St Albans charity founder appears on map of inspirational women

Nikki Casey.

Nikki Casey. - Credit: Archant

A woman who started a charity helping families in need has been included on a ‘Suffragette Spirit’ map by Amnesty International.

Nikki Howes, 48, from Radlett, founded the charity St Albans EPS, or StEPS, which works with vulnerable families to offer them help and practical support.

She is the only person from St Albans district to be included on the Suffragette Spirit map, which was created by Amnesty International earlier this month in honour of both International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 8 and the centennial of women’s suffrage this year.

The interactive map highlights women around the country who, according to Amnesty, “embody the continuing suffragette spirit”.

Nikki, who started StEPS three years ago, said: “I was obviously extremely proud. It’s a wonderful achievement, not just for me but all the work that I am doing and the charities I am doing it with.

“I spent 15 years working for Herts county council and I was working with schools and improving outcomes for families. Three years ago I decided to leave and started StEPS.

“We’re a not-for-profit company and we’ve been supporting families in the area with anything that they need. We offer parent coaching for a company called Natural Flare and we run book banks.

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“We have a group of fantastic volunteers who read with children and then the children get to take the books home.”

The company runs courses in managing anger and conflict in families, understanding teens, competent fathers and more.

Nikki said: “We work with a lot of families to try to make them to help changes with how they are living their family life.

“There are a lot of anxiety workshops, and we do a lot of work with parents of children with additional needs. There’s a whole variety.”

Nikki also runs e-safety classes for children in Year 5 and Year 6, teaching them how to keep safe online, and StEPS has five book banks per week which have expanded to include Dacorum and Hertsmere.

Explaining her motivations behind found the charity, Nikki said: “I just sort of fell into it really. It’s a wonderful way to earn a living because you get so much satisfaction as well as the feedback you get from families and young people.

“About six months ago I bumped into a young person who I worked with 10 years ago. He had been excluded from school and there were drugs and alcohol in his family.

“He was in a job, and said ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe it’s you! I just want to say thank you’. The amazing satisfaction and pride you get from something like that - for me it’s everything.”

Amnesty International created the Suffragette Spirit map by working with newspaper groups to gather nominations, to celebrate inspirational women in local communities.

On seeing the map, Helen Pankhurst, the great-grandaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and grandaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst, who founded the Suffragette movement, said: “There is no better time to launch this map and push these incredible women into the spotlight to be praised and recognised for their work.

“I imagine if the suffrage campaigners of old, including my great-grandmother and grandmother, could see Amnesty’s map, they would be extraordinarily moved. Because while together they helped set a precedent for women taking action, I doubt they would have known that their irrepressible drive and attitude would resonate 100 years later - and give visibility to women who are standing up and promoting human rights in such a varied and all-encompassing way.”

The Suffragette Spirit Map of Britain can be viewed at