Happy International Women’s Day one and all! To celebrate this joyous occasion – dedicated to honouring and inspiring women, I had a chat with all the great ladies who make up Spitalfields Crypt Trust – a bloody marvelous charity working to recover and rehabilitate substance abusers and the homeless. They are all wonderful women who do bloody amazing work – so naturally they’ve all got some smashing things to say.
… In fact, they all had so much to say that the result of a ‘quick chat’ with each was a 16 page word document – which although incredibly interesting – I’d never expect you to read all in one go.
So here’s the first interview – with the lovely Laura, who is a Progression Co-ordinator at the New Hanbury Project.
What do you do?
I am the progression coordinator here. I work one on one with service users who are at a point in their recovery where they’re looking to progress perhaps outside of our services or on to our social enterprises. So I help them them on to Restoration Station and Paper and Cup and various things like going back into education and volunteering.
What’s the best bit about your job?
I love working with people and I’ve met such fantastic people here – colleagues and students. It’s like a little family at SCT. Seeing people move through is really lovely. I’ve been here long enough now that I’ve seen a few people start from being referred here and then doing a course and now they’re off at college and it’s so lovely to see that progression through.
From your perspective what are the biggest challenges faced by women today?
There is that whole just a woman thing still. I think there is still a kind of stigma about what we can do, even down to things where people are surprised – with my age people can be surprised by the fact I work – they assume I’m some little girl but I’m actually doing something and making a difference. There is that stigma we can’t do what they can do. That’s a big barrier. Entrenched misogyny.
How would you like to see these challenges overcome?
International woman’s day is a start. It’s just awareness. I had a YouTube playlist on and this advert came up about these phone emojis – and there were these girls going through them and all of the icons doing these activities were male. Even small things like that – there should be more women doing these things. It’s just kind of awareness and making more of a statement about it. Actively challenging them firstly and fighting back to them. A long road but this is a good start – having a day that’s committed to acknowledging that.
What does Feminism mean to you?
Ugh. Feminism to me means horrible books because I studied English. Lot’s of theory. [laughs] To me, I have a difficulty with the idea of feminism because there are a lot of new age feminists who are just man haters and give it a bad name. But for me – feminism is equality. It’s saying there’s not really actually a difference – fundamentally – our abilities are the same and even though what we do might be different there isn’t a fundamental difference that makes one gender lesser than the other. That’s what it means to me. I don’t like the whole men are evil thing. For me it’s just about acknowledging and celebrating equality.
What’s the best thing about being a woman today?
There’s a freedom in it. I feel quite lucky having all the opportunities that I know even my mother didn’t have and specifically my grandmother. When I speak to my grandmother it wasn’t like that. Her brothers were sent to school and to college and she was packed off to secretarial school. It’s shocking because it’s not that long ago. For me the best thing about it is that freedom. Especially being in London I feel that more. You can be whoever you want. You don’t have to fit into a box. Being able to work here and study and go out and have that freedom. I live on my own as well and I think it’s a stark contrast between a women who lives on her own and my grandmother who would have been chaperoned everywhere. The fact that that equality is coming about and starting to be acknowledged and the freedom that comes with that.
What’s the most difficult thing about being a woman today?
If you’re a young, pretty woman and you’re doing something I find that there’s a lot of ignorance. Oh you’re smart, oh you can actually do something. That for me grates a lot. Not that I’m bigging myself up – I just don’t like that there’s still that assumption that you can’t be more than one thing and that is something that really frustrates me – especially in my profession. I’m training as a therapist and I can very much see that there will be a situation when someone sits down in front of me and says how are you gonna help me? It does come into it.