January 6, 2020
Why I’d like you to listen to my story and support my ‘Woman Army’ – by Colette
Our trustee, Colette, has given an honest and powerful interview to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Nihal Arnthanayake about her life. The interview first aired on Nihal’s show on 6 January and is available to listen again on BBC Sounds. Here Colette writes about what this means to her and why she wants you to support her ‘Woman Army’.
I was recently asked what labels I would use to describe myself. My answer? Authentic, powerful and compassionate. Pretty awesome words I think you’ll agree. But as I explained to the person who asked me this, it has taken me many, many years, a lot of hard work and a whole lot of self-reflection to be able to see myself as these things. So who was asking me such a tough question anyway? It was BBC 5Live journalist Nihal Arthanayake during an in-depth interview about my life which will air today (Monday 6 January) on his show.
I’m asking you to please tune into my life story. I’ll warn you, it’s not an easy listen and it wasn’t easy to tell. But I am ready to share it with you all on my terms and in my words. Trust me, it’s very hard to condense a lifetime into twenty minutes, but the interview covers a lot of my experiences including growing up in an abusive household, being taken into care at the age of 12, my decision to start sex working on the streets and my struggles with addiction to heroin and crack.
It also covers the turning point period of my life when I decided I was ready to be ‘fixed’ and how I worked hard on myself to make this happen with the support of who I like to call my ‘ woman army’.
Part of my ‘woman army’ was an organisation called MASH. One of the reasons I am sharing my story is to give something back to this charity which supported me for more than 20 years. I’ve now got an opportunity to support them by giving people all across the country an insight into their work and why their existence is so vitally important to women in Manchester who sex work.
As I tell Nihal in the piece; “MASH didn’t try to fix me. They never judged me. All they ever wanted to do was know that I was safe and my needs were met. After 20 years when I decided to fix myself…MASH were there.”
Women who sex work so rarely get the opportunity to be heard, listened to and believed. Today my voice will be heard on thousands of radios up and down the country. I am speaking not just for me, but for all those working women who don’t feel safe, who are living with the devastating effects of trauma and violence or who feel stigmatised every day.
Unless you have walked in our shoes, then you don’t know. I wonder what words these women would use to label themselves?
Sharing my story with you is a big milestone for me. To celebrate this I have launched my own fundraising campaign to ensure my ‘Woman Army’ can always be there to keep women safe.
Please donate here if you can and support my ‘Woman Army’. Thank you so much.