Tower Hamlets Resident
Q: Please tell me about yourself.
A: My name is Ruth and I am originally from Spain. I have lived in the UK for 25 years and I have obtained British citizenship, which is very important for me. I have lived all around London, but moved for the first time to Tower Hamlets at the beginning of the COVID lockdown.
At the time, I got involved with some of the Spacehive community projects in the borough and it pushed me to get to know some of my neighbours and make friends. For me it was a way to learn more about Tower Hamlets, connect with the community and meet new people.
And even though I consider myself very Spanish and I like to keep my heritage and culture, I grew up in London. I am very grateful to be able to integrate both cultures. I have worked in Marketing for over 20 years. However, my interests vary from my professional background. I am really into communication and I love languages. I am fluent in Spanish, English and Italian. I also speak basic French and Portuguese, and a little bit of Croatian. I am currently studying to become a teacher. I previously did some studies at university but did not finish, so I am completing my studies now, not only to have the knowledge of being a learner and a teacher, but also picking up the important elements of communication. I want to back my practical and life knowledge with qualifications, in case in the future I decide to move back to Spain or any other European country. I am currently completing my Cambridge English Proficiency so I can become an English teacher. It will help me to learn the traditional English language rules and be able to make my own interpretation of what an English teacher should be and do.
I am currently also doing an entrepreneurship course in how to launch your own business digitally. I found out about it thanks to one of the Tower Hamlets Women’s Network monthly newsletters.
Q: What are your aspirations and challenges?
A: At the moment, I want to finish creating a fulfilling life for myself after lockdown as I had a chance to question what I want to do. I aspire to become better at what I do and find my place in society, doing something that makes me feel satisfied and allows me to contribute to the community. And because of my fascination with communication, I aspire to be a person that can make a difference, but also make it fun to learn a new language and help people in London improve their English skills or help someone in Spain to improve theirs. I also aspire to find a job that will let me use my marketing background together with my language skills.
The pandemic brought a lot of challenges for everybody, including myself. I lost a lot of great opportunities and also my stability. I found it very challenging to sustain myself during that period. I struggled with accommodation and different unpleasant situations. I found it difficult to feel connected with the people of the community, especially because I had just moved into a completely new area during the lockdown and the streets were empty. There was an issue in the area with drug selling and using for a couple of months. As a woman, keeping safe was also a challenge. I also struggled with finding the right information from the authorities and also from the health system.
Q: How do you feel about being part of Tower Hamlets Women's Network?
A: I am really happy to have found out about the network as I am connecting with a group of women that are different, yet very similar to me. And even though I do not know each member personally, we do share a common interest. We seem to have the same positive objectives. It has had a great impact, not only in my daily life, in terms of access to knowledge and courses, engaging with women of the community and learning about other women’s life stories, but also has benefitted my mental health. It has made me realise that as a collective, it is possible to make a change.
Q: What do you like about living in Tower Hamlets?
I like a lot of things and I felt welcomed by the community when I moved here. I like that it is a multicultural neighbourhood and there are different scents and aromas thanks to the various cuisines. Within metres you have really lively and diverse areas, such as Watney Market and Whitechapel Road. But there are also areas that are quite British, for example Shadwell and Wapping.
To be honest, compared to other London boroughs I have lived in, I do feel safer in Tower Hamlets.
Q: What do you dislike about Tower Hamlets?
A: I do not like the way the borough is maintained. It is not just down to the citizens to keep the streets clean as some of the roads in the borough are really worn down. Yes, it needs to be kept a bit cleaner and tidier, however the authorities also have a duty to invest in maintaining the infrastructure.
The small green areas and communal gardens are also poorly looked after. Many of them are fenced and they do not feel safe and welcoming. They need to be improved so women and mothers can use them, and also to allow people to hang out together outside.
Q: What changes would you like to see in Tower Hamlets?
A: I would like to see more investment into green areas and outside spaces for the community to take advantage of, especially during the warmer months.
The Council also needs to finance further the cleaning and maintenance of the borough. It does not matter how clean the community is, if no funding has been provided to improve the infrastructure, buildings and streets in Tower Hamlets. It looks very run down.
Q: What is your message to the women in Tower Hamlets?
A: Keep being yourself, keep doing what you are doing and embrace your identity. But also go out, engage with the community, connect with other women, inspire others and get inspired by one another. Fight for change that you want to see. Together we can make an impact.
Q: And what is your message to Tower Hamlets Council?
A: The Council needs to reassess the funding of the green spaces and make them more accessible to everyone in the borough. They also need to take care of the most vulnerable groups, which are women, children and elderly people. Further investment into education and projects that will benefit children and women is needed. The Council also need to recognise the importance of women and their contribution to the community. We need more spaces and forums for women to connect with each other, share opinions and ideas.
They should invest into organisations and programmes that add value to the community, uplift women and help their development and growth. But also learn and continue to build upon the works and efforts of the different organisations that have contributed to the community of Tower Hamlets.