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Tower Hamlets Resident

Q: Please tell me about yourself. A: My name is Michelle, and I am a mother of 2 young adults. I was born in the Philippines but grew up in France. Then I moved to London in the borough of Tower Hamlets and have been living here for nearly 35 years. It has become my home as I have been living here the longest. Initially, my work experience was mainly concentrated on health. In fact, I was a registered Nurse, but went straight into Midwifery where I worked for over 17 years. In 2014, my wealth knowledge started, and I became a Money Mentor/Coach and then later, a Trainer. I believe that I am now in the best position to help others, particularly women and children, due to my previous work experience in health, specialising in Parent Education and Teenage Pregnancy, and increasing wealth retention and accumulation through Financial Education. I currently work part time as part of the Intensive Personalised Employment Support (IPES) programme supporting people with disabilities and complex barriers into work.

Q: What are your aspirations and challenges?

A: My life mission is to empower mostly women and mothers to discover their full potential with improved parenting skills, self-leadership, and financial education. For me, it is important for mothers to have self-belief and confidence, so they can be good role models for the future generations. I developed a new passion for self-leadership, because I believe that we as women must learn to lead ourselves first before we can lead others, starting with our children. Because knowing ourselves is the most challenging as we can be our own worst enemy. Understanding ourselves is the first step and best way to start improving ourselves. This became more evident since I started a women’s leadership course with account3 called Dare To Lead, which inspired me to lead myself and made this challenge more urgent - If I do not know myself, how can I lead others? When leading others, you also put the spotlight on yourself, what you think and believe in. This challenge also applies at work. There are women who struggle and are hesitant to connect with their community of Tower Hamlets. I have met different women in many stages of their lives and circumstances. The common denominator to the majority of them is the feeling that they do not have the power to step up and do more than they can. They can only see the barriers and problems. Sometimes they feel helpless, and not in control. If only we can give them access to the tools and resources that will help them think solution focused, they will be able to see that they have the power to eliminate those obstructions and not rely on others to give them that much needed confidence and skills.

Q: How do you feel about being part of THWN?

A: I feel privileged to be a part of the Women’s Network. It is empowering women from the borough by helping them share their own experiences and skills with other women serving and connecting with each other. I really enjoy the monthly newsletter you share with the network members as it provides a lot of relevant and important information that are beneficial and topical. I strongly believe that the first cohort of The Dare to Lead: Women’s Leadership course and its aftermath: monthly meetings discussing important issues, was instrumental in making TH Women’s Network a reality. Those meetings became a safe space for local women to continually grow as a group for a year.

Q: What do you like about living in TH?

A: I love the diversity and richness of culture in the borough. In fact, since I moved to London 35 years ago, I have stayed in Tower Hamlets and haven’t lived anywhere else. The borough is a mixture of wealth and poverty, it highlights the inequality between the rich and the poor. However, Tower Hamlets is a prime example of how, despite all the differences, we can live next to each other in harmony. Although TH remains one of the poorest boroughs in the UK, it still creates a great potential, where women can learn and blossom.

Q: What do you dislike about TH?

A: As a woman who works with other women, I dislike the idea that some essential services rely on the available funding. When the funds run out, these services are then stopped. My question is, what happens to the people that have been supported by these services? I think TH Council needs to ringfence the essential services by not just relying on funding opportunities. They should find alternative ways to continue supporting these essential services as many people depend on them. I also think there is a waste of resources that could have been put to better use somewhere else. There is a lot of different funding opportunities around, but sometimes it is not extended to the people who need it the most. Some funds are only known to the privileged few. “It is not what you do, it is who you know.” Q: What changes would you like to see in TH?

A: I am not a political person. But I strongly believe that to make changes, women need to be in a position of power and part of the policy making process. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) famously said: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” Women need to be involved in the creation of policies and regulations, in order to better reflect the needs of women and children. I dream of a world where women can have a say in policymaking decisions, without taking part in party politics. I am not sure if that is possible, but I believe in the power of the people and not party politics.

Q: What is your message to the women in TH?

A: To all women in Tower Hamlets, believe in yourselves and that you are capable of doing anything that you put your mind to. You have the power to change the future, also when it comes to the lives of your children with learning life skills such as cooking, financial management and your chosen proficiency towards a career and/or entrepreneurship. Having children comes with great responsibility. You need to be accountable for your actions in making sure that whenever you decide to have a child, you have the responsibility to remind yourself that you need to put your child first, until that child can be independent. The main challenge for mums is preserving yourself and being a good mother and good role model to your children, without sacrificing your “self”. Life is becoming more challenging, with society pressuring us into the norms imposed and the need to conform. Life is hard enough, so I believe in keeping things simple. Focus on your family first, and those nearest and dearest to you.

Q: And what is your message to TH council?

A: Continue listening to the people of the borough and put their needs first, especially women’s and children’s. Re-invest and focus on all the essential services directed towards women and young people first (such as free childcare and nursery placements for under 5s, parenting skills, free after school provisions, and youth/sports clubs) to ensure that they thrive in the best possible way. To do that, you also need to look after and take care of the parents/family. It is a ripple effect – once you concentrate on providing essential services to hardworking families, they can then look after their children effectively, and so on. It’s building a legacy of responsibility and educating a new generation to care for one another. Q: Is there anything you would like to add that I have not asked you? A: I believe in the importance of women connecting with other women. For them to come out of their homes and get involved and connect themselves to the community. As mothers, we cannot be successful on our own, we need to be surrounded by like-minded women for support, who will accept and understand us. This is essential as each woman is unique with her own needs, aspirations, and ‘superpower’. Change and miracle happen when we combine our uniqueness and superpowers. I think women who make a difference to other women’s and people’s lives are not well acknowledged. We need to encourage each other and give each other more acknowledgement, not only in unfortunate events, but most importantly, when things are good. We need to focus on the positives and the amazing work that other women do to help others, we need to spread this positivity and the great spirits of sisterhood to other women.

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