21st century feminism

Monday, 22 March 2010

Frankly Brilliant #1 Camila Batmanghelidjh

Camila Batmanghelidjh is an amazing woman. She has singlehandedly created the children’s charity Kids Company and helped thousands of disadvantaged children and young people in London.

Her story is well rehearsed. Born into a wealthy Iranian family, as a child she never travelled without two bodyguards. At aged 9 she announced she wanted to start an orphanage. When she reached 11, she was sent over to a private girls’ school in the UK. Tragedy struck when her father, back in Tehran, was imprisoned during the Iranian revolution in 1979. Because of a kind bank manager, her fees were maintained, but she was unable to return home and family were unable to join her. She was left alone, with only her brother, in London. After time her mother arrived, via France, but until University she believed her father had been killed.

Her childhood experiences were formative. Stranded in London, without any income she began to work with children in her school holidays to earn extra money. Slowly she built up her skills and reputation, and ended up offering private problem solving to rich parents who didn’t want their children seen publically in a clinic. During her late twenties, her concern and energy began to be directed at some of the most desperate and poverty-stricken children and families in the UK’s capital. In 1996 she formed Kids Company. 14 years later it provides help and support to 13,500 children. It has a staff of 336 and 5,600 volunteers. 

What is particularly inspirational is Camila’s can-do/will-do form of pragmatism. Faced with dire situations, terrible stories of neglect and abuse, rising youth crime and violence, she continues to believe anything is possible, even change.

In a recent interview in Vogue magazine she states:

“It’s terrible, it’s like being in a warzone. But it’s all fixable. We just need to change the model slightly. We need to help one million children who are at risk. We need to set up street level centres where staff function as surrogate parents, and we need them to be open seven days a week. The kids should know they have a place to go and we should take care of them.”

Her ethos is love. Camila Batmanghelidjh created a new model of social work which she has proven to be overwhelmingly successful. 

For more have a look at...

March 2010 Guardian Debate 

Aug 2009 How to Make a Difference interview

Jan 2009 Independent interview

Frankly Brilliant is a feature I’m starting here at Frankly Feminist. In it I hope to highlight some of the inspirational stories of women who have made a difference, taken a stand, swam against the tide, triumphed in the face of adversity etc etc. You get the picture!

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