Nicola Williams

Nicola Williams

Ombudsman for the Armed forces

My most memorable event, had the added poignancy of my father.   It was when I became a judge.   Once  I found out officially,  I could tell him.   As it turned out he died the following march.  

My ambitions as a child were quite varied. I wanted to be a fashion designer.  Around the age of 10 I was very interested in Astronomy.  Then at A levels, I was  interested in languages with a view to going to the UN to be a translator.

Nicola Williams in interview

The first woman Ombudsman for the Armed Forces.

I had an internationalist experience, right from the off.   Although  I was born here, between ages of 10 and 14 I lived in Guyana.   I had my last year of primary and first year of  secondary schools when we went back to Guyana, which showed me that black people can do anything.  My parents were always telling us about black people who’d achieved things, but they were mostly American.  Cayman is Caribbean but not  Caribbean at the same time.    It’s a very diverse place of  over 100 nationalities.    Going out there on my own, I experienced other cultures.   I also represented my office in visiting other lots of other countries, including new Zealand.

As Ombudsman for the Service Complaints Commission, I will be a woman working with the armed forces, totally independent to them. I’m the second Service Complaints Commissioner, and will be the first  Service Ombudsman.

Nicola Williams becomes the Ombudsman for the armed services

Portrait of new Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces Nicola Williams

Role models.
Growing up, for me, my mum, was a role model.   Both my parents were, but my mum being a woman I identify with her more.   It’s a big decision to come to a place, to come to the “mother” country as a Caribbean.    Which is very similar in many ways, but in some ways quite alien, and you don’t realize how alien until you turn up.  For her to deal with the awful things that happened to them, the racism, was amazing.   Yet rise above it and come out still with human qualities intact, and raise three normally adjusted children.

My father expected to joint the police here, coming from the police  in Guyana.    Guyana is a British colony . On the face of it, there was no reason why he couldn’t have,  but there was an effective  colour bar at that time, and he was stopped.   You have these plans as an immigrant, and they just get derailed.

Racism
I remember when I was about 18 or 19.  I took a gap year working in a local office.   Walking to work full of the joys of spring, I passed  one or two white men, suited, looking very respectable.  I was walking past smiling, one of them just called me a nigger.   Completely unprovoked.    Had they looked like skin heads, I might have expected it.    I still had to go into work and do a full days work.    You are very vulnerable.   That’s over  30 years ago, and I still remember it.  Such a long time ago, but I still remember it.

Education and family:
My father  and I we were very very close. Unusually for his age and for a Caribbean man, everyone was treated the same. My brothers and I  got the same education.    If we had to choose, I would get the experience, my brothers wouldn’t.    At the end of the day, a man can always go out and get a job on a building site but for a girl, if you have no education to fall back on, the options aren’t very nice.   They’re usually  being propositioned on a daily basis.

I think that valuing girls’ education might have something to do with Caribbean culture,  and possibly African.    Many of these cultures are matriarchal, so the women have a more powerful role within the family unit, you don’t have to fight for yourself as much.   The idea that I should get the same breaks as my brothers is a given in a way.

My mother also said because I”m the eldest.  If  I got qualified, if I got educated, that I would encourage my brothers to come through.    Somehow I would make my brothers’ education.   That’s an added responsibility to do that.

Serendipity:
I wasn’t looking to go to the Cayman Islands.   I was kind of looking for a job.   It was advertised in the Sunday Times. I missed it the first time round, put it in the recycling bin.  Then I came across it.   The irony was that the Sunday Times being very expensive they could only afford to advertise once.

Another serendipity.   As a result of winning the Cosmo Achievement Award, I was in a TV programme, an hour long programme about the bar. My agent was surfing, and she wrote to me.    “I think you have a book in you. “   All this time, I’d been writing, and I hadn’t told anyone!  Nicola’s novel is Without prejudice.

Serendipity. I think its kind of bigger than luck. Was it Goethe who said:

When you firmly commit to something, things come together.

The most memorable event for me, had the added poignancy of my father.
When I became a judge,  I could tell him, once  I found out officially.   As it turned out he died the following march.   I had even picked a court near by, because he was in a nursing home and the court has excellent disabled access.  I am very sorry he never got a chance to see me try a case there.

The most learning tends to come from horrible things.   There were some changes in my personal and professional life,  and everything was falling apart.  It was like a perfect storm , but if it hadn’t been for that, I would not have been looking and found the Cayman Island Ombudsman advertised.

Most surprising  was discovering my resilience.
Living and working in an island paradise, I discovered I had resilience.    I had to build everything from the ground up.    My  professional reputation, my friends, everything.   The biggest learning was resilience.   It gave me confidence in my own abilities.    Cayman challenged my  resilience.   I’ve come out of all that better off.   It taught me that I can count on myself.

©2016 ionthecity.com

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