23rd February 2009
Article: Georgina Prichard (Yr 12)
Website sub-editor: Natalie Dragic (Yr 12)
One inspirational figure can be all it takes to provide a driving force for someone. This was very much the case when Old North Londoner Holly Pelham (1988) came to the school to give a talk on her work at the Rights of Women organisation.
For Holly, it was not just one but seven different women who, together, inspired her to leave the Bar Human Rights Committee and work at Rights of Women, an organisation committed to informing, educating and empowering women on the law and their legal rights.
Having studied history at Edinburgh University after her time at Canons, Holly then went on to live in Egypt working as a journalist before entering the legal profession. However, she always had a fascination with the stories of other women and we were lucky enough to hear about some of her experiences when she came in and gave a very uplifting talk at the school on February 12th.
Her talk was centered around seven female role models very close to her, each of whom taught her different personal qualities.
The first woman mentioned suffered domestic violence and took her partner to court, showing a great deal of individual courage. Through her second role model, Holly taught us always to challenge stereotypes after she met a female preacher in Egypt who she expected to be very conservative and reserved, but with whom she ended up having extensive and rather personal conversations!
Her third inspiration was an Oscar-winning actress; although there is a general assumption that celebrity women have a negative influence on other females, (which in some cases of course is true) Holly discovered after having dinner with this lady that her genuine curiosity and interest in others, came across as a true asset and source of inspiration.
Holly’s best friend taught her the importance of passion in ideas, people and life. A five time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and also her fifth inspiration, taught her humility and her grandmother represented the need for integrity.
Holly's final inspiration is an asylum seeker from Kenya who fled 6 years ago following brutal attacks. She has sought support from Rights of Women and describes the life of an asylum seeker as being 'disabled'which has left her distraught. From this woman, we learn how important it is to try and make a difference to others as, for them, it can be life changing.
Having always loved listening to women's experiences, Holly knew that Rights of Women would be a great organisation for her to work at. During her time at North London Collegiate, the school comprised of many strong minded and willed women and only one male teacher! The school gave her the sense that anything was possible for women and this feeling has stayed with her throughout her life.
This message remains within the school today and the message that Holly left us with was to "do what you love, have courage in pursuing it and be prepared to take risks."
Rights of Women: www.rightsofwomen.org.uk