What It's Like to Live in the Place with the Most Young Women in the UK
We explored the pastel streets of Wandsworth, London, home to the most women aged 20 to 29 in the UK.
Photography by Imogen Freeland.
The first thing you notice about the borough of Wandsworth is that the paint jobs are pristine and everything smells like fresh sourdough in the way that only beautiful middle class areas do. The second thing is the babies. In the middle of the day, there are prams attached to nearly everybody. After school, the streets are swamped with little blazers and emblemed sweatshirts. The epicentre of Wandsworth is Northcote Road, nicknamed "Nappy Valley" because it's catnip for young, affluent families. If you've got the money and want to settle down, this area of the capital is a slither of heaven.
A recent study found that Wandsworth is the place in the UK with the highest proportion of young women to men between the ages of 20 to 29. Ahead of International Women's Day, we went all over the borough, from Clapham Junction to Wandsworth Common, to speak to some of Wandsworth's women.
"I grew up in Cyprus but I've been in this country for 16 years now. A long time ago, when life in Cyprus was hard and there were economic problems, I visited London and that trip made me decide to move here after graduating university. It's much better to live here, especially for my three children. My mum lives in Cyprus and I don't see her often, only talking over the internet. I miss her so much. In this country I think there's hardly any difference between men and women. The men here are kind and more gentle. In Cyprus and Turkey men are raised to be harder – men are men – and I don't know if that's good for anyone. Whatever country you are a woman in, your ideas and heart are really the same; it's just your looks that are different and how you are treated by society."
"I have a house just over the common, so twice a day I come here to walk the dogs. I knew this area had the most babies but I didn't know it had an awful lot of young women. I suppose the most important thing that being a woman has allowed me to do in my life is have my children. I absolutely love them. I've had a nice life, I've very much enjoying being a woman – I've had three husbands, which is probably a bit unsuitable [laughs]. Young women today probably think it's a bore being not totally equal to men yet. In my day, I didn't really mind, but my daughters are particularly aware of that fact. Undoubtedly, being a woman has stopped me doing things – it allowed you to be slightly more cowardly because you didn't have to earn a living. What I wanted to do as a child was write, and I'm sure – had if I'd been forced to earn a living writing – I'd be more satisfied now. But because I had children and husbands who were quite demanding at the time, they needed my attention and me to do things. Now it's a bit late. Never mind."
"It surprises me that it's the area with the most women. I never really think about being a woman myself, so that might be why. My role models are female, though: my grandmas. They're both hardworking and came over here from the Caribbean when they were fairly young. One was a nurse and the other was doing the odd job here and there, but working to provide for her family, and eventually got all her daughters over here. The struggle of how they worked so hard is inspiring. I have six sisters so I know a thing or two about women. I like the idea of showing my son how to treat us. By seeing what I do for him, when he gets his wife or girlfriend he'll be respectful to them and care for them. If I instil that now, as he becomes a man, hopefully I taught him well. Being a mother is such a beautiful thing."
"I love that there are loads of women around here. I love being a woman, too – I'm very feminine and right now is all about being independent, for me and for women. I feel like we're lucky in terms of having kids; we get to bond with the child more than men and have that true link with the child. Right now I can do the same for my puppy. I've never had a role model, but I've been one for myself; kept my head down, teaching myself things. My sister is younger so she learnt a lot from me, and now that's shifted. I look up to her to a certain extent because she's a strong woman and has had my niece. She's my best friend and there's nothing like that relationship between sisters. I own a beauty salon around here – obviously that's female-orientated, full of women, and I much prefer working with them and being around them. My salon is called Queen's Beauty, I've almost purposely done it just to scare men away."
"My mum was the main breadwinner growing up, and had us. There's an expectation that women do as much as men do now, plus everything they were expected to do before. There's this myth that women can do it all, and that adds pressure, and it doesn't necessarily make things better for women. In some ways I've done the opposite to what most people in my generation have done, in that I went to uni and instead of thinking, 'I'm going to have an epic career,' I found a job I quite like where it's not a big deal for me to leave when I want a family. That's partly because I've seen my mum try to be the woman doing it all, and I've learnt from that you do have to make choices. Men should be making those types of choices, too, but they aren't. I don't think men understand how much women give up. Generalising here, I think men have a tendency to become accidentally selfish where women don't. Women will be more likely to back down from things and think about how actions affect other people. Men take it for granted that things will be OK and that people will speak up if it's not. I like that about women."