Here we are, once again, in the @WorkHubs meeting room with yet another fantastic member to interview. Today, we are speaking to Carole, who among many things is an intersectional feminist, a low-key aspiring filmmaker and a passionate traveller! Carole is a conscious global citizen and interested in gender and race equality. Join us as we talk about growing up all over the world, international development and western superiority, as well as the dreary outlook of commuters on the London Underground…
How did you come to join The Girls Network?
Well, I moved to London last year in the summer and was looking for a job. I really wanted to find something that was socially impactful that was to do with something that I’m really passionate about.
I was part of this graduate scheme called Worthwhile, which tries to set you up with smaller organisations which have a very positive social impact. So they told me about this job. I was very excited about it…
I definitely consider myself a feminist – an intersectional feminist. So it was perfect. I thought The Girls Network sounded great. And it is!
I definitely consider myself a feminist – an intersectional feminist.
Were you always interested in feminist issues?
Yeah, definitely. I think university really secured that. I did Anthropology and so I did a lot about race, gender and identity. They were all things that I had an interest in before, but I had much more of a language for it after going to uni.
What is your role at The Girls Network?
So I’m the Programme Coordinator. I kind of oversee a lot of the logistics and admin over all our regions. So it’s quite a supportive role, but it means a lot of things are time-sensitive.
Is there a time where you felt like you had to follow your own dream, instead of someone else’s?
I think that’s kind of a daily thing, right? I definitely want to do things in the future. There’s lots of projects that I would like to work on and develop skills for, which would be more personal.
…What sort of projects are you thinking about?
So I’m thinking about – and have been for a while – creating film and videos around what I’m interested in, so probably around gender and race.
That’s the kind of thing that I really enjoy watching. So it’s something that I’m interested in but I don’t have the skills to make a movie. It’s also just working – i don’t have the time for it.
You know, ‘one day I will…’. But yeah, loads of ambitions and goals around that. It would be nice to just create something that’s yours right?
Is there a time where you felt you had to work on feminist issues?
For me it’s kind of what drives me. It’s great that my job plays into that, so I do get a lot of satisfaction from working for The Girls Network.
So you’re interested in film. What are your other interests and curiosities?
Well… I love watching TV – that’s one of my favourites!
But yeah, I like a bit of rock-climbing here and there especially outdoors.
I love travelling. It’s how I’ve grown up – living in lots of different countries. So that’s one thing that I’m super passionate about and I hope that my work takes me to different places.
What places have you lived and grown up?
I’m half Kenyan, half English and I was born in Kenya. I moved here for a little bit, then I’ve lived in Cameroon, Ghana and Vietnam… and then here again.
Wow! So you were born in Kenya and moved to England when you were…
Cameroon, when I was six.
Okay just tell me the whole story…
So you want me to map my life for you…! Okay, so until I was five I lived in Kenya, and then in the UK for a year. It was just me and my mum – she’s British, but she hates living here – so we came back and she was like ‘I need to leave’.
She does international development so she got a job based in Cameroon for a two-year contract. After that we moved to Ghana for a six-year contract. We then left Ghana when I was thirteen to move to Vietnam and I was there until I was about seventeen.
Why did you move to Vietnam?
So it was all to do with my mum’s job. Basically they offer her a project which spans over a certain number of years. She works in the climate change sector so it’s generally in “developing” countries.
Then, after Vietnam I came to the UK. And I’ve mostly been here since… and I don’t sound so happy about it!
If you could choose anywhere, where would you go?
I don’t know – it’s tough because when it comes to work, as I said, I want to make a social impact. But I don’t want to be one of those people who comes from the west, with all this western superiority and gets jobs over the local people and can’t speak the local language and can’t do this and that.
I want to make a social impact. But I don’t want to be one of those people who comes from the west, with all this western superiority.
So I’m very conscious of that. But at the same time there’s no English speaking countries that I want to go to. So probably Kenya. I mean, I don’t speak Swahili but it’s on my list to learn it.
So it sounds like you have a wider outlook of the world than most people because you’ve travelled so much. Would you say so?
Yes and no. It’s difficult because I’m very conscious that I’ve lived quite a privileged life. All those places I’ve lived in I went to international schools, and it’s quite a different world.
It can be super insular, especially expat communities in different countries. I’ve definitely experienced some very problematic things when it comes to that international development bubble of expats.
It’s kind of gross actually. And that makes me not want to be that person.
What do you mean? What’s not good about it?
I think there’s a lot of inequality. Especially within international development – even though it is a sector that is trying to make a positive change.
When it’s done in a way that’s perpetuating western superiority and in a top-down way, that really frustrates me. I know it’s not always like that but with big organisations it tends to be.
It’s also just personal conversations I’ve had with white people who are working in “developing” countries. They get treated better, get bigger salaries than local people, they get bigger houses, they get people who do their dishes for them, people who do their gardening for them and … they feel like royalty.
And as you speak to them and have these conversations with them, you kind of get that sense from them – the feeling that they’re way too big for their boots.
Do you have anyone you look up to?
Yeah loads, definitely. I definitely look up to my Mum – she’s great and always been a really positive role model for me. She’s amazing, super hard-working and she’s given me loads of opportunities.
There’s also lots of people in the public sphere who I look up to. For example, the author Chimamanda Adichie and, in regards to film, there’s this filmmaker based in London – Cecile Emeke. She makes these really cool documentaries, where she follows people of colour, who talk about all kinds of things that are affecting them.
Who’s the author?
Chimamanda Adichie. You have to read her books if you haven’t! Half of a Yellow Sun, Purple Hibiscus and Americanah is her most recent novel. It’s so good – I really recommend it.
Imagine we’re sitting here a year from now, celebrating what a great year it has been for you. What have you accomplished?
So I can make stuff up? I am now Prime Minister of the UK…
That’s interesting actually… What would you change if you were the Prime Minister?
Everything…? No… I say that as a complete joke – I would hate to be Prime Minister! Politics is something I’d never want to be a part of, because I feel like there’s very little you can actually change.
Change happens from the grassroots!
But yeah, I’d like to have made an impact on at least one person’s life. Maybe see one of the girls from The Girls Network go on to do something amazing, which is going to happen. I know that because they’re all so great.
And maybe made a film.
Cool! What would you make a film about?
Okay, so I really want to do one at the moment, which is just people’s faces on the underground. I think it’s really depressing, but in a funny way…
Everyone’s faces coming down the escalator completely deadpan… It’s so sad! Everyone is crushed like sardines… Somebody’s armpit in your face… It’s so unfortunate when it’s you, but kind of amusing at the same time. It’s like we’re just ants following these pre-determined paths completely straight-faced. Everyone looks so miserable… it’s so sad!
At the end of your career what would you like to have seen?
I mean you don’t really remember the day-to-day when you’re looking back.
It’s just something that I’m starting to see with this monotonous everyday coming into the office. You do this and you do that… and then when you ask yourself “What did I do three months ago at this point? What happened?” – you have no idea. So it’s the bigger things that count, right?
It’s about connections made I think – positive relationships. It’s really about the people. And then it’s about making an impact. So those would be my two things – people and impact.
It’s really about the people. And then it’s about making an impact.
And maybe change as well. More equality. If I could help the world to be a little more equal, then that would be amazing.