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People: Wise words for International Women’s Day




International Women’s Day - a global event celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women - falls today (March 8. To mark the occasion, Velvet’s Riadh Falvo asks trailblazing women in our own community to share their words of wisdom

Professor Hilary Cremin (54748429)
Professor Hilary Cremin (54748429)

“You are a unique light in the world. You can settle for getting through and surviving, or you can grow and live in your light. You need to protect it. Partners and children and friends will demand things of you, which is fine, but you must not let your light go out. If you lose it, you will become a shadow. It is not enough for other people around you to shine. Love and nurture yourself, shine brightly, light up the way.”

Professor Hilary Cremin, of the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, researches, writes and teaches about peace education and conflict transformation in schools and communities

Anisa Ather (54748426)
Anisa Ather (54748426)

“The best piece of advice I have ever been given is to respond to hate with compassion. And don’t put people in boxes. When you are discriminated against because of your race or religion it’s easy to get angry. Often it’s not the open or obvious discrimination that takes its toll, but the more passive forms - the looks, the way you are dismissed, underestimated, ignored. But anger does nothing but fan an internal fire and cloud your judgement. I think a lot of hate comes from fear, so when you respond to hate with kindness, that fear breaks down. Conversations start. People start to change.

“On that note, I’ve learnt why it’s important to not put people in boxes. People are complex and what you see on the surface is the tip of the iceberg. Often the people who have surprised me the most are the ones I initially thought were hostile. But they’ve turned out to be kind, warm and rich with experience. There is so much below the surface of the water; if you label people, you reduce them. Not doing so is honestly liberating.”

Anisa Ather is a chocolate maker and groundbreaker, who’s worked with educational charities including Oxfam, MADE in Europe and Into University

Suzannah Wansell - Food Business Co-ordinator, ARU food waste campaign. Picture: Keith Heppell. (54748467)
Suzannah Wansell - Food Business Co-ordinator, ARU food waste campaign. Picture: Keith Heppell. (54748467)

“Our family move to Cambridge was quite sudden and at the time I was loving life where we were and felt sad to be leaving. A wise friend advised me to try not to view the change as loss and to think of it as adding another layer. She reminded me that everything would still be there if needed. It was simple but immensely comforting wisdom that I still like to remember when tackling changes.

“I love and live for younger people and marvel at their process of figuring it all out, but I would hate to have to go back and do it again. It’s overwhelming when the world is your oyster and you are not sure where to start. I would say start by doing something and if it doesn’t work, try something else. Just a ‘drop in the ocean’ or ‘dipping your toe in’ creates ripples - and who knows where those might lead.”

Suzannah Wansell, mum-of-two, director, cheesemonger and sommelier, is the co-founder of Meadows Deli in Cambridge, accredited with the Living Wage Foundation and specialising in healthy food which supports both regenerative farming and fellow local independent businesses

Rosie Sykes (54748432)
Rosie Sykes (54748432)

“My great aunt was an impressive figure; she unquestionably cut a dash. She was a vanguard feminist and certainly not very conventional. I spent a lot of time with her in my youth and she imparted many gems. One I have tried to always live by is only regret the things you don’t do.

“The reason I like it so much is that I feel like it has made me more likely to do things that I might otherwise be tentative about - I guess it kind of goes along with what’s the worst that can happen… Next time you’re making a decision try taking that stance - it's really quite liberating.”

Rosie Sykes is a food writer, menu consultant and chef who has cooked with some of Britain's best-loved chefs and spent two years writing for the Guardian's Weekend magazine as the Kitchen Doctor

Dr. Alecia-Jane Twigger (54748428)
Dr. Alecia-Jane Twigger (54748428)

“After school I was encouraged to apply for work overseas, and told I could handle it! This advice has taken me from Australia to Germany and now to the UK. I get to live my dream life and wouldn't change it for the world. I fit the cliche of finding myself living overseas. When you do this, you allow yourself to be surrounded by ‘your people’ and build a supportive international family.

“I would probably tell the younger Alecia: ‘Don't hold on to the notion of how you think your life ought to be. Pick the targets for what you want, do everything in your power to make it happen but then let go and see what happens. It's all going to work out. Not how you pictured it, but just how you needed it.’”

