Born to Caribbean parents in the UK, I spent my formative years growing up in rural Jamaica. These were the best years of my childhood. In sharp contrast to the cold and structured life in the UK, as a child in the Caribbean life was carefree, safe and involved roaming outdoors without boundaries. Everyone knew who you were and on returning home, our parents miraculously knew where we had been before we had a chance to tell them – village life!
Despite being a paradise for me as a child, life on the island was very difficult for a lot of women and it was during this time I witnessed close up the entrepreneurial spirit of women. Without access to jobs and with children to feed and school, mothers would congregate outside the school gates at lunchtime to sell lunch items to the school children, like salt fish and dumplings, red pea soup and sweet coconut snacks, that they had made that morning. This was very different to the school canteen lunch I was used to in Berkshire, England! Late in the evenings I would hear the blaring horns from trucks going by our house piled high with produce and see women sleeping on top of the cargo. I remember asking my dad where they were going this late. They were heading to the markets in the towns and cities across the island to sell the produce they had grown on their small plots of land. They would sleep on the truck as it made its way throughout the night to the markets and be able to set up their stalls early the next morning. For other women, receiving remittance from a family member or loved one from America or the UK, was their only source of income. They had to use this money wisely as they knew any day this money could stop.
I eventually returned to the UK to continue my education. I qualified as a lawyer in both New York and England and have spent over 20 years working in investment banking across New York, London and Singapore.
Unfortunately, when I return to rural Jamaica as an adult, it saddens me to see not much has changed for many of the women. These women and their small businesses, despite their hard work, have not progressed. Having greater access to banking services and finances would alter the blueprint for women like these and provide the traction needed to propel them to the next level, that hard work alone cannot achieve.
I have seen in my working life how the provision of financial services have transformed ideas into globally recognised brands and have made big businesses even more successful. I have no doubt witnessing the strength and tenacity of women in my early years fortified my belief that women are capable of pulling off anything they put their minds to. It is for these reasons I am excited to be on this journey and wholeheartedly support Lucy’s mission.
Artist: Annisa Fadlila, Indonesia