Black Womens Health in the UK - A PhD

Firstly, I'd like to thank you so much for taking the time out to read my story.

My name is Mackayla, I am 35 years old and live in London with my family. I have two young children - one of which arrived in my final year of undergraduate study in 2018! I am raising money to fund my PhD which will research the health needs of Black women in the UK.

My interest in this area primarily stems from my experiences as a Black, (cis) woman growing up, studying, working, living and surviving in England. I grew up in a low socio-economic status (SES) household with my mother and little brother. At times my mother would work three jobs to make sure she could afford the rent and bills as our fathers neglected to meet their obligations to us. Though she worked hard to ensure our needs were met, the multiple demands on her resources meant that she couldn't always pay attention to our studies or pay for extracurricular activities - such things were and are reserved for those that could afford them. Such things would later determine my choice to go straight into work at 16 instead of aiming to go to university, missing out on the learning that would later change my life.

My return to education was spurred by the arrival of my son and the desire to elevate my family out of poverty. Having hit a glass ceiling in retail management, I looked to education for hopes of a better future. In 2014, I attended City & Islington college where I would complete an 'Access to Higher Education Diploma in Medicine and Medical Bio Sciences'. I remember having to walk half an hour to the train station every morning with my son in his pram; we would ride the train 25 mins to Deptford where I would drop my son off with the childminder at 7:45am to then travel to Islington to get to college for 9am. At the end of the day I would do the same journey in reverse, to then go home, cook dinner and prepare for class the next day. Crazy times!

I was accepted to study a BSc in Public Health and Health Promotion at the University of East London in 2015. At UEL I learned about the social determinants of health, social and feminist theory, research methods, epidemiology and statistics and critical thinking. I explored my interests around race and health inequalities, particularly around drug policy and mental health.  Despite moving home three times in my first year of study, losing a baby in my second year and giving birth to my daughter in my third, I graduated with a 1st Class Hons degree and was given an unconditional offer to study an MSc in Global Health Law and Governance at Queen Mary, University of London.

I accepted the offer, and took modules in human rights and public health, gender, sexuality and health, health systems policy and practice, the governance of migration, displacement and health and global health governance and law to name a few. Through my studies I came to understand that health inequalities were exacerbated for Black women - the intersection of race, gender and class created layered and complex experiences of discrimination often ignored in health policy and subsequently in all areas of human activity. I researched a lot about how myself, my daughter and other Black women would be impacted by the consequences of these inequalities. I went on to graduate from QMUL with a Distinction. The following year, my academic supervisor would point out to me that I had always been an advocate for the needs of Black women. 

I now work on the health team in an east London charity improving the take up of national cancer screening programmes in surgeries across every borough in London. I took this job after hearing a beautiful friend of mine had been diagnosed with cancer despite raising concerns to her GP four years earlier. Had the system failed another Black woman? In health, we see Black women failed in mental health services (See Joy Gardner), in maternal services where Black women are 5 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women (see MBRRACE- UKs report: Saving Lives Improving Mothers’ Care) and even whilst working during a pandemic (see Belly Mujinga). 

Against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter protests, the statistics that illustrated that 'BAME' people were dying of CoVid-19 at 2-3 times the rate of white people and a global rise of incidences of violence against women, and taking into account everything I have learned from my journey in academia and my own lived experience as well as that of the many Black women I know, I have decided to return to academia. I will conduct much needed in-depth research into the health needs of the UKs Black women, with the intention of influencing and transforming current health policy so that it amplifies their voices and reflects their needs. 

Through studying this PhD, I hope to assist in removing barriers that prevent access to healthcare for Black women, to highlight their most dominant health concerns *according to their own words* and to change the course of history for my family and all that come after us.  I want to make the world better for myself, my daughter and all Black women. On the back of this PhD, I plan to build an organisation that will continue to research and transform health policy whilst advocating for Black women in healthcare, education and employment. To do this I'm going to need all of the help I can get.

I need to raise a total of £17,628 to cover my tuition fees whilst studying for four years at Queen Mary, University of London.

Tuition fees are currently £4407 per year to study at Queen Mary, University of London (see )

I plan to start my PhD in January 2021, and am currently conducting the literature review necessary for my research proposal. I have already contacted a supervisor at the university, and am assisting on a research project investigating the ways in which CoVid-19 has impacted the health of Black women. Should I exceed my target, the excess will be donated to Jessica McDiarmed ( who is raising money via Go Fund Me to help with essential cancer care, and to Sistah Space; one of the few charities working to help Black women experiencing domestic violence and abuse (

So that was a long read but by now I hope you understand why I am doing this. In a way, I feel like I am about to try and achieve the impossible, for this world tells Black women that we have no business trying to occupy positions of power. In the UK academy right now, there are only 27 Black female professors out of a total of over 19,000. Everything - my gender, my race, my class, my background, my age, everything is working against me, but never have I been so determined to make things better for the Black women of this country. Thing is, I need your help to do it.

Thank you.



Mackayla Forde

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