Lots of us are very fortunate to have had a good education, to be able to have forged a path in life for ourselves that often involves a career and/or bringing up children. With this in mind I teamed up with Sarah Banks from Working Frocks to think about creating some images that celebrated the everyday working Mum, but also raised awareness of issues that still face women both in the UK and in the developing world on International Women’s Day.
Our ‘models’ for the morning were Rachel and her daughter Mollie. Like Sarah and myself, Rachel runs her own business (Charters Dance) and she clearly loves what she does. Rachel told us how she had always wanted to dance, but it was when she was travelling and working her way around the wold that she realised she wanted to combine dancing and teaching. So that’s what she did when she came home! Her education and experience and opportunity to travel had given her the confidence and desire to do this. She now runs this successful dance school for youngsters who share her passion and she does this around looking after her young daughter.
Having children can often hinder a career but Rachel relishes the challenges and finds it rewarding – her daughter Mollie loves going to dance classes with her too. Of course it’s a juggle, and hard work, but when asked if she would give it up if finances allowed, she said absolutely not!
We constructed these fun images with Rachel in Working Frocks’ lovely dresses and the gorgeous Mollie to raise some serious issues that face women, both at home and abroad.
Starting at home, the facts are that literacy influences an individual’s capability in all areas of life, and women in the UK with low literacy levels are more likely to be adversely affected than men. Shockingly, in the youngest generation in the UK there is the same level of literacy as there is in the eldest generation. I.e. it’s not getting any better!
So how does it affect women? There are more illiterate women than men, and women with low literacy are more likely to experience homelessness than men, have longer spells of unemployment and lower wages. They are also less able to access healthy living. It’s a double whammy that not only impacts on individuals, but has consequences for our communities and the UK’s economy.
Although health is one of the issues for illiterate women in the UK, we take for granted access to safe water. In developing countries, two factors are linked to how long women live: access to clean water and literacy skills. And the facts are that girls in developing countries tend to miss school because they need to walk long distances to collect water for the family, and the lack of hygienic facilities in schools means they can’t manage their menstruation adequately and so miss school. This impacts in turn on literacy, and so the cycle continues. Educated women are more likely to seek medical help, to have children later in life and to be employed, etc, etc.
Funding for projects that try to change these outcomes is continually being cut, both at home and abroad. Until I started collaborating on this with Sarah and doing the research, I was aware that these were issues, but hadn’t fully appreciated the extent of them and the impact. So thanks to Sarah, Rachel and Mollie for working with me to raise awareness in others too.