“Education took me out of poverty,” says Elaine Sihera, the first black graduate of The Open University who has now been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of the university at a degree ceremony in London.
HUGE milestone in my life this morning…being conferred a doctor of the Open University. Very difficult to describe in words. Congrats to all the other graduates as well as @J1ten and @ColinGorf for their part in making it so memorable and enjoyable. :o) #OU_Ceremonies pic.twitter.com/yayfZwFtxy
— Elaine Sihera (@ESiheraESC) September 21, 2018
Self belief powered Elaine from poverty to pioneer
Elaine graduated from the OU at the age of 28 and went on to Cambridge University, then into industry and public service. The award recognises her exceptional contribution to education and culture, as Elaine is a leading writer, sociologist and speaker on diversity and empowerment – despite living with a life-threatening illness. In her acceptance speech, she said:
“I was brought up in poverty in Jamaica in the sixties, with a father who didn’t want girls, only boys. But my positivity, dreams, and strong belief in myself propelled me forward in a way I never dreamt possible. After all, if someone had told me then, that I would go to England, get a degree from a pioneering university, and the opportunity to attend Cambridge University, I would have laughed at them in disbelief.”
At the forefront of diversity issues
A pioneer in many ways, Elaine is at the forefront of diversity issues, presenting the first Diversity Lecture in the House of Commons, and founding both the British Diversity Awards and the Windrush Achievement Awards. Elaine was the first Black woman in the UK to own a national magazine and has enjoyed a successful career spanning education, diversity, personal development and leadership.
Elaine is a huge advocate for self-belief and motivation, and has authored four books on lifestyle issues, including The Essential Guide to Confidence and Managing the Diversity Maze. Here, she speaks of the need for everyone to have self-belief:
Elaine concludes: “The Open University changed my life completely, in ways too magical to comprehend. It gave me the opportunity to study soon after having my first child, while holding down a full time job, with the added complication of my ex-husband service on an RAF posting abroad…I am grateful to the OU for valuing my contributions, nurturing my talents, and recognising my achievements in the most awesome way possible.”