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16 September, 2009

Giving Nation winners become Women of the Year

Five teens passionate about giving have been nominated for Women of the Year 2009. On 12th October Bex, Fliss, Stevie, Zoe and Rebecca, winners of the 2008 Giving Nation National Award for outstanding charity and community action, will attend the annual Women of the Year Lunch and Awards ceremony in recognition of women whose actions have made an impact on the lives of many.

The five students from Rushcliffe School in Nottingham have been invited to take a seat at the table from which Women of the Year including Tina Turner, Camilla Batmanghelidjh and Sara Payne have received their awards. The awards are given annually to ‘exceptional and selfless women who, with determination and vision, have made an impact on the lives of many.'

The girls were nominated for the prestigious accolade after organising over 200 fundraising, campaigning and volunteering actions, and leading charity and campaigning activity in their school and community through the school's Citizenship Club. The Citizenship Club, led by the five girls and another team member, Aaron, has 29 young members who are all responsible for organising fun and awareness raising events, presentations and debates with local MPs in school, on a range of issues from fair trade to anti-fur. As Bex, aged 17 explains:

‘At Rushcliffe School Citizenship Club we all work really hard to try and make a difference to the world. Through campaigning and fundraising, we can change lives; we can save lives. We are lucky to have access to education and the support to raise money for charities; we should use that opportunity to help others.'

It was the students' particular commitment to campaigning and putting their concerns about local and global issues to politicians (including a TV debate with MP Kenneth Clarke on whether Britain should apologise for the Slave Trade) that impressed judges of the Giving Nation Awards.

Selected from 96 UK secondary schools, as national winners of the Giving Nation Awards, the team won the opportunity to spend one week learning first hand about the work of environmental charity the Rainforest Foundation UK in Cameroon. In April 2009, the six lead students travelled to the West African forest to learn about the charity's work to preserve the Rainforest, its wildlife and habitat and to protect the rights of the Baka, a people who have lived sustainably in the forest for thousands of years.

Since their return from the forest, the Citizenship Club have organised over 30 awareness raising and fundraising events including running workshops on deforestation and rainforest protection in their school and local primary schools, a poster campaign and an open garden event aimed at raising the profile of the cause and their own school-based campaign to protect the world's forests.

‘When we returned from our trip I wanted to let people know about the changes they can make, like not buying furniture made from rainforest hard wood, to prevent deforestation. I want every one to know the impact their lives and needs are having on a forest and way of life thousands of miles away.' Felicity aged 17, explained.

In October the girls will meet women from all walks of life ranging from the arts, science, sport, journalism, activism and charities who have excelled in improving life for others. 2009 sees the lunch celebrating its 54th year of celebrating the achievements of women. All the women attending are deemed Women of the Year by the Nominating Council led by Joan Armatrading MBE.

Chairman Gill Carrick said, ‘It is rare for Women of the Year to nominate such young women but these 13-17 year olds have shown outstanding qualities of independence and good citizenship, and have worked so hard to fundraise and to raise awareness about issues in their own community and internationally, that the committee felt that they should be honoured.

Bex Bailey, 17, deserves special mention because she was leading the citizenship club at the time of Giving Nation's prestigious award and she was doing so independently of any help from teachers, parents or any other adult. Today the club continues to be run by the students without any outside help. We feel that the example set by these young women is a beacon of hope particularly at a time when British teenagers receive so much negative press.'

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