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Power of Words - Jo Cox - September 2021

Another instalment of feminist inspo for you, and this time I wanted to share with you someone whose passion for the underdog - and whose legacy - are especially personal to me and my path.

The campaigner, activist and humanitarian

Passionate, honourable, courageous. These are the admirable qualities that come to mind when I think of Jo Cox – the MP for Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire who was murdered by a far-right extremist on June 16 2016. Jo lived by the words she expressed in her maiden speech in Parliament a year earlier: “We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.”

Her powerful message was one of the reasons I decided to make a difference – to stop being a keyboard warrior and start putting my head above the parapet. And in 2019 I graduated from the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Programme which helped me to decide to run for Parliament. (The pic below is of me and some of my Jo Cox sisters with Dawn Butler MP, including the late Maxine James. RIP, beaut.)

A proper Yorkshire lass

Jo was an internationalist, a feminist, a devoted mum, wife and politician, and a proud Yorkshire-woman who believed in speaking out about the things that mattered. She was driven by her belief that a fairer, kinder and more tolerant world was possible. She believed that even the greatest challenges could be overcome and she was a passionate defender of the European Union and immigration.

On her way to a constituency surgery to meet with residents five years ago, Jo was murdered by a white supremacist because of her beliefs. The tragedy sparked a global wave of grief and solidarity which showed that Jo’s values of respect, unity and compassion are widely shared.

Making her mark

Raised in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, Jo became the first member of her family to go to university, gaining a place at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Her parents were proper Yorkshire stock - mum worked in school offices and dad laboured in factories. As a working class woman with a northern accent, Jo initially struggled to adapt to university life but went on to achieve success in her Social and Political Sciences degree.

After graduating, she worked both as a parliamentary and political advisor and chaired the Women’s Labour Network. As Oxfam’s Head of Humanitarian Campaigns she worked with Sarah Brown on the Maternal Mortality Campaign hosted by the White Ribbon Alliance.

In 2015 Jo was selected from an all-women shortlist to become Labour’s general election candidate for her home constituency. During her short time in Parliament, she made a huge impact with campaigns on education equality, improving support for children with autism and protecting civilians in conflict. In July 2021, Jo’s younger sister Kim Leadbeater vowed to continue her sister’s work as the new MP for Batley and Spen.

An inspiring legacy

I loved that Jo wasn’t ranty or rude – she was a collaborative leader with a rare ability to encourage and empower. She didn't try to pretend to be someone she wasn't, staying true to her roots and being a role model for working class girls everywhere.

Her legacy is The Jo Cox Foundation which advances the causes she championed through initiatives such as the Great Get Together which takes place annually on the weekend of her birthday in June and brings communities together.

Jo inspired people to make a difference, whatever their background.

So lean into your passions and speak out on homelessness, dog neglect or maternal health – whatever you care deeply about.

Even if you have a regional accent or no one in your family has done anything like it before, use your voice to make a difference.

The world needs to hear you speak!

If you want to find out more about how to Tell Your Story, I've got a FREE workshop coming up - find out more here! You can also be the first to know about what's coming up by signing up to my email newsletter.

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