Meet Rakiya Suleiman – Winner of the 2021 Nelson Mandela Award

Photo of Rakiya Suleiman

In 2015, the National Black Members’ Conference established the Nelson Mandela Award, to be presented each year to a member who has ‘gone above and beyond’ for Black people – within the union and in the wider society.

Amongst our Black membership we recognise that there is an abundance of talent and that many people tirelessly fight for racial equality.

UNISON is delighted to celebrate the achievements, courage and determination of Rakiya Suleiman.

Rakiya has been an activist in Scotland for over 20 years. As the current Deputy Chair of UNISON’s National Black Members’ Committee and Chair of the Scotland Regional Black Members’ Committee, Rakiya has been a leading figure in the drive for racial equality.

With an exemplary leadership style, a supportive nature and her tireless contributions to fairness, Rakiya embodies the values of the Nelson Mandela Award.

Here are just a few of Rakiya’s contributions:

  • As a shop steward she supports every member with compassion and understanding.
  • Rakiya has helped to establish Black members self-organised groups throughout Scotland, ensuring Black members’ voices are being heard loud and clear.
  • Rakiya’s efforts saw six new Health and Safety Officers recruited and trained, leading to additional visibility for Black members and encouraging more members to become active.
  • During this pandemic Rakiya has led a team addressing the impact of Covid-19 on Black workers. The work done has been published and shared, not just to all branches in Scotland, but also to the Scottish Government. This resulted in a Risk Assessment tool that is inclusive of race.
  • Rakiya’s contributions to National and International networks have increased the visibility of Black members in UNISON.

Rakiya says ‘This award is for all those who paved the way for us to talk about equality and people who have lost their lives during this unprecedented time.  I am so grateful to UNISON, our member lead union and in particular our Black Members who continue to believe in me and the work that I do and for supporting me in receiving this award.

Showing love, kindness, support and compassion towards one another always brings the best out of us.   This is something that my beloved late mother embedded in me during my upbringing and which supports me during such challenging times”.