Anglican Cathedral on September 20 to witness the country’s 2019 winners being crowned the best of British diversity.

Bradford’s Colours Youth Network was founded four years ago by a group of youth workers who are all people of colour and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ+) who wanted to work to create services locally and nationally for young people who are both people of colour and LGBTQ+

Bradford Council’s youth service has been a key supporter of the network which is also partnered by Manchester Pride Trust, Unmuted Birmingham and Gendered intelligence London.

The network has put on three national residential events for young people, and have regional quarterly meet ups where young people run workshops for their peers.

Norrina Rashid, Bradford Council’s Advanced Practitioner for Bradford East Youth Service, said: “We’re thrilled that our project has been narrowed down from 28,000 nominations and is now up against just eight others. I want to thank all the young people and our partners who have worked so hard to get this project up and running. It’s a project that has made a huge difference to the young people involved by giving them confidence and a voice.”

Councillor Abdul Jabar, Bradford Council’s portfolio holder for neighbourhoods and community safety, said: “I want to congratulate the Colours Youth Network on their nomination. This is a prestigious award and their nomination shows the calibre of the work that these young people, and the youth workers who support them, have been doing.”

To view a full list of nominees please visit www.nationaldiversityawards.co.uk/shortlist

Source – The Telegraph

 What does diversity mean to you?

Diversity means a massive business opportunity. Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure is continuously looking at ways in which they can improve and progress. We understand the importance of recognising difference, and for us it is important that our employee network is fully representative of our customers and our local communities.

At Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure, inclusion is where difference is seen as a benefit and where everyone feels valued. We encourage everyone to perform and participate to their full potential.

How does your company pioneer diversity?

Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure is on a journey and we are always looking at new and innovative ways to promote and pioneer diversity. We want to ensure that any plans we have in place translate into action and that all of our employees, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to be involved with the progression of diversity within the organisation, in one way or another.

Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure is continuously looking at ways in which we can evolve and develop, with several successful schemes already in place.Weaim to ensure that any plan we have is translated into tangible action and  that all employees are presented with opportunities that allow them to be involved in one way or another. As an organisation, we strive to continuously evolve and develop.

A great example of our inclusive culture came last year where one of our female employees, a muslim, came up with the idea of faith appropriate personal protective equipment for muslim females.  She felt there were no barriers to her raising the idea and we actively worked with her to translate the idea into reality.   This has now been adopted nationally and internationally within the sector and recently extended to include maternity PPE.   This is a huge step forward for diversity & inclusion for construction and things like this undoubtedly have helped the continued increase we have seen from BAME females applying to us over the last couple of years.

Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure  has also implemented a Gender neutral returnship programme within the construction sector offering flexible working for successful candidates.  74% of applicants for our first two programmes are from a BAME background when the typical application profile for a role in our sector from BAME is less than 5%.   This shows the benefits of being a bit more innovative in how we recruit and making the programme as inclusive as possible.  We have recently been recognised for our work for Diversity & Inclusion through a national award from CIPD.

Dawn Moore (Director of Human Resources – Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure) is an inspirational driving force for the organisation, helping us to embed the initiatives & programmes across our business.

How do you ensure an inclusive environment for all of your staff?

Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure is really proud to do this in a number of ways. We have appropriate policies and practices in place which encourages all the right behaviours. Senior management are heavily involved in carrying out training to the wider workforce, and by being actively involved it is ensuring that our workforce know that we operate a fully inclusive environment with a zero tolerance policy.

 How do you ensure diversity is at all levels of Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure is represented?

This is a work in progress for us as I’m sure it is for a lot for organisations within this particular industry.

We are constantly reviewing our D&I journey and its effectiveness.  One way we do this is four times a year where myself and all of my Managing Directors dedicate a day (known as our ‘People Board’) to talking about nothing else other than our culture, how we become more diverse and inclusive and our progress.

We also ask specific questions about inclusivity in our employee surveys so that we are listening to our employees and their ideas to help us on our journey.  We are also constantly working with our employees to raise awareness of the importance of Fairness, Inclusion and Respect in the Workplace for all groups.  The most current example of this is the tailored programme of FIR awareness modules that each of our business units is undertaking with our employees, the content being tailored depending on their role, through our internal learning academy.

How has inclusivity and diversity positively impacted your workplace?

Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure has seen a massive change over the course of 2 or 3 years. We currently have over 62% of our workforce that have some kind of flexible working arrangement. Approximately 20% of our workforce is female, which is an increase of 10% since 2016 and 14% are from a BAME background, which is well above average for construction.  Small steps, but we are gradually seeing improvements and creating an inclusive culture for our employees. We are always looking for new and innovative ideas of how we can implement and create tangible change.

Is Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure working on any new ways to attract diverse talent?

Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure has several initiatives in place that we hope helps to attract diverse talent into our organisation. These include a Returnship programme for those that have taken a career break and are finding it difficult to get back into the sector or into the construction industry for the first time. We operate flexible working to all new candidates that join the organisation and all of our written job adverts are written to ensure that they are fully inclusive.

We support over 500 schools and colleges every year nationwide to encourage applicants into the construction industry, with a particular focus on those in under privileged areas who may never have exposure to the sector or many employment opportunities generally.

We also have 400 trained Mental Health First Aiders, are proactively working on our disability level 3 leader action plan and have tailored programmes, such as that with Crisis where we provided

13 employment opportunities for long term homeless people, specifically focusing on giving a long-term future to those facing major employment barriers.

We are also mindful of the social value impact of what we do and the fact that a lot of our work takes place within communities, many of which also have inclusivity challenges.  Our social enterprise model, known as ‘All Together Cumbria’ is a great example of us wanting to leave a long-term legacy of inclusion, long term employment opportunities and work experience opportunities for underrepresented groups in an area of the country where we expect to have a presence for at least the next 20 years.

 

Bradford Council’s Colours Youth Network from Bradford District has been shortlisted for the community organisation award category at the National Diversity Awards 2019.

Over 28,000 people were nominated for this year’s National Diversity Awards (NDA), with an astonishing 124 nominees being recognised for their various achievements nationwide.

Community organisations and role models from across the UK will head to Liverpool Anglican Cathedral on 20 September to witness the country’s 2019 winners being crowned the best of British diversity.

Bradford’s Colours Youth Network was founded four years ago by a group of youth workers who are all people of colour and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ+) who wanted to work to create services locally and nationally for young people who are both people of colour and LGBTQ+

Bradford Council’s youth service has been a key supporter of the network which is also partnered by Manchester Pride Trust, Unmuted Birmingham and Gendered intelligence London.

The network has put on three national residential events for young people, and have regional quarterly meet ups where young people run workshops for their peers.

Workshops run by young people include: ‘My Existence is Political, Surviving School, and Self-portraits’ an arts based workshop. The young people will re-run these workshops at the national residential, which will take place between 27 and 30 August in Windermere.

The national residential will build on the group’s first national conference which took place at Birmingham University in 2018. The conference was organised with the support of Lady Phyll and UK Black Pride and was attended by more than 80 young people.

Norrina Rashid, Bradford Council’s Advanced Practitioner for Bradford East Youth Service, said: “We’re thrilled that our project has been narrowed down from 28,000 nominations and is now up against just eight others. I want to thank all the young people and our partners who have worked so hard to get this project up and running. It’s a project that has made a huge difference to the young people involved by giving them confidence and a voice.”

Councillor Abdul Jabar, Bradford Council’s portfolio holder for neighbourhoods and community safety, said: “I want to congratulate the Colours Youth Network on their nomination. This is a prestigious award and their nomination shows the calibre of the work that these young people, and the youth workers who support them, have been doing.”

Designed to highlight the country’s most inspirational and selfless people, the NDA’s continue to gain endorsements from high profile figures such as Stephen Fry, Sir Lenny Henry CBE and Graham Norton.

Amongst others being honoured are a reformed gangster, a Junior Bake Off Star and a host of campaigners and activists, all of whom work tirelessly to combat injustice and discrimination in very different ways.

Previous winners include actor Warwick Davis, football’s equality and inclusion organisation Kick It Out and freedom fighter Abbey Kiwanuka.

Paul Sesay, Founder and CEO of the National Diversity Awards added “A record amount of nominations and votes were received this year, the most we have ever received. I know our judging panel had an incredibly difficult task of whittling down the nominees to create an outstanding shortlist.

“So many heartfelt testimonies really showcased how these people and organisations are having a profound impact on the lives of others, and I applaud them for their dedication to each specific cause. Congratulations to all of our shortlisted nominees, it is a privilege to recognise your bravery, resilience and courage and I am honoured to share this with the nation. I look forward to congratulating you in person in September”.

