To my God-daughter, on International Women’s Day 2017

Dear Gabriella,
I always knew you would one day be a strong woman; you don’t grow up with two older brothers, tall genes, surrounded by strong women, and turn into a shrinking flower. I’m delighted however that you started on the strength thing so young (very few people can beat me in an arm wrestle, young lady!).
I hope you know that today is International Women’s Day, and that you know how amazing a young woman you are growing up to be.
You’re growing up in a world where many argue that women have ‘never had it so good’. And to an extent, they’re right. But 70% of the 1.3 billion people in poverty worldwide are women. So we have a long way to go, and I know that you will help get us there.
Make the most of school. You don’t have to enjoy every moment of your education (my hatred for maths is now an ingrained part of my character), but you should squeeze out every advantage from it that you possibly can. Not simply because so many women and girls never get the chance to benefit from an education (although that is true, and as good a reason as any), but because we need educated women in the future who take opportunities, who stand up for those who can’t stand for themselves, who will be our ambassadors to the future. Because those women and girls who don’t get an education will need your help, support, and experience to ensure that this changes for the next generation. Sorry kid, but you’ve got work to do.
You love Harry Potter. Be Hermione. I know you can do that, because I know how determined you are.
Talking of work; embrace the word ‘can’t’. It is a glorious springboard you can use to propel yourself. Every time you hear the word ‘can’t’ – that is a golden opportunity to prove someone wrong. I want to tell you that there is little in the world more satisfying than being prejudged on your gender or appearance and then being able to prove that person wrong. But there is something more satisfying, and that is being allowed to do your thing, without anyone prejudging you. I wish I could tell you that this will always be the case, but it won’t. So enjoy proving people wrong, Ella, enjoy educating them for next time, and when the day comes where you are just expected to be awesome, regardless of your gender – GO BE AWESOME. Goodness knows you’ll have earned it.
Many women ‘settle’. They raise children, they create a home, and that is their focus. THAT IS FANTASTIC IF THAT IS WHAT YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO DO. And if that’s what you want to do, Excellent Ella, go do that. I will be the first person angling for cuddles at the baptisms of your babies (in the same way I was when you were the baby), and I shall expect to stay in your guest room, and bring much wine. Many of the best women I know have done this, and if you are happy, then I will be right behind you, fighting anyone who tries to belittle you for choosing that. But Ella, if you have doubts, if you feel remotely ‘pressured’ or ‘expected’ to do anything you aren’t sure you want to spend your life doing, then DON’T. You get one life, one only, and you have every right to live it your way. It won’t be easy. You never saw the all-nighters or the tears while I was at medical school. You didn’t overhear the panicked phone calls to my family in the early hours, doubting my ability. I had no Science A levels. Everyone raised their eyebrows when I said that I was going to be a doctor. Many questioned my decision to go back to uni. So did I, to be honest. But I bloody did it. And if i can, I have absolutely no doubt that you will do the same.
Make mistakes, make as many as it takes, but make sure you learn from them. If someone judges you on those mistakes, then that’s their problem – because you will find better people to spend time with, who will support you regardless, and not having you in their lives anymore will be their loss.
Hold onto your amazingly open mind. You are the only person who has never mentioned that I now use a wheelchair, or a stick to walk. That’s not important to you, because frankly, you have so many more important things to consider, like art, Harry Potter, and tree climbing (thanks for not laughing too much when I got stuck. That’s my girl).
You are determined. You are strong. You are everything I knew you would be and more. Embrace your quirks, your creativity, your ludicrously contagious laugh. Because they are what makes you you, and you are so incredible.
I don’t know how much you remember of my brother Gareth. He was a far better godparent to you than I could ever be, even without the title. He thought you were wonderful (as ever, he was right). He loved to buy Lego for you. The idea that Lego ‘was for boys’ never even occurred to him. He knew you loved it, and so he loved to buy it for you. He saw your potential, your determination, and he loved you for that, as I do.
Go kick some patriarchal backside, Gabriella (I’ll explain The Patriarchy to you soon. I may be drinking gin while I do it). You can travel, learn, achieve, create, teach, lead, and innovate. I cannot wait to see the route you take, and I will be right there, applauding you, pouring the wine (when you’re old enough to drink it).


Your Godmother


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