Tanya Robinson OBE has had a long career in government, non-profit organisations and many social outreach programmes. She is Head of Equalities and Lammy Delivery at HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and was awarded an OBE in 2018 for services to HMPPS and to charity. For the past nine years, she has been a board member of Women on the Frontline Ministries, an outreach in east London that helps and supports women involved in prostitution, vulnerable women, and those at risk of sexual exploitation. Keep The Faith caught up with Tanya to find out more about this woman of God, whose dedication to helping others is such an integral part of her work and charitable roles…
Keep The Faith (KTF): Tell our readers a little about yourself…
Tanya Robinson OBE (TR): I was born in Hackney, east London, to a British mother and Guyanese father. I have really fond childhood memories of being a tomboy, playing in the local adventure playground. I feel blessed to have grown up in a tight-knit community, where everyone knew everyone and where your friends’ parents would have no issue chastising you. Looking back at the demographics of the area, it was unique, with a real melting pot of cultures, beliefs and races – a community that fought within, but would defend you to outsiders. Some might say it was a tough upbringing – it’s a far cry from the childhood my children have experienced – but I appreciate what it provided me, and truly believe I would not be as driven as I am if it were not for my formative life experiences.
KTF: How did you get your current role?
TR: I am currently the Head of Equalities, which covers all the prisons and probation offices in England and Wales for staff, prisoners and service users in the community. I was asked to consider applying for the role whilst managing one of the Ministry of Justice’s largest and high-profile contracts.
I’d had quite a meteoric rise from Probation Officer, with various promotions in between, to the role I then found myself in. So I did question whether I was just chasing promotions, or whether this was where God wanted me to be. After praying about it and seeking counsel, I felt strongly that the core of the role was to ensure decent and fair treatment for everyone, and I truly believe that is the heart of God. I applied for the position, and the rest is history.
God gave me a word some time back; it was a persistent word in relation to stretching out my tent pegs. At this point I felt I had reached my peak, career-wise. I now realise that the limits I’d placed on myself have been restrictive, so I continue to strengthen the tent pegs and increase my capacity, and see where that takes me.
KTF: Would you say that your faith plays any part in your role?
TR: I came to know Christ relatively late in life, with no preconceived ideas on what a Christian should look like. This perspective has helped my walk and the things I choose to focus my attention on. God’s gifts come in a variety of forms, and mine is clearly to provide solutions. Anyone who knows me will say I am very literal and outcome-focused – sometimes to a fault! However, I believe God uses this to get things done, including my role at work, the charities I run, and the projects I support.
KTF: You have been involved with Women on the Frontline Ministries for a long time, can you tell us about this amazing charity and how you became involved?
TR: I first started considering outreach and charity work over 13 years ago, when a friend and I approached our church with an idea for an outreach. That was when City Women Outreach (CWO) was born. We went out every Friday night for years, with the aim to reach out to the prostitutes in the local area, who in the main were either addicted to substances, or were victims of human trafficking. We then met a wonderful woman – Sophia – who gave up full-time work to expand her outreach and joined with CWO. Sophia founded the Women on the Frontline Ministries (WOFM) charity, of which I am now Chair to the board of trustees.
More recently, I founded girls2school (G2S), an organisation that has supported women in Kenya with reusable sanitary products and, through this venture, I have also provided Domestic Violence and Child Abuse training to professionals within non-government organisations in Ghana.
KTF: Who inspires you and why?
TR: I am inspired by people who overcome against the odds, and by those who break down barriers and pave the way for others. Women like Mary McLeod Bethune, Irena Sendler and Bessie Coleman are real inspirations. When you consider the odds these women faced in varying degrees – with all the assistance we have in today’s modern world – how can I say I can’t?
KTF: How do you spend your spare time?
TR: As my passion for others consumes me, I tend to spend my time in pursuit of solutions for others. I am blessed beyond any expectation I have ever had for my life. So much so – and this might sound a little corny – I get the greatest pleasure in helping others. I also enjoy reading A LOT.
KTF: Finally, tell our readers something funny about yourself!
When we have team meetings or training sessions at work, as part of the ice breaker they tend to use the ‘Tell the group one thing about yourself that no one here knows’.
I have to say I can never seem to find anything that sounds remotely cute or clever. So, my one thing that most people don’t know – apart from me being a notorious tomboy as a child – is, I was also a majorette. I know, not exciting at all J
For more information about Women on the Frontline Ministries, visit www.wofm.org.uk.