Dr. Alecia-Jane Twigger is an Australian-born Research Associate working on breast development and cancer at the University of Cambridge

Darcy Weaver (54748427)
Darcy Weaver (54748427)

“My grandmother used to say ‘the best way to judge someone’s character is by how they treat others’. I find it’s absolutely true in both a personal and professional sense. This advice helps me to surround myself with caring and supportive people. She also said ‘always wear green, everyone looks good in green’, which is a solid tip!

“My advice would be: ‘There are more possibilities to channel your passions into a career than you may think. Identify the things that you love, then seek out volunteer and paid positions that allow you to bring that enthusiasm to life.’”

Darcy Weaver is Associate Director of AMAZE International at Advocates for Youth, working to expand comprehensive sexuality education to a global audience

Anne Beamish (54748456)
Anne Beamish (54748456)

“I believe that the best way to create real change for the good is to get involved with something on a local level. It helps you feel connected, part of the community and you really can make things happen. We can all feel pretty powerless in the face of national or even global issues, but being active in something you feel strongly about - whatever that might be - in the place where you live, gives you the power to make a difference.”

Anne Beamish is the founder of Indie Cambridge, connecting local independent businesses through its membership community; promoting the great stuff they do through its magazine, The Indie; and sharing skills and knowledge through the Indie Academy

Calixta Killander, Flourish. Picture: Keith Heppell. (54748453)
Calixta Killander, Flourish. Picture: Keith Heppell. (54748453)

“The most valuable advice I have ever been given was by my first biodynamic teacher, and that was that no matter how busy you are, sit still for 10 minutes somewhere different on the farm each day and observe.It's amazing how much you can learn from being still and observing.

“With what I have learned, I would tell my younger self to try to be more generous with your time, particularly to friends and relatives in other stages of life. Nothing is more valuable than memories of time spent with others.”

Calixta Killander, a regenerative farmer and the owner and founder of Flourish Produce, took on her Linton acreage after spending six and a half years working on organic farms stateside, learning about everything from tropical fruit and nut production in Hawaii to farming 150 acres in Massachusetts using only Belgian Draft horses

Alex Collis (54748425)
Alex Collis (54748425)

“I had a really wonderful teacher at school – Dr Turner – who always used to tell me not to get too comfortable, and to never take the easy path. To always challenge myself. Her words really stuck with me, and are a big part of the reason why I’ve done so many different things in my life. I definitely like a challenge.

“I would say not to worry so much about getting people to like you. Some will, some won’t – and that’s absolutely fine. You don’t ever need to apologise for who you are. Oh, and also – make sure you’re as well informed as possible. Especially politically.”

Alex Collis is a Humanist Celebrant and Deputy Leader (Statutory) and Executive Councillor for Open Spaces, Sustainable Food and Community Wellbeing on Cambridge City Council

Kirsty Smith, CBM UK CEO (54748431)
Kirsty Smith, CBM UK CEO (54748431)

“Of all the pieces of advice I have been given or read, the one that resonates most is to recognise that you are responsible for your life. This saves a great deal of misdirected energy and regret. Accepting that no-one else can make you happy - or unhappy - and that you cannot control the actions - or fulfilment - of others increases the control you have over your future. It also helps you to listen more than you speak; always sensible.

“If I could give any advice to my younger self or younger people today, I would offer two things: be bold in decision making but compassionate in execution. Plan in decades. Think in years. Work in months. Live in days.”

Kirsty Smith is Chief Executive of Christian Blind Mission UK, which works in the world’s poorest places to prevent blindness, improve health and transform the lives of people with disabilities

Janine Tandy (54748430)
Janine Tandy (54748430)

“The advice I would love to offer my younger self is this: be gentle with yourself, be tender with where you are. The reason why these words are so potent to me is that we are so hard on ourselves - we tend to judge, compare, critique and/or feel as if somehow who we are isn't good enough. Most of us aren't taught how to befriend our bodies, our hearts, minds and our experiences. But it is never too late to change those narratives. It begins with inviting compassion and awareness and regular mindfulness practices.

“The best advice I was given was from my mentor, Ty Powers, and this was to be open to possibilities. Essentially this teaching is about opening up our perspective, not having set agendas, expectations or narrow constructs on how we think life should be or look.

“Everything is impermanent, our emotions, our bodies and the world we live in - nothing remains the same. So if we can be open and receptive then possibilities are infinite! Possibility isn't an empty container but rather it is a mindset that is pregnant with potential.”

Janine Tandy is a mindfulness teacher and health coach


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