International Women's Day - March 2018.
Who Inspires You? Interview with Bridgette Smith - campaigner for women’s rights.
Today is a day where we celebrate women’s achievements throughout history. We remember those who bravely fought for the rights of women with fearlessness and passion. We stand in solidarity with the women who are continuing to fight for gender equality. These are the women that have, and are continuing to inspire generations.
One of my biggest inspirations is Bridgette Smith. She is a campaigner for women’s rights and has helped countless women and children, including myself, to rebuild their lives after experiencing domestic abuse. I’ve been chatting to Bridgette about her past, and her biggest inspiration…her Mother Lilly.
Tell us about your Mother..
I grew up in London in the 1970’s, back then times were tough and money was in short supply for my family. Being one of five children, I remember happy times with my older brothers and sisters. It must have been such a tough job for my stay at home Mum to survive back then. My Dad was plumber and the ‘bread winner’ of the family, and the pay was very low! I have vivid memories of sitting at home with my Mum, in the dark, along with the other children, waiting for my Dad to return home from work or the pub, to put a 10p in the electric meter because it was empty again. I think my mum was very isolated and started to suffer low self esteem and postnatal depression, back then this was not recognised. My Mum became desperate and looked for other ways to survive. She found herself stealing food in the local supermarket — consequently this led to her being arrested and, unfortunately for us kids, she was sent Holloway Prison for shoplifting. She spent two weeks in prison, along with murderers and other dangerous criminals. The story was published in the local press. All the neighbours got to read about the scandal and when our family walked out in public, the locals would shout out “Hold on to your purses she's here!” I was only 2 years old at the time but this must of been totally humiliating for her but she found strength to hold her head high and carried on with the struggle of life.
As a child I felt happy and felt loved. However I was witnessing domestic abuse at home. My dad was physically, emotionally and financially controlling towards my Mum. Back then, there were no laws against domestic abuse. I guess my Dad had a lot of power over my Mum at the time and I think this had a negative effect on her and me, it created a hostile environment at home and it also took a toll on them both - consequently they grew apart- so I grew up with parents who lived together in the same house but both started to live apart from one another. I think at this point maybe they stopped loving each other. Loving someone is a beautiful thing, but I don't remember seeing it at home. My parents must have been in love with one another at some point within their marriage… Well I hope they were?.. for her sake! She needed to be loved by him. I recently found an old photo of my parents, they are both hugging each other, so I'm holding on to the idea that at one time, in the early days, my Dad just might have loved my mum.
Is this where your passion to help other women came from?
Yes, I went on to developed my career in supporting women’s rights. Working for many years to support women, and their children, who were fleeing domestic abuse. I worked in women’s refuges for over 15 years. Raising awareness to end violence against women has always been my passion. I have co produced 3 documentary films about the effect of abuse on women and children. And was invited to 10 Downing Street to meet with Sarah Brown, a patron of Women’s Aid Federation England, which was a truly amazing experience!
Bridgette is the founder and Director of Wolf Urban that opened its doors in 2016. Wolf Urban provides Counselling and Nutrition Health Coaching for a wide range of health and wellness concerns for Women and Girls. Bridgette is also a campaigner for Action Aid UK.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Many women have inspired me over the years. Those women who battled to make great changes in the world, like Erin Pizzey, who opened the first women’s refuge in 1971. The women of Dagenham that fought for the equal pay act in 1975, and the suffragettes who fought for women's right to vote. It was only in 1991 when marital rape became a crime!! These are just a few of the empowering changes made by women.
I have amazing mentors who constantly empower and support me. And, of course my mother who was my greatest teacher, I am sure she is looking down on me from heaven with a smile! I also have two big sisters who showed me the way in life. Most of all, I'm inspired everyday when I see the bravery of my clients, who show great courage to face their fears!!!
Bridgette's Mother and Father on their wedding day.
International Women's Day - March 2018.