Monica Lewis is a retired teacher and current volunteer facilitator for Habitat's schools programme. She shared her story with us to raise her voice for women who are still fighting for the right to shelter.
‘Home’ relates to the people and qualities that we associate with the building that we live in, rather than the construction materials or the size of our house or abode. Home, therefore, can have warm and cheering feelings associated with it but, as we know, it can also be linked to sadness, fear and transience.
As I look back at a childhood spent in post-war London, I am aware that, for many of my family and friends, ‘home’ had some of those negative thoughts associated with it. There were still air-raid shelters on the local park area, a crater next door where a bomb had fallen and grimly grey buildings surrounded us. My father had come to London from Ireland in search of work; my mother had experienced evacuation, her family and education hugely disrupted by WW2. How hard they then worked to ensure that my siblings and I had a secure home where we could benefit from the post-war peace, growing prosperity, improved diet, continuity of education and, above all, a home in which we felt loved. Who owned the building that we lived in, whether our clothes were trendy or our furniture first or second-hand mattered little.
My parents’ priority was that we had a sense of security in which we could grow, knowing that they would be there for us, in our home, at the end of every day. They hoped that we, in our turn, would pass on a sense of safety and love to our own families, in our homes and in whatever contexts we lived and worked in our adult lives.
Those same hopes are reflected in all the situations that Habitat works throughout the world. So many people lack the very basics required for security and growth. So many women are denied the rights to provide these fundamentals for their families. Homes should be where life, health, happiness starts.
This October, as part of the inaugural One World Festival NI, Habitat will launch a photo exhibition, to highlight the inequalities in housing faced by women around the world.