Winners’ blog: Andrea
1st October 2014 by Natalie Burns
Andrea Coleman co-founded Riders for Health which works to improve healthcare in Africa. She was awarded the Barclays Woman of the Year Award in October 2013 and is one of the judges for the 2014 Women of the Year Lunch & Awards.
Describe your experience at the Women of the Year Lunch
It was a wonderful experience. As I looked around the room it really struck me just how many amazing women there are out there, doing amazing things. It made me realise how incredible women in general really are.
The women at the Lunch were generous and supportive of my work – and completely uncompetitive. This is one of the reasons I think that women make great leaders; women work to try and empower other people and help everyone move forward.
What did winning the Barclays Woman of the Year Award mean to you?
I was so surprised and incredibly proud to win the award, particularly with so many other wonderful women at the event. As Riders for Health deals with a vital yet extremely neglected issue in Africa, it meant a lot to me to have our work recognised at such an important forum.
Why are award ceremonies like the Women of the Year Lunch important?
It’s so important to have awards that recognise the achievements of women. Without them women are all too frequently overlooked. The Women of the Year Lunch & Awards also really highlights the diversity of things women do.
Which women have been inspirations in your life and why?
First and foremost, my mother is my main inspiration. She led a hard life but she was very stoic and above all humorous. I very much admired her strength.
So many of the women I meet in Africa also inspire me, particularly two of our programme directors Mahali Hlasa and Therese Drammeh. They are so persistent, never expecting anything for themselves but always pushing for the benefit of the people in their countries, especially the women and children. I will always admire their doggedness to improve their communities, no matter how much they have to fight the status quo.
I was also extremely inspired by the women I met at the Lunch, especially Doreen Lawrence. I admire her so much.
What has been your biggest achievement to date and what goals do you have for the future?
I’m very proud that we have managed to get the issue of transport for healthcare in Africa up the global health agenda, as it is so important and has been overlooked for far too long. You can spend billions on drugs, but they won’t reach the people who need them without the right transport structures in place and I’m so glad that we’ve raised awareness of this issue.
However, we have a lot of work still to do. People need to prioritise this issue; there are still women taken to hospitals in wheelbarrows, children dying as they haven’t been immunised. A lot of the difficulty is rough terrain, which isn’t a problem if you choose the right vehicles and maintain them with local workforce. Only a tiny proportion of rural Africa has been helped so far – we need to reach these people and stop them from being isolated from healthcare.
Riders for Health launched its ‘Miles for Mothers’ appeal with the Department for International Development on 28 August. Every donation to this appeal until 28 November will be matched by the UK government.
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