Anna Smith comes with a strong leadership background in charities working for women’s issues. Here she faces a quickfire quiz by way of introduction!
I say Bristol, you say…
Diversity, excitement, cycling. Also homelessness, drugs… I’m from Yorkshire originally but I love the ‘city feel’. I find Bristol vibrant, it’s got a lot going for it, it’s alternative, it’s creative. But its diversity is good and bad – it has some very poor areas.
What are you like?
I’m happiest when I’m active – walking, playing hockey, listening to music, going to the theatre or cinema and of course being with my family. I hate to be shut indoors! I’ve got four exciting and challenging children – Nathan’s grown up; Rosa, Maya and Thomas are still at home. My husband Oliver works in child protection in Bristol. He’s been incredibly supportive in my last job when I was in London a lot. So we’re looking forward to a time where we’ll be together more.
What’s led you to this point in your life here with One25?
I’ve always been involved in the voluntary sector. I started my working life advising young people in Hackney who had no qualifications, supporting them back into training and work. I was a director and consultant for ten years before then becoming CEO at Survive (5 years) and then Advance (2 years).
"I’ve always been interested in women’s health, I’ve always been a feminist, interested in human rights, people’s rights."-
Survive works to counteract violence against women and girls and make it less of a hidden issue. Advance’s work is around women involved in the criminal justice system, helping rehabilitate them and end re-offending, and specialising in working with women at high risk of domestic abuse. Of course, coming to One25 is a challenge for me because it’s a new area of work. But it feels like a like a very natural progression, to continue working for women’s hidden issues to be addressed.
What difference does faith make to you and in the world?
To me personally it’s about being a better person. I believe in a God that is loving to everyone, who has compassion for the women that we work with, and believe that we should have that compassion also.
"There are people in this world with so much less privilege and choice than many others. We should be changing that."-
So I’m pleased to come to an organisation that embodies my faith – that realises love, compassion, support are the way to human fulfilment. An organisation which is for everyone – people of all faiths and none.
What’s the biggest challenge for small charities at the moment?
To keep funding coming in. There’s a model here at One25 that works – we’re respected for it – but we can’t do that on thin air. We’re still in the world of cuts and austerity. The challenge is not only convincing funders that we need to exist at the level that we do, possibly at a greater capacity, but also of the idea of preventative work and the length of time you have to work with people. They might have really complex issues, might step back and go forward and back and forward but if our support is still here and they want to engage then they’ll get there.
Are there any changes on the horizon you can see?
There’s always a place for putting things on the table. We have a female prime minister who’s said that she’s committed to tackling violence against women and girls. There’s potential to create the space for change to happen. I want to find out what opportunities we have and where they lie so that we can continue to expand One25’s relevance.
And what do you hope for?
I hope for a better acknowledgement of the realities of the way women live when they’re street sex workers. It’s incredibly hidden but these issues need to be on the national agenda.
"I want there to be conversations about what we are doing as a country to support vulnerable women."-
We need conversations about the choices that they have and the ways that we should be helping them move on. I want to achieve a higher profile for One25, to maintain its excellent reputation, and to ensure that we’re reaching all the women we can. We need to teach society that these are women of worth.
Thanks Anna. Exciting times! A warm welcome from everybody here.