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Women in the Law UK founder raises £4k for mental health awareness with autumn walking challenge

Sally Penni MBE

The founder and chair of Women in the Law UK, Sally Penni MBE, has raised almost £4,000 in sponsorship for mental health and suicide awareness charities by walking at least 5km every day for more than a month. She began what was initially intended to be a month-long challenge on 1 October, with an initial fundraising target of £500, but now plans to continue until the end of November.

The charities benefiting from Miss Penni’s latest fundraising activity are Manchester Mind, the National Suicide Prevention Alliance, Samaritans of Manchester and Salford and Macmillan Cancer Support.

She said, “Covid-19 and the lockdown have put many people’s mental health and wellbeing under intolerable strain so I wanted to do something to recognise this. In particular I wanted to talk about male mental health – as a mother, daughter and sister I strongly believe this is a conversation that we, as a society, should be having.

“I also wanted to make a tangible difference by raising money for charities whose work has been more important than ever but whose incomes have fallen drastically throughout the pandemic. From marathons to workplace coffee mornings, fundraising activities have been cancelled across the board because of the pandemic.


“In the business world, October and November would normally see the function rooms of city centre hotels bursting with guests at awards ceremonies and annual dinners, all of whom would be asked to put their hands in their pockets for charity raffles, each raising thousands of pounds. None of this has happened this year so it is up to all of us, collectively and as individuals, to do what we can to make sure these amazing organisations can keep on with their vital work.

“I have been humbled by the response to my challenge, at a financially difficult time for many people. I started with a target of £500, which rapidly increased to £1,000, then £2,000, then £2,500 – and now we are at almost £4,000.

“Dragging myself out in all weathers has been tough at times but people’s incredible generosity has made it much easier to keep going.”

Her autumn walking challenge will not mark the end of Miss Penni’s fundraising for the year, although it is set to take a more festive turn. In December she plans to reprise last year’s “Sally Sparkles” challenge in which, every day for 20 days, she wore a sparkly outfit.

Sally Sparkles will this year raise money for the Manchester Foundation Trust Charity, The Christie hospital and Save the Children. Miss Penni has set a £3,000 target for this challenge, with £1,000 pledged already.

Miss Penni said, “Sally Sparkles sounds like fun but when you work as a barrister, with a plain black dress code, it can actually be rather difficult. I will be really grateful for each and every donation and, also, if anybody would like to join me in solidarity, even just for one day, and post their pictures online.”

Readers can donate to Sally Penni’s challenges by visiting visiting the Virgin Money Giving website and searching for “Sally Penni”.

Miss Penni, who was awarded an MBE for services to diversity in the workplace, social mobility and the law in the most recent Queen’s Birthday Honours list, is the founder and chair of Women in the Law UK, the professional development organisation that promotes gender diversity and women’s progression in the legal sector. The organisation, which has its roots in Manchester, is active nationwide and has held regular events in London, Scotland, Wales, the Midlands and Yorkshire.

Following the implementation of lockdown measures in March this year, Women in the Law UK has operated a wide-ranging programme of webinars and online social events, providing a combination of education and wellbeing support. Several of these webinars are held every week.

In addition, it has stepped up production of its popular “Talking Law” podcast, in which Miss Penni interviews senior figures from the legal profession about their careers, insights, and opinions about the profession.

As well as chairing Women in the Law UK, Miss Penni is a successful barrister-at-law, practising out of Kenworthy’s Chambers, and is vice-chair of the Association of Women Barristers. Outside of the law she carries out a number of non-executive director and trustee roles, and sits on the board of Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre.

She is also an author, who has written several books on legal and professional development issues as well as, more recently, the highly successful children’s book Rosie and the Unicorn. Profits from the latter have been donated to three charities and it has been read by the Queen and Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge.

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