PROJECT #BEYOUROWN WOMAN: DAWN-MARIA FRANCE
Dawn-Maria France has long campaigned and written about equality, diversity, women’s issues, child trafficking, the rise in hate crimes against disabled people, women’s rights, domestic news and so much more for well over 40 years. As a working-class woman of colour Dawn-Maria has had to deal with stereotypes, being told at 13 years old, she was the wrong colour to be a Journalists and to the working class to be part of the media. She has successfully dealt with the complexities of being a woman of colour, dealing with stereotype and racisms within her everyday life and in her media career.
In the past, Dawn-Maria has spoken at women’s event including the highly praised Women of the world conference. She has spoken at other mixed-gender events and women’s events speaking about women and politics, women’s role in society, equality, diversity etc, not only is she an award-winning Editor, she is a broadcast veteran with experience on Sky News, BBC News channel, 5 live, talk radio and she has written for national and international newspapers she is passionate about equality, diversity, children’s rights and women’s issues.
Dawn-Maria France has just penned a female equality children’s book series age 4 -7 called: The adventures of Jenny and Philip’, which features a strong self-assured Yorkshire little girl. The books challenges stereotypes and the second book in the series: The adventures of Jenny and Philip: We all need friends. Includes more males and diversity of character. (Press release attached). High res print quality visuals attached.
Dawn-Maria‘s #BEYOUROWN WOMAN Story
I’m a Caribbean Asian woman, who hails from Yorkshire and sees myself as a citizen of the world. My first experience with campaigning for diversity and equality was as a teenager when I marched against South Africa’s racist Apartheid regime. This was government policy and system of segregation and discrimination on the grounds of race. I would not have been recognised as a citizen with rights under that system, because I have Asian and Caribbean ancestors – this racist system was truly wicked and cruel. I was aware of gender equality and diversity at an early age – as a young girl, observing the diverse friendships my parents enjoyed amongst our neighbours, their work colleagues and the general community. My mum’s female friends of all colours came to her dinner parties to eat Caribbean food and put the world to rights. With that no-nonsense approach of both Caribbean and Yorkshire people, they were always positive and uplifting, allowing me to move forward, even when faced with countless racists and bullying managers. My Yorkshire colleagues and friends have been my rocks and my cheerleaders, showing me that I can be who I want to be, as a woman.
As a young girl, my mom, an artist, surrounded me with uplifting books about black women leaders, showing me what people who looked like me could achieve. This provided the cornerstone of my being – I realised I could achieve my dreams, despite the racism I would face en route – which, believe me, I have certainly faced as a woman of colour. I have found, as I advance in age, that I am stronger than I thought, and when I’m knocked down – as I have often been – I dust myself off and build myself up again, which I have done, countless times. I make my own future and build my own dreams. I have recently written a children’s book – The Adventures of Jenny and Philip – the first of an equality and diversity children’s series and have received much acclaim from around the world. I want to continue writing children’s books that have a positive diversity and gender equality message – as well as continuing my broadcasting and journalism. 2
Being a young person of colour and wanting to look at broadcasting and journalism, I was told by teachers that ‘people like me’ couldn’t make it in those areas, no one wanted to hear from a woman of colour such as me – I was too working class – and not the right colour. I didn’t let these racist comments put me off achieving my dreams – I knew I wanted to make a difference and write about issues other people avoided – encouraging debate on what diversity and gender equality really mean – and how we should all support equality of opportunity. It wasn’t easy to progress in journalism as a woman of colour from a rubbish state school – rather than coming from a private or public school, using the old boy’s network. It was difficult. And yet, I have won awards – and enjoyed many wins along this difficult media road.
I dared to steer my life away from the stereotypes of my culture as a woman of colour – or as my dad put it: “Be a good wife/girlfriend, cook Caribbean food, be quiet and obedient to your husband/partner.” However, my independent artist mom encouraged me to find my own way in the world and to make a difference. This allowed me to grow as a woman, to make my own choices and become an independent, confident woman with her own voice, unafraid to speak – one who is happy in her own skin, who celebrates her culture and loves being herself. When you feel confident inside, it shines through, on the outside.
Self-acceptance can be a tough one. As a society, we are surrounded by social and other media dictating how we should look, what we should say, and that we must keep up with the Joneses. I have learnt to love myself, value what I have achieved, see my strengths and be more positive. I also look at the people who care about me, support me, and encourage me. I create my own standards and success stories without blindly following other people’s ideas of self-acceptance. I have learnt to love myself and be at peace. I am not so hard on myself as I have been at times. I don’t change who I am to fit into society’s expectations of me. I reflect on the person I have become, and I’m happy with the person who looks back at me in the mirror. I have changed the negative messages society has pushed on me as a woman of colour, decoding those messages and replacing them with positive messages of hope, joy and laughter. I don’t complain about what I haven’t got – it’s about what I have got, and the love I receive from the people and family who matter.
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