Mixed views on women’s role in the community

It seems women of various ages see the meaning of “being a woman” in today’s society differently.

Southern Mail spoke to young and older women in Ottery, to hear their thoughts. .

We asked questions such as how women are respected in society and about access to job opportunities.

Faith Stephens, 17, a matriculant, said she finds her life as a teenager “normal”, but when she considers her late mother Viola, a community worker, who passed away a month ago, she thinks women have been “pushed down and not praised enough”.

Faith said: “My mother died when she was 48, from muscular dystrophy. When she was alive she sacrificed her life for the community because she loved to empower, uplift and inspire people. She helped older people get wheelchairs and she also helped people who needed counselling as well as providing food for the disadvantaged.”

Faith said she believes her mother was not recognised for her work in society. She said her mother was her role model and she was an example of women not being praised enough.

Natalie Williams, 23, said there is not much respect for women in the community, but she handles it in her own way. “When someone of the opposite sex shows disrespect for me, I will just walk away.”

However, she said, women are evolving in the workplace and she believes she is being recognised. “I am doing administration work for a company where I see that couriers are doing deliveries on time and I am using my organisational skills daily. I’m not satisfied in this position because I have the potential to grow.”

While Natalie acknowledges that not everyone respects her as a woman, Jenny Williams, 59, said “mothers” are not respected like in the past.

As a community worker, Jenny remembers that the community had an attitude of “my child is your child” where everyone disciplined anyone’s child.

“We can’t do that anymore. We used to walk in the street late at night, and be protected by men. But nowadays we are not respected and it is not safe to walk outside.”

However, Shireen Salie, 60, said if she wants respect, she gives respect first.

“I am a mother, grandmother, community worker and I make myself heard.”

She said when she was younger she was brought up where women had to be perfect. “I had to be the perfect daughter, then the perfect wife, perfect mother but now that my three children are married, I am looking after myself.”

She said she wears many hats in the community. “I am working at an Islamic school in Welcome Estate and I am also on the school governing body at the same school.”

Carmen Petersen, 40, said women face many challenges, one of them is raising children. She lost two of her sons in gang violence four years ago, and as a mother she feels that there is no respect for women nowadays. “Women are being raped, abused and murdered but the biggest challenge is losing your children.”

She also said women are survivors and should stand together to make the world a better place. “Women may be the weaker sex, but they are stronger than men. If all women stand together they can be very powerful in the community.”