To view a full list of nominees please visit www.nationaldiversityawards.co.uk/shortlist

Source – www.Bradford.gov.uk

The Josephine and Jack Project in Newcastle helps hundreds of people with learning difficulties by educating them about sexual health.

Josephine and Jack are both anatomically accurate cloth figures used as vital tools to help young adults with learning difficulties.

The life-sized rag dolls are featured in a range of workshops that explore health, sex and well-being for vulnerable men and women.

The dolls have detachable breasts or testicles with a detectable lump, that are to used in the workshops to help educate the service users about sexual health.

The educational project helps over 200 individuals every year, offering support and advice in a safe environment while creatively teaching about sexual education.

One anonymous service user said they are now able to express their emotions thanks to the support received from the team.

They said: “Right at the beginning, I would never tell anybody how I’m feeling.

“I would keep it to myself and bottle it up. But now I’m starting to tell people how I’m feeling now I’ve done the course”

“For the second time yesterday, I phoned my disability nurse and told her how I was feeling, and she was quite shocked cos I’ve never told her before – I’ve always – been hiding but now she says that she’s amazed that I’ve done it.”

The project helps service users to improve their health and longevity of life as staff have seen an increase in the number of participants accessing health check-ups and smear tests.

The team celebrate the diversity of all who come into contact with the project, including recent work in supporting LGBT+ people with learning disabilities to explore their own life choices.

The charity, based at Good Space on Pilgrim Street in Newcastle city centre, on started off as part of Them Wifies community arts organisation before becoming a charity in its own right.

It now works with community groups, schools and a range of clients across the North East, with custom-made Josephines and Jacks being used across the country under license to the project.

The Newcastle charity found out this week that it’s in the running to be crowned the UK’s best Community Organisation in the disability category at The National Diversity Awards 2019.

Chief Executive at The Josephine and Jack Project, Simon James, said: “We’re absolutely over the moon to have been shortlisted when there are many amazing organisations out there doing such brilliant work.

“It’s great that a project like ours, that helps people with learning disabilities get to grips with the complexities, rights and responsibilities that come about in loving relationships, along with many other aspects of life that the rest of us take for granted, has been recognised nationally.

“Josephine and Jack are really looking forward to putting on their posh clothes for the trip to Liverpool in September.”

The National Diversity Awards have paid tribute to more than 700 grass-root charities and diversity champions since its inception, including actor Warwick Davis, football’s equality and inclusion organisation Kick It Out, and freedom fighter Abbey Kiwanuka.

Source – www . Chronicle Live . co . uk

A TRANS rights defender has been nominated for a prestigious award in recognition of her work promoting positive attitudes to diversity.

Ellie Lowther has been shortlisted for the Positive Role Model Award for LGBT at the National Diversity Awards (NDA).

In 2012 Ellie came out as a binary trans woman and, after realising there was a lack of inclusive service for the trans community, decided to dedicate herself to providing that support network.

She shortly set up Cleveland Transgender Association and in 2017 founded the charity Trans Aware – the first trans-specific registered charity in the North-East which has now helped over 300 people.

Ellie currently holds many positions in local and national schemes aimed at spreading diversity such as Our House Project, via 2020group, in the Teesside area which provides a safe living space for those who identify as trans.

She also helps write policies such as the trans inclusion framework – used by schools in the Stockton-on-Tees area and for Cleveland Police to aid those coming out as trans within the force.

The social rights promoter also creates and delivers workshops for organisations throughout the UK and travels the country delivering programmes to young people via National Citizen Service.

Ellie will be attending the NDA awards night, held at Liverpool’s cathedral, in September, and said she was blown away when she received the nomination.

She said: “When I heard about the shortlist I was shocked.

“Just to realise my work is being recognised and counts for something, it’s amazing. I’m really pleased to be on the shortlist.

“I know everyone that has been shortlisted and they’re all amazing people who have done amazing things so it’s fantastic company to be in.

“I’m very much looking forward to it.”

Ellie’s main line of work consists of raising awareness of trans rights amongst young people, increasing diversity in community organisations, and promoting the global trans movement online.

She said she wants to continue promoting awareness to help enable people to feel comfortable in themselves.

She added: “I have always been a community type of person but this is my work.

“I’m out there doing it every day and I love what I do because I’m able to spread that awareness.

“I want to help create a world that allows people to be who they are.

“It’s all about empowering people to be themselves because that’s when they are at their best and that’s when they can achieve what they set out to do.”

Source – The Northern Echo

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