today is officially named international women’s day to celebrate equality for women, from simply being more appreciated, respected and loved to acknowledging economic, social and political achievements – i think that every day should be like this whether you are female or not – so many women are undervalued, especially the role of a mother.
i admire that quite a few of my girlfriends have changed their careers and now are amazing therapists – nutritionist, osteopathy, pilates, hygienist, psychotherapist and acupuncture – plus i get to learn more about natural therapy and am treated to more alternatives to standard medicine!
i love that women are not challenged by anything – dont ever think that you are too old to start something new! i was inspired by the fact that Julia Margaret Cameron started her photography career at 48. I have changed my career so many times and each one has been fulfilling and challenging but also full of good memories. since the beginning of lockdown last March 2020, I have been learning and teaching Qigong to my friends – it really has grasped me and I spend at least an hour or two a day studying and practising more moves, and getting to understand what the philosophy of Qigong is about. for many years, I have thought it a gentle exercise for very old pensioners, like my mother, but I have now realised its power to build strength and suppleness, not only to the body but to the mind too. I have also started to learn basic mandarin, with a phone app, duo lingo, very slowly, as I had remembered a few words of Cantonese through my childhood, but now have to replace this with totally different sounds for the same characters. So it definitely is never too late to start a new hobby, passion or career.
The incredibly prolific and inspiring American poet, author of seven autobiographies, actress, civil-rights activist, producer and director passed away in 2014, leaving behind a huge volume of work celebrating black beauty, the strength of women, and the human spirit. In 2017 her life was celebrated in the documentary Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, which featured interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Hilary Clinton, Quincy Jones and Maya Angelou herself.
‘You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.’
I still continue to volunteer at the bay tree centre in brixton – a centre for women and their daughters of all nationalities to go and learn english, further their studies in the essentials of education – reading, science and other skills, but also fun activities like cooking, dancing and art. there is a strong emphasis on social inclusion, encouraging equality in development and supporting them to think out of their box and achieve whatever their dreams may desire. after school, the centre serves for the local ethnic children whose parents don’t speak much English and need help with their homework and studies, but in the day, the centre helps refugee children – these are usually older girls in their teen years- who are awaiting school places. during the pandemic though, I have been zooming reading classes and have even hosted a children’s Qigong class, and a watercolour class for the older girls. it really gives you a warm feeling seeing their little faces pop up on the screen, calling you ‘miss’ and using their thumbs up symbols. thank god for zoom – I never thought that I would thank technology, but it really has been a godsend all round.
the lives of the children at Baytree reminds me of my own life, from a single ethnic mother whose father departed when I was five leaving my mother to work long hours as a waitress to feed three young children; I had to look after my 2 younger brothers, get them to school – she was never able to go to parents evening, nobody to help with my homework, she could barely speak English but then I never wanted for anything, there was always food on the table and clothes when I needed them. through sheer hard work, a lot of luck and determination, I have enjoyed a happy and family life in london. i would have loved a centre like Baytree, but I dont think that these type of places existed then. they are a charity and run mainly on volunteers who are always in need.
You only need to offer an hour a week, every little helps. you don’t have to be a qualified teacher – I have no training – you just have to be enthusiastic and patient – but its very rewarding
here are a few of my inspirational ladies who have allowed me to photograph them….