This is my first attempt at blogging, which is unusual as I always have a lot to say. Approximately six months ago, it was my good fortune to come across the inspirational team from WayfinderWoman. When asked to write a blog for WayfinderWoman, it sounded both daunting and challenging, all the things that women face on a daily basis when seeking work, starting work or returning to study.
During my early life, I did not have many women who were inspirational to me. Bought up by a single parent father in the 70’s was not the norm but I do remember one thing he always used to say to me very often “If you educate a man, you educate a man. Educate a woman and you educate a family”. I did not really understand what this meant until I started working in FE colleges and visited Wayfinder Woman where their motto is ‘Inspiring women, inspiring other women’.
Most women tend to return to study when they have time on their hands usually when their children finally leave for their first day at nursery or school. Some see this as a time for them to explore a career or start a job for the first time. Some women hold down a job and want to make life better for their family. Being educated opens many doors and improves options for everyone. I do remember my first course, that anxiety about entering the classroom, will I be able to do it, what if I can’t. Again another saying which I always remember, “There is no such word as can’t”. Making that first step into education is challenging; walking through the door will be the hardest thing. Just think of the rewards of following a path into education. You will learn a new subject, be able to share that knowledge with your family and friends.
Along my journey in education, I have met many inspirational women. The women who I have met who have given me permission to write about them below, hopefully will inspire you to see what opportunities are out there for you. You are never too old to learn!
Diana who suffered horrific burns as a child had no self esteem and has not been able to work for many years due to the continuous need to have operation after operation, skin graft after skin graft. On the first day Diana started, she would not talk to anyone, sent by the job centre to improve her skills to add to her CV, she would not look up, speak to anyone and just sat in the corner, head down. 2 years on, after gaining computing, English and maths qualifications, Diana now volunteers in the library running basic IT classes for beginners on a Tuesday and supports the general public in the library as a computer buddy. She was also the winner of the learner achievement award with learndirect in 2015. She is still seeking work but now feels more confident when going for interviews. I am sure she will find work soon, someone will be lucky to have her.
Shadan is a Kurdish lady who was displaced during the war in Iraq. Since moving to the UK, she has taken exams in IT, English and is currently studying maths. She is now a teaching assistant in a local school and has recently passed her driving test of which she is very proud. Shadan has also been elected as a Parent Ambassador at the Bourne School of which she is very proud. Her next dream is to get onto the Great British Bake Off. I am sure it has nothing to do with the blueness of Paul Hollywood’s eyes! Shadan recently had a phone interview but did not make it through. Their loss, Shadan’s cakes are superb. Shadan is another example of an inspirational woman who has passed on her skills to her children, at home and in the classroom.
Finally and by no means least, I met another inspirational lady who recently came to the learning centre. Amanda was very anxious and nervous but she soon overcame that. She passed her tests with flying colours in IT and now is working on her English. She is also now working at Wayfinder Woman as an administrator and doing research on a project about inspirational women from the past who came from Eastbourne. She is also inspiring other women from the leaning centre to join the project.
There are many inspirational women in the world. It just takes the first steps and the effort to make a difference. Make yourself become one of them. Give WayfinderWoman a call to find out how you can make a difference, educate a woman and educate another family.
Anita Gayton – Senior Tutor, Learning Services – East Sussex County Council.