The 25 Women project: stories and storytellers
28 March, 2021
This project is a celebration of the strides made by women psychiatrists and a call for further change as we push forward with a gender equality agenda. We wanted to celebrate the roles women psychiatrists play and put their experiences and work centre stage.
Our 25 women represent the diversity, experience and triumphs of women psychiatrists across the country. Our 25 women have had the courage to own their stories and to share them.
Within the College 45% of psychiatrists are women. These women come from different ethnic backgrounds and belong to a variety of grades. Their stories have tended to be hidden. If people have been aware of the stories of women psychiatrists, they have tended to be unidimensional, i.e. we know only aspects of their stories. When we see women celebrated in psychiatry what is visible to us is a professional persona. What gets lost is the personal story which may contain vulnerability and emotion that would enable us to identify with them. This then leaves us feeling disempowered and it fosters stereotypes.
Stories are so powerful because they convey values, beliefs, attitudes and social and cultural norms and they in turn shape our perceptions of reality. Stories provide narratives that we live by – individuals that we can identify with and journeys which inspire us and which we aspire to take. If we are repeatedly fed with the same narrative our sense of ourselves, our own potential and our belief about how our future can be shrunk.
In a TED talk, the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explains that stories are defined by the principle of “nkoli”, a noun loosely translating as to greater than another. Unidimensional stories perpetuate power structures and create stereotypes. The problems with stereotypes are not that they are untrue, but they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.
Hence a very powerful tool in bringing about change is to change the stories that are publicly available to us as these changes the way we tell stories to ourselves.
This was the case with the #MeToo movement. As women in the media reclaimed their stories, women all over the world were encouraged to reflect on their own stories and the way in which they told them. What was once regarded as women’s own faults and shortcoming is now understood as being due to systemic problems. In the case of the recent tragic killing of Sarah Everard, this has helped women from all over the country express their anger and grief through a powerful protest.
Stories matter and can be powerful agents of systemic change. They can empower and humanise. Our 25 women in the last five weeks have shared personal stories that capture adversity and vulnerability. In order to be where they are today, they have shown strength and courage to overcome all the challenges in their journey.
They are transformative stories because they give us the permission to be vulnerable, to be human, to be courageous and to show up and do meaningful work. They allow us to be real women who can be imperfect and who can connect to all the different parts of ourselves.
I am honoured to introduce you to five amazing women who through their stories allow us to get to know them. They are extraordinary women who empower us to create our own multi-dimensional stories as individuals, as psychiatrists and as women. Let me introduce you to Dr Eimer Philbin Bowman, Dr Anu Priya, Dr Oyepeju Raji, Dr Roshelle Ramkisson and Dr Raman Rashwany.