Shirley McGreal MBE: In Praise of an Achiever By Martins Agbonlahor

I wrote in one of my novels that women are made of sterner stuff – that innate ability to handle numerous tasks conscientiously and effectively. Have you ever wondered how a woman can be having a phone conversation, with her left hand holding onto the mobile, and the right, fixing a cup of coffee or tea, both tasks executed simultaneously and to perfection? We of the opposite sex would need all the time in the world to accomplish that.

As a journalist in my own part of the world, where women are hugely discriminated against and sidelined, I can name only two amongst the few, who have stood staunchly against the odds to rise gallantly in the profession and thus became a beacon of hope to others. Ms Chris Anyanwu, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sunday Magazine (TSM), was one. She singlehandedly guided and took that paper from humble beginnings to become a force to be reckoned with in the area of investigative journalism. I also remember Mrs Doyin Abiola, who, through dint of hard work and that can-do mental attitude, took Nigerian Concord to greater heights, winning well-deserved accolades along the way.

It is in this mould that I see Shirley McGreal, Editor-in-Chief of Keep the Faith magazine, who was recently awarded an MBE for ‘Services to Tackling Youth Violence, Knife Crime and Poverty’. This befitting citation, to me, is just the tip of the iceberg, for Shirley is not just known for her enterprise, but she’s a complete human being, blessed with a sense of courage and a rich array of interpersonal skills. No wonder she is able to steer her magazine – made up of both men and women – to perfection, and also reach out to poor and marginalised Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) people and many others, ragged, discouraged and out of doors. Through Keep The Faith (KTF) and other numerous philanthropic activities she indulges in, Shirley has brought hope to the hopeless and a sincere message to our youths of the African and African-Caribbean population that there are other positive ways to live other than youth violence or knife crimes. KTF has also shown various NGOs and other BAME-propelled charitable organisations to the world, ensuring that they receive due recognition for their worthwhile effect on the communities where they serve.  

This award could not have come at a better time, as Shirley has been a pioneer in the media for over 20 years, including being the Chief Executive Officer of the Voice Newspaper Group. A brief odyssey of this exemplary woman with staggering humane qualities is that she has worked assiduously with various organisations, where she held Board-level positions. She had also worked with the Mayor of London’s Office, Street Pastors, the Metropolitan Police, not to mention other groups, such as the YMCA, Social Enterprise Coalition, Synergy Network, the Community Action Awards and many others too numerous to mention.

When I heard she was being bestowed the prestigious honour, I was so delighted that I sent an email to her, singing her praises to the high heavens, but this humble woman I am so privileged to work with displayed that selfless or altruistic trait lacking in most men: “The award is not for me alone, as the magazine is a joint effort. So, we all deserve to take credit for the award.”

Again, congratulations, Shirley!

Martins Agbonlahor is a novelist and journalist based in Greater Manchester. His new novel: Another Poor CowThe Dangers of Tradition in Rural Nigeria, is available on all online bookstores.

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