I have always wanted to be independent and through determination, education and my work I am proud to have achieved this. I am from the gypsy community and, growing up, my family were supportive of me wanting to get an education and saw that I aspired to be more than a stay at home wife and mother. My wider community, however, did see me as odd, unusual and different. 

I have overcome challenges throughout my life. As children from the gypsy community, we were segregated for much or our time at primary school, until gypsy liaison officers fought for our inclusion into the rest of the school. At High School, I felt teachers could be cautious of me, until they actually met the real me, not just my label. I also had the odd occasion where someone would make some sort of derogatory comment towards me but I would brush it off and carry on.

After school I began my training in childcare and education, including working as a level 3 nursery nurse. I remember days of not revealing my address or ethnicity, but when I did eventually let my employers know about my background they accepted me.

When I met my husband, we moved to Lowestoft and I was like a fish out of water. He knew that I had always worked, but he wouldn’t let me go to work with him. So as was becoming the norm for my life, I very carefully and very firmly put my foot down. I soon became supervisor at a local playgroup, a good compromise which worked for us. 

Here I worked very closely with children who I still see around town today, it is great to see that they have thrived.

15 years ago I began working at Pakefield Primary School as a cleaner and lunchtime assistant. Then I was asked if I would support a child with ASD and this was the start of my TA role. I have always felt included here, supported in my career and valued. Sometimes I have been given an extra nudge when needed, just to keep my career evolving.

My children also came to Pakefield as their primary school and were happy from day one which was great to see. They have followed my lead and gone on to High School and college.

Lots more young girls from my community are in school and are going to college. Young women are beginning careers for themselves and it is more accepted in our community that we can do this alongside being wives and mothers. More importantly, we are realising that you do not have to hide your identity or culture anymore, that we have a voice and we are valued.

On International Women’s Day, I hope I can inspire even more inclusion for women from my community and beyond.