Five questions for Black History Month: Hetty Okonji

Next up in our Black History Month series is Hetty Okonji.

Hetty works in the NHS in Bedfordshire and is Black members officer and health and safety officer for her branch.

Who are you?

Hetty Okonji — I’m an assistant service manager in the NHS and Bedfordshire Health branch Black members officer, health and safety officer and a health and safety rep.

Why is Black History Month important to you?

It is a period of the year when everyone, whether Black or white, has to pause and reflect (or learn) on culture, achievements and contributions of Black men and women to society. Celebrating Black History Month would hopefully help actualise the legacy of change.

What’s your proudest achievement in UNISON?

Campaigning for and winning the Black members officer seat for my branch earlier this year. I have since started a self-organised group for Black members in my branch and been actively recruiting more Black activists.

I suggested a motion which was adopted by the Eastern region Black members last year and accepted for debate at the national Black members conference in January. This motion was overwhelmingly voted for by delegates.

Who’s your inspiration/role model?

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director-general of the World Trade Organisation, is one of my top role models. Reading about her achievements as a woman in a largely patriarchal society is very inspiring.

Why did you get involved in UNISON?

I took the decision to become actively involved in UNISON when a Black colleague informed me of her difficulty with finding a Black union representative at her disciplinary hearing.