In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8, we hear from inspirational Kent women about the figures that have been their light at the end of the tunnel, guiding them when they are lost

Great British Life: Millie Knight (left) and her mum Suzanne Knight (right). Millie Knight (left) and her mum Suzanne Knight (right). (Image: Millie Knight)

Millie Knight, Ashford
Paralympic medalist and Commonwealth karate champion

After losing most of her sight at age six, Millie started skiing, with her mum as her guide for the first two years. ‘I became super-obsessed with the sport and joined the GB team when I was 12,’ Millie notes. ‘As I got faster, I needed a full-time guide. I attended my first games in 2014 when I was 15.’

Millie was the youngest British athlete to compete in the Winter Paralympics and was a flag bearer for the opening ceremony. She’s attended The Paralympics thrice and competed in many competitions including the World Cup, becoming an international multi-award-winner, four-time Paralympic medalist and two-time world champion with guide Brett Wild. In October 2023, she retired from skiing but hasn’t departed from the sporting world.

‘I had lots of reasons for retiring, one being that there’s only so many injuries you can sustain before it has an effect. I’ve switched sports and am now competing in karate competitions,’ Millie shares.

Since returning from the 2022 Paralympics, Millie has competed and won at the English National Karate Championships and the Commonwealth. She currently ranks ninth in the world for her karate discipline.

She adds: ‘It’s been a thrilling new challenge. Surprisingly, there’s a lot of crossovers between skiing and karate but also plenty to learn. It’s been a lot of fun and is much safer. I think my mum teaching me to always be grateful for the opportunities I’ve had has helped me get to where I am. She taught me the importance of acknowledging other people’s hard work. It’s truly a team effort!’


Great British Life: Left to right: Jenny Sullivan, Mama G and Bonnie Darracott (vice president of Tons N Roses WI) at Tonbridge Pride 2023.Left to right: Jenny Sullivan, Mama G and Bonnie Darracott (vice president of Tons N Roses WI) at Tonbridge Pride 2023. (Image: Bonnie Darracott)

Jenny Sullivan
Tonbridge, president of Tons N Roses WI

Jenny learnt a lot from her mother, Ann, who’s always been a door-open kind of woman. ‘Despite having four children (now six grandchildren too) and numerous pets, my mother always finds space in her heart and home for others,’ Jenny says. ‘She strikes up a conversation with everyone she meets and is always ready to squeeze in an extra place or two at the dinner table, even at Christmas.

‘She’s taught me you won’t go wrong in life if you take time to connect with other people – it makes life so much richer.’

It’s a lesson Jenny’s taken to heart and used to help others, especially in the local area.

‘This summer we set up Tons N Roses to bring together a powerful community of women to learn new things, make positive changes and laugh together,’ Jenny explains. ‘It’s been even better than I imagined and now we have almost 80 incredible members meeting every month. We ran a stall at Tonbridge Pride 2023 and have recently launched an online campaign and candlelit vigil to raise awareness and money to help tackle gender-based violence.’



Great British Life: Deborah Cartwright (right) and her mum Catherine Crossley (left) before having tea at the Palace. Deborah Cartwright (right) and her mum Catherine Crossley (left) before having tea at the Palace. (Image: Finlay Cartwright)

Deborah Cartwright, Margate
Charity Mentors Kent and Medway board member and mentor

In her role at Charity Mentors Kent and Medway, Deborah offers mentoring to local organisations and through the programme, helps support local charities.

‘Charities are under-resourced and staffed by very committed people,’ Deborah says. ‘They go above and beyond to achieve their mission, so being able to mentor leaders is a great way to add value to the community. Being part of the board is also very special as this is a growing organisation providing a vital service to the local communities.’

Deborah has worked in the social sector for over 30 years and was CEO of Oasis Domestic Abuse Service. She uses her knowledge and skills to support the county’s charity landscape. Her work’s inspired by a message her mum shared with her routinely as a child - be your best, your best is always good enough.

‘Any time that I had performance pressure, my mum would remind me that giving something my best shot was all I needed to do,’ Deborah recalls. ‘It’s valuable advice that’s reassured me it’s ok to be a work in progress and a rule I’ve applied when growing charities and services. We always strive to do our best for our community. Our best is good enough, but we won’t shy away from being better. Charity leaders in Kent and Medway can enquire about the free strategic mentoring service we provide by emailing’


Great British Life: Most of Triona Holden's career was as a BBC correspondent and presenter. Most of Triona Holden's career was as a BBC correspondent and presenter. (Image: Triona Holden)

Triona Holden, Whitstable
Former BBC reporter, artist and writer

Triona worked life as a BBC correspondent and presenter, becoming their youngest national reporter at 24. She appeared on TV and radio covering disasters, wars and famines across the globe, made environmental documentaries and wrote about the families affected by the 1984 Miner’s Strike. Much of this ended, however, when Triona fell ill with Lupus.

