International Women’s Day 2024: Celebrating the amazing women of UNISON Cymru/Wales

International Women’s Day is a global event held every year on  March 8 to recognise the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

And this year, we will be shining a light on the women of UNISON in Wales doing fantastic work to represent staff throughout public services.

UNISON Cymru/Wales regional secretary Jess Turner (pictured above) said: “This international women’s day we will be profiling incredible women from across UNISON in Wales who do amazing work every day to support the many thousands of workers we represent across all public services.”

Mum-of-four Tansaim Hussain-Gul (pictured above top) is a prominent figure in UNISON and holds various key roles including Cymru/Wales and the South Gas branch assistant secretary, Cymru/Wales disabled members chair and national disabled members chair and is also a member of the national women’s committee.

Tansaim has been involved in raising issues and awareness in her own workplace as the women’s officer for many years.

Beyond her career, Tansaim is a strong-willed woman who balances her professional responsibilities with the role of a devoted mother to four children.

Her life is a testament to her belief in equality and equity, which she actively promotes both in her work and personal life.

Tansaim’s dedication to helping people and her tireless advocacy for fairness and justice make her a remarkable individual who leaves a lasting impact on those she encounters.

Iryna Rose (pictured above left) is the women’s officer for UNISON’s Bridgend branch.

Iryna is also a key social worker employed by Bridgend County Borough Council and said: “I joined UNISON 12 years ago after the success of an equal pay campaign in Bridgend.

“I wasn’t a UNISON member at the time but I still received a significant pay back and was overwhelmed by the fact that UNISON  fought and achieved not only for its women members, but non members benefited greatly too.

“That was the turning point for me and I decided to join and give something back to UNISON, to contribute to helping its members to my best ability.

“I decided to apply to become a women’s officer position.

“Nearly all my colleagues (99.5%) are women of menopausal age.

“I saw them suffering on their own, quiet, being ashamed to discuss their issues with management and other colleagues.

“I also wanted to change the situation in work to achieve flexible hours for women who were unpaid carers and young mothers.

“I wanted to change the situation for my fellow colleagues and help as much as possible.”

Nicky Bellis (pictured above) is the North Wales police and justice branch welfare rep and has worked for North Wales Police since 2002.

Over the past two years she has networked and met some incredibly inspiring people and learnt so much, especially about what the union stands for and how the work of UNISON has an impact on members’ health and wellbeing.

Nicky continues to be a critical incident de-briefer, mental health peer support worker and her work for UNISON is undertaken outside of her 40 hour week and is voluntary.

She has been nominated to become branch chair and is hoping to  improve workplace conditions for UNISON members.

Occupational therapist Dawn Ward (pictured above) said being a part of the UNISON family has changed her life. Dawn has worked in the NHS for more than 20 years and was elected as a workplace representative.

She said: “I knuckled down, did as much case work as I could and learnt how to be a trade union activist by being curious and getting involved.

“Then, I took on the role as equalities co-ordinator within our branch and more recently I have been elected as branch chair.

“I was elected as the chair for the regional health committee in 2018 to lead and support all UNISON’s health branches across Wales, a role which I truly love doing.

“I am the staff side chair and trade union convenor within my organisation, bringing all other trade unions together as a power house, working together to tackle injustice and better the lives of working people in Wales.

“I am proud to be part of the UNISON family and couldn’t imagine life without it.

“UNISON truly cares about ordinary people, everyday issues, and making a real difference, and for that I will always be grateful, dedicated and follow them.”

Claire Sullivan (pictured above) became a UNISON steward in 2016/17 and took on the role of women’s officer for the Velindre and Public Health Wales branch.

She was the lead convenor for UNISON within Public Health Wales (PHW), recruiting members and mentoring new reps.

Claire was also secretary of the organisation’s staff side committee.

She is an experienced job evaluator for Agenda for Change roles and also runs the Menopause Cafes in her organisation and co-chairs the PHW Carer’s Network.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic Claire became the branch secretary and changed the branch name to All Wales Health Branch in order to better reflect the breadth of the organisations it covers.

Claire said: “I just wish I’d known how much of a confidence and skills booster it would be becoming active in UNISON – I’d have done it years ago.

Sheryl Perrett (pictured above) represented UNISON Cymru/Wales women at TUC Women’s conference 2024 this year.

She has also been part of the UNISON Cymru/Wales women’s self organised group for many years.

For the last two years she has represented the group on UNISON’s  national women’s committee.

Sheryl is based in UNISON’s Swansea Health Bay Branch and has recently been elected to represent Cymru/Wales on the national women’s committee for the next two years.

She is also an advocate and passionate in supporting women fleeing domestic violence and mentoring new female representatives to the movement.

Tracey Sutton-Postlethwaite, Wrexham Local Government branch secretary and Helen Burton from Cwm Taf Local Government branch (pictured above) have been instrumental in driving forward women’s rights in the work place.

They have provided a wealth of welfare support to UNISON members in Wales and provided opportunities for women to attend development weekends and take part in workshops and information sessions such as self defence, domestic violence, menopause and more.

They have created safe spaces for women to talk about experiences and learn from each other and support each other.

Tracey and Helen are mentors by supporting and guiding members  along their journey – be it as an activist in UNISON or a member only.

Alison Zwanepoel (pictured above) is the health and safety officer for UNISON’s North Wales police and justice branch and started with North Wales Police at the end of 2009, spending 12 years in forensics before moving to project management.

Alison joined UNISON at the start of her career and said: “You never know when you will need the support.”

During a springboard course for women she met a UNISON representative and during conversations learnt a lot more about what the rep role entailed.

She added: “Being outspoken and as I call it, ‘happy to speak out for those who for whatever reason can’t, I decided to become a rep and be part of that support network for others.”

Jan Tomlinson (pictured above) is the convenor for UNISON in Wales and is the first point of contact for many in UNISON due to her wealth of knowledge and expertise with representing members in the workplace.

UNISON Cymru/Wales women’s self organised group chair Liz Mitchell said: “Jan is an inspiration to women in UNISON and, whilst she leads from the front, she never leaves anyone behind by ensuring new activists feel supported and mentors them along the way.”

UNISON president Libby Nolan

Cardiac nurse Libby Nolan (pictured above) works at Swansea’s Morriston Hospital and was appointed president of UNISON in 2023.

The mum-of-four has been at Morriston for more than 20 years and trained as a nurse in 1983 before becoming a union shop steward in the same year.

Libby said: “I’ve always believed staying on the shop floor keeps you close to members.

“Now more than ever we must grow our roots in workplaces building activism and organising, so our power is heard and realised.

“UNISON is a member led union from the shop floor to the politician’s door.”

Jan Davies (pictured above) chairs our Local Government committee and is also branch secretary of the Monmouthshire County branch of UNISON.
Jan first become a union rep in Monmouth District Council in 1978.
Lianne Dallimore (pictured above) has a wide range of roles within UNISON in Wales including branch secretary for our Caerphilly County branch, chair of the JNC chief officers committee, vice chair of our social care forum as well as being a Cymru/Wales delegate to the NJC committee.

Kim Russell (pictured above) is branch secretary of our Conwy County branch and local government service group executive.