As a 7-year-old girl entering the gates of Sacred Heart Convent Melaka for the first time, I had my first encounter with an amazing woman. Although my mother and grandmothers were powerful women, it wasn't apparent to me as a child.
Mrs. Gifford, or Ms. Pereira as I first knew her, immediately stood out as an inspiration. As the headmistress of our primary school, her walk exuded power and confidence, leaving an indelible impression on my young mind. At that moment, I knew that's what I wanted to become.
Our direct association spanned six years, from ages 7 to 12, during which several impactful incidents shaped the leader in me.
👧 𝐈 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐧𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐨𝐨 𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐭𝐥𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐡𝐞𝐫.
Even at the age of 7, she would visit our class and inquire about what we were learning. I, being a bold child, once complained about my teacher's methods. Mrs. Gifford took my complaint seriously, assuring me she would address it with my teacher. This experience instilled in me the belief that if I saw everyone as just another person, I need not fear authority figures. She taught me that people are just people.
📏 𝐒𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐚𝐧 𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐳𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐜𝐨𝐚𝐜𝐡.
In second grade, I managed to evade homework for an entire semester. When caught by my parents and summoned to Mrs. Gifford's office, I was prepared for the worst. However, she looked into my eyes, asked about my aspirations, and discussed alternative career paths if academics didn't pan out. Leaving her office, I felt more confident than ever, realizing that mistakes were opportunities for growth. I told her boldly,
"In 4 years I will see you here again as Head Girl of this school."
👩🏫 𝐖𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐬 𝐄𝐪𝐮𝐚𝐥𝐬
Four years later, as the Head Girl of the school (yes, it happened !), I found myself back in her office planning the annual teachers' day event. Traditionally, only the Head Girl - as the project lead and the Principal were involved in the planning, ensuring it the day long event was a surprise to the other teachers. Mrs. Gifford listened to my ambitious plans without hesitation, only questioning how I would execute them. She allowed me the autonomy to lead the project, intervening only when necessary.
I am not sure I would be the woman I am today without these extraordinary examples of Women leaders so early in life. I have so much gratitude for so many women who have shown me different paths in leadership. Mrs. Gifford and her Red mini minor will always remain the first