Women Like US: Part 1

By Isang Awah

As the International Women’s Day approached, I thought of the year’s theme, and of the many women I know whose lives in some way epitomize the words ‘boldness’ and ‘change’. I can’t possibly write about all the women here, but I have chosen to write about three amazing women who inspire me in different ways. I like to think of these women as ordinary women (in the sense that they are not celebrities) who are doing extraordinary things with their lives. It takes courage to try our hands at something new, or make any kind of change. And when things do not go as planned, the easy thing to do is give up on our dreams and settle for our present reality. However, these women remind me that regardless of what curveballs life may throw at us, with the help of God, we can bounce back, reach for our dreams, and make a positive difference in the world. Today, I will write very briefly about each of these women, but I hope that someday, I will write more about them 🙂 . As you read their stories, I hope you are inspired to step out of your comfort zone, boldly reach out for your dreams, and whilst at it, strive to make a difference in the lives of others. Whatever you do, don’t settle for less than you are capable of! #BeBoldForChange #MakeADifference #HeroinesLookLikeUs

P/s Thank you, Gill, Aliya, and Emem, for being who you are, and for giving me permission to share a little bit of your stories here. You must know how much you all inspire me!

Gill Althia Francis
17190504_10212414404375559_6480535368812935764_nWhen I think of Gill, words such as ‘focus’, ‘persistence’, ‘goal directed’ come to mind. Gill finished secondary school in 1999 in her native country, St. Lucia, but could not immediately continue with her dream of pursuing a higher education. She got pregnant just as she was finishing final secondary school examinations. She chose to get married and start a family at age 18, and in 2000, her daughter was born.

A year went by, then two, five, and eventually, it was ten years since she left secondary school. In those ten years, Gill became a primary school teacher (she thought this was a good family oriented job ), and was trained to become a qualified teacher. Unfortunately, things did not go so smoothly at the home front. A victim of domestic violence, Gill became separated, and subsequently divorced, from her husband. In spite of all the changes in her world and the responsibility of raising a young daughter, Gill never lost sight of the dream of a higher education. More than ever, she was determined to go back to school.

Gill and her daughter

In 2009, Gill began undergraduate studies in her country. After a few years, she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Educational Assessment, but her quest for knowledge was far from over. She dreamt of pursuing a course of study abroad, so she applied for her country’s nominated Commonwealth Shared Scholarship to pursue a Masters’ degree at the University of Cambridge. Sadly, she was not nominated by her country. Not one to easily give up, Gill petitioned the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge and was invited to apply for the Cambridge Commonwealth Shared Scholarship which she won. She was awarded a scholarship to pursue a Masters’ degree at the University of Cambridge in 2014.
On the completion of her Masters’ program in 2015, she applied for, and was awarded another scholarship to pursue a PhD in Education at the University of Cambridge. Gill is on track to get her PhD, and her research will make significant contribution to knowledge about the role of pretend play in child development.

Gill is determined to be a role model to her daughter, and to inspire her and other young girls that “the sky has no limits, and no matter what life throws at you, just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and keep moving forward!”

P/S: I hope you take a cue from Gill and take a bold step towards whatever dream you have or once had. “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” Goethe

Read part 2 here


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