‘The condition is controlled with fistfuls of pharmaceuticals, though I still occasionally find myself in the back of a noisy ambulance,’ Triona explains. ‘I wrote a book for fellow patients - ‘Talking about Lupus’ - believing in increasing awareness about this condition that mainly affects women of childbearing age.'

It was while trapped in bed that Triona discovered her artistic ability. When well enough, she studied for a Fine Arts degree.

‘I showcased work in Tate Modern, Auckland and Manhattan and opened The Flying Pig Gallery in Whitstable,’ she divulges. ‘Now I’m working on my sixth book, a memoir titled ‘I’ll Cry Tomorrow.’

Her last biography ‘An Iron Girl in a Velvet Glove, the Life of Joan Rhodes’ was published in 2021. The book is based on Triona’s friend and inspiration.

She reveals: ‘I met Joan in her later years. When I was unwell at university, it was her encouragement that got me through. Her story shouldn’t be forgotten. Joan went from being a starving 14-year-old runaway on the streets of 1930 London to gaining international fame as the strongest woman in the world. She was an eternal optimist. It’s a quality I’ve embraced more as I age. As they sing in Monty Python, you should always look on the bright side of life... '


Great British Life: Raushan Ara (right) with Carl Whitewood (left) of the Salvation Army. Raushan Ara (right) with Carl Whitewood (left) of the Salvation Army. (Image: Salvation Army)

Raushan Ara, Ramsgate
District councillor and former Ramsgate mayor

As district councillor, Raushan spends her time putting forward local areas for improvement and funding and contributing towards the beautification of the ward she represents. She works with constituents to help them access services and resolve local environment and housing problems. Raushan helped establish groups like Believe in Thanet, a multi-faith community group and fundraises for local causes, working closely with the Salvation Army, supporting the homeless, rough sleepers and vulnerable people with food banks and care parcels.

‘As mayor, I loved meeting different people. Ramsgate has a very caring community spirit and, through its many groups, people from diverse backgrounds have come together to make it an even better place to live,’ Raushan shares. 'I was fortunate to have parents who supported me, believed in me and encouraged me to keep going when times get tough. It’s helped me build a network of people, friends and community allies that have helped me overcome challenges and contribute to my community.

‘My greatest ally is my husband, Rezaur Rahman. Together, we’ve raised a family and run a successful business. He’s motivated me to follow my passions as a businesswoman, fundraiser, councillor and mayor.’


Great British Life: Professor Emeritus Sue Sanders, Schools OUT CEO and co-founder of LGBT History Month. Professor Emeritus Sue Sanders, Schools OUT CEO and co-founder of LGBT History Month. (Image: Marton Petrekovits)

Professor Emeritus Sue Sanders, Margate
Schools OUT CEO

Sue wants to see a world where every LGBT+ person feels safe, seen, and thrives in education and beyond. To help shape this, the education charity Schools OUT aims to empower people in all learning environments to create inclusive education. They provide free resources – lesson plans and activities for all ages – and run regular webinars and sessions at education conferences that make it easier for educators to ‘usualise’ LGBT+ people in all their diversity.

‘For so long, LGBT+ people’s history was hidden. Following the repeal of Section 28, Paul Patrick and I co-founded LGBT+ History Month to claim our past, celebrate our present and create our future,’ Sue says.

Launched in 2004, LGBT+ History Month embraces a new theme annually and supplies education settings, businesses and organisations with free resources to celebrate. 2024’s theme is Medicine - #UnderTheScope.

‘This year we’re honouring LGBT+ peoples’ contribution to medicine and healthcare,’ Sue comments. ‘We want to showcase their amazing work whilst shining a light on the community’s experience of receiving healthcare, which has been extremely complicated, and even today leaves LGBT+ persons facing health inequalities.’

When discussing her inspirations, Sue mentioned her father was an excellent teacher and a firm believer in enabling his students to think for themselves.

‘He encouraged us to explore all received wisdom and decide what to adopt and what to discard as we formed our own beliefs,’ Sue adds. ‘It’s a guiding principle that helped during my career as a drama teacher, and a crucial tool in my work challenging the status quo.’