A foundation set up in honour of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox has helped 35,000 women in the five years since her death.
Mum-of-two Jo, 41, was shot and stabbed by a white supremacist on June 16, 2016, in her West Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen.
Ahead of the fifth anniversary of her murder, four women have shared their stories of how grants from the Jo Cox Foundation have transformed their lives.
Widow Julie Murphy was helped by the foundation’s Community Makes Us campaign, which connected people remotely during lockdown.
Julie, 69, said: “I was in despair, depressed and isolated when I joined.
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“Meeting people allowed me to have a voice again. They made me feel that I mattered – and would call me after meetings if I sounded upset or quiet.”
Julie has been shielding in Mirfield, West Yorks, since March last year, unable to see her disabled son.
The retired social lecturer turned to the weekly Zoom meetups for help, saying: “I felt people actually cared about me, which is everything Jo stood for.”
Since the foundation’s launch in 2017, 35,720 women have benefitted from grants that tackle gender-based violence and its work to boost social and economic opportunities overseas.
The charity has helped 1,223 women into politics and provided 558 female leaders with assistance and training.
And its annual Great Get Togethers have rallied 18 million people to join community events across the UK.
Inspired by Jo’s first speech to Parliament – declaring we “have more in common than that which divides us” – the gatherings are one of many initiatives to tackle hate and loneliness.
Brexit-supporting neo-nazi Thomas Mair is serving life for the politically-motivated murder of Jo, a fervent supporter of the Remain campaign.
Jo’s words also inspired Phillippa Scrafton, 52, to launch Darlington’s More in Common along with pal Peter Greenwood, 72, supported by the foundation.
Human rights worker Phillippa said: “We have around 800 supporters and push Jo’s message of being kind and focusing on what we have in common.
“As a trans woman and activist I’ve faced some hate, both verbal and physical. I know what it is to feel ostracised.
“We bring together LGBT people, many struggling with gender and sexual identities in hostile environments.”
The group also publishes local hate crime figures and organises gatherings for people from a range of backgrounds.
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Another who has turned her life around thanks to the foundation is Emily Baldwin, who says she struggled to imagine a future for herself as she returned to sixth form at 17 after a year out battling depression and anxiety.
She secured a month’s work experience helping with event planning in 2019 through an outreach programme.
Now 20, Emily, from Basildon, Essex, said: “I was really into politics and I’d always admired Jo.
“Everything seemed bleak, I didn’t expect to make anything of my life – but the placement changed everything.
“I went there and my confidence blew up.” It inspired her to return to her A-levels, and she is now studying English and History at Birmingham University.
Mum-of-two Laura Henderson was inspired by the foundation’s Loneliness Commission, which led the Government to put up £20million to tackle the issue.
Laura, 50, has co-ordinated 30 JCF community events in Llantwit Major, Glamorgan – including a Chatty Café where locals gather monthly for a drink and chat.
The university worker said: “The Loneliness Report Jo had worked on made me reflect on my own experience as a young mum and how isolating it can be.”
Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who chairs the foundation, said she is “immensely proud” of its achievements.
She said: “Jo had success both creating a vision and taking action. These people are the proof of what she’d have wanted.”