For International Women’s Day we sat down with one of our Expert Case Workers Anna, to discuss what she thinks needs to be done to make society more equitable for women, as well as the work she does with young women and girls across London.
Why do you think it’s important we mark IWD?
Because we need it. We are not recognised enough. I think being a woman in today’s society is hard. Obviously, it has been harder previously, for previous generations.
But I feel like we are now at that change point of where we are going with this. We’re taking that leadership of wanting better, doing better, and trying to make change. We have a lot of the power and tools to make change, but we still have a long way to go.
So that’s why we need to celebrate International Women’s Day – but we do need to celebrate women every day.
Do you think our society is fair and equitable to women?
At the moment it’s still very apparent that there isn’t equal rights. Every day feels like a constant battle of who we are and what we want and it shouldn’t be like that.
With the work we do and what the young women and girls we work with experience, I don’t believe it’s equal. We’re still fighting.
Why do you think that’s the case and how have you seen it effect the young women and girls you work with?
Feeling believed – or not feeling believed – is a common theme in my work. Often, the young women and girls I work with feel like they can’t say anything because they think ‘why are they going to believe me, they’re going to believe him’ and that upsets me. As a woman obviously, but as a professional as well.
What can be – or needs to be – done to improve gender equity?
Education. We have to start from day one. The only way we can make change is if we start looking at it from one perspective, stripping back boys versus girls and having an approach where we are all equal. That just because you are one way, it doesn’t mean you are entitled to something more. It’s not about women being better than men, it’s about everyone being on a level playing field.
We need to start tackling misogynistic values and behaviours. As women we have more challenges which we face on a daily basis, and by helping society understand why we face these challenges we can hopefully start to bring about change.
What made you want to work with young women and girls?
The main reason was to make change and to see that change. If I think back to my teenage years, I would have loved someone like me working with me. We don’t get that opportunity enough. It’s the reason we all want to do this job. We’re all passionate about wanting to make a change and wanting to do better for the young Londoners we work with.
I think that it’s sad that when we come in, we’re coming in when trauma has happened, but then we are given this incredible opportunity to help them rebuild their confidence, by supporting them to develop skills or providing the emotional support they need.
For me I want the young Londoners I work with to understand the world, to feel empowered and help them achieve, and to achieve in their own way of achieving – because that looks different for everyone.
I always say to them that society wants you to be certain things, but you can be whatever you want to be – as long as you are happy and you are safe. Its about what you want and what makes you happy, so being able to have that kind of input and be that voice of reason with them and helping them understand their choices.
I always thank the young people I work alongside when the support ends, because I’m always grateful for what they taught me. Because they might not know it, but they all teach me different things on a daily basis. Also, I’m extremely grateful and thankful for them letting me in on such a personal part of their lives because that’s not easy. It’s a privilege to do this job.
What is the most inspiring thing you have seen with someone you have been supporting?
The level of resilience. We’ve got these young people that are facing challenges every day, things they shouldn’t be facing. They’ve been exposed to things that aren’t fair or appropriate for them. So, it’s that strength and determination that they have on daily basis to get up and carry on.
Thinking of one young Londoner in particular, she is just a phenomenal young person. The determination to go ‘I’m not going to allow anyone to defeat me, I’m not going to allow you to tell me what I can and can’t do because of what happened to me. I’m going to carry on because this is my life and I deserve it just as much as you do’ is incredible.
To make change you have to focus on the positives. Yes, the negatives will come into the conversation, but you have to take a strengths based approach and I look at why that young Londoner is sitting there in front of me with a smile on their face – and its because they have that strength and resilience and that’s amazing. Because they are amazing.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you pass on to the girls you work with?
There’s lots of advice I would give and its dependant on the young person and what they’ve experienced because everyone is different.
The main piece of advice is that if they are happy and safe that’s all we can really ask for. And to do you. You are on this world for you and only you. Be present with your own feelings and emotions. Sometimes it’s hard when you think of the young woman and girls we work with and how we can encourage that. But as I said as long as they are safe and happy and are able to assess their behaviours and situations, so they aren’t put at risk, that’s what matters.
If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, who would they be and why?
The first person is my mum. Your mum is the first person you learn from, they teach you a lot. It’s not always good, but you learn from it and create what you want from it.
Next, I would pick Taylor Swift. If you think about the criticism and challenges she has faced in the music industry, she’s been knocked down again and again particularly by men and she’s still standing. She has her head held high saying I’m just going to continue being myself and that’s commendable.
And the last person is Megan Markle. I would love her to tell me about her experience living in the Royal Family. If you look at her life – she was a self-deserved actress who fell in love with a man and because of his family she had to change and a lot came from that.