Sophi Tranchell, Carline Ikoroha, Livia Firth

Just Divine: Carline Ikoroha

22nd July 2011

Leading farmer-owned Fairtrade company Divine Chocolate has always had a strong relationship with women, and not only those of us who love to eat the stuff. Behind Divine is a co-operative of 45,000 farmers in Ghana, approximately one third of whom are women who have been extraordinarily empowered by membership of this organisation. Earlier this year Divine teamed up with ethical jewellers Ingle & Rhode for the inaugural ‘Divine Women’ Awards, to celebrate the amazing achievements of women across the nation.

Emma Carter profiles the first winner…

Carline Ikoroha, 48, from North London, is officially the first ever ‘Divine Woman’ in the UK. Carline devotes her life to her local community, and her dedication to helping families in need is unbounded. Over the past 15 years has touched the lives of around 1,000 children.

An Inclusion Mentor in a primary school in Enfield, Carline is focused on supporting children and their parents. She has, without a doubt, made a positive and lasting change to the lives of those she has mentored, but she goes above and beyond her role. A keen volunteer in her spare time, she is passionate about providing continual support and provision. especially for those children that others may find harder to love.

Carline is involved in a range of local voluntary activities and approaches everything with quiet humility – from starting a breakfast club, to running a choir, from campaigning to keep the mobile library open, to introducing children to the excitement of growing and cooking vegetables, and helping her church get Fairtrade status. It’s an exhausting list of achievements.

Carline was one of six shortlisted finalists in the Divine Women Awards. The judging panel, led by Livia Firth, Creative Director of Eco Age and founder of The Green Carpet Challenge (a campaign to ‘smuggle’ ethical and sustainable fashion into red carpet events, which, as wife of actor Colin Firth, Livia attends regularly), then had the task of selecting the most Divine Woman. All finalists had amazing stories to tell, but the panel were really struck by Carline’s energy, enthusiasm and commitment, and the fact that she is such an inspiration to others.

Livia Firth says: "I really admire all the women who were shortlisted… Every single one of them has made a huge difference in their communities, but Carline Ikoroha is the epitome of a Divine human being, with her selfless attitude and sheer dedication to children, she is a real change maker."

Carline and the other five finalists all demonstrated passion and determination to improving community life and affecting real and lasting positive change. As well as the accolade of ‘Divine Woman’, Carline has been awarded a truly divine prize of a bespoke pendant, made with Fairtrade and Fairmined 18 carat gold from ethical jewellers Ingle & Rhode.

Fittingly, the pendant is a West African Adinkra symbol called Mpatapo, which means peace and harmony, and is used in craft and design to represent reconciliation and peace-making. Adinkra symbols were originally created hundreds of years ago, and they feature on Divine packaging to acknowledge the Ghanaian ownership of the company. Each symbol has its own meaning and the Mpatapo was chosen by Carline because she hopes for peace in the family and peace in the world. “And I also think it's important to be peaceful in this busy hectic world, especially with all the bad news you see on TV,” she adds.

Carline was presented with her award by Livia Firth and Sophi Tranchell, MBE and CEO of Divine Chocolate, at a celebratory reception at London’s Gore Hotel. It was an amazing experience. “Serious wow factor,” she says. “My initial thought when I heard my name being announced was to sing! I have never done anything like this before… I feel truly honoured to be here amongst the other extraordinary women I have met here today.”

Sophi Tranchell said: "We had some wonderful nominations but to us Carline completely embodied the concept of a 'Divine Woman'. She has certainly gone the extra mile… she isn't just an inspiration in her community, she is the heart of her community. The world would simply be more Divine if there were more people like Carline."

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