Sara, the perfect role model

I DON'T have a daughter. If I did I know I'd face the constant battle my friends have persuading them there's more to being female than gloss, glitz and glamour.

I DON'T have a daughter. If I did I know I'd face the constant battle my friends have persuading them there's more to being female than gloss, glitz and glamour.

Girls are seduced by the Wag-style polish - Girls Aloud, Coleen Rooney et al - reinforced by messages from every direction that false eyelashes, nails and pointy boobs are the secrets to a girl's success.

It's an onerous task for mothers to find alternative role models for their daughters to inspire them, show the influence women have on the world and the positive changes they can bring about.

This week one of those truly remarkable women was given a Government office in recognition for her amazing achievements borne out of tragedy and evil.


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Sara Payne as Victims' Champion is almost a paradox. A victim on the ultimate crime, she comes across as anything but a victim. Steely, determined, focused and driven, she's a formidable force.

A force for good, of inspirational strength and passion. She is the embodiment of hope - how life must go on after the most extreme suffering and grief.

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Sara is a woman that every girl should know about and realise that out of ordinary can come the extraordinary.

Until eight years ago, Sara Payne was an ordinary mum of four doing ordinary things with her little family.

She came from no privilege and, like most ordinary families, they struggled to get by.

Then her ordinary life was shattered by evil. Roy Whiting, a paedophile snatched her nine-year-old daughter, Sarah, from where she had been playing and murdered her.

The mother of four was suddenly a mother of three.

But, when she felt like buckling and retreating into her own world of grief, she came out fighting. She didn't become self-indulgent and lock herself away, angry at the world.

She fought like a lioness, in Sarah's memory and strengthened by it, for better safeguards against paedophiles, to prevent what happened to her beloved daughter happening to other children.

She had no extended education, no PR manager, and no campaigning experience. All she had was raw passion and belief to challenge the lawmakers, raise awareness and bring about change.

She spoke at the highest level, to the highest authorities, Prime Ministers and Home Secretaries, carrying herself with dignity and poise.

On top of tragedy came more heartbreak when her marriage to Michael collapsed under the strain of coping with their loss and then, during their estrangement, she became pregnant with twins by Michael only to lose one baby before birth.

Ellie, the surviving twin, brought the couple closer again but they remain apart.

Now, after eight years of tireless campaigning for Sarah's Law to reveal information on where paedophiles live, Sara has a Government post to represent all victims of crime, giving them a voice at a national level, after being awarded an MBE in the New Year's honours list.

This woman and her achievements, with the backdrop of her personal suffering always in mind, should be the inspiration for our girls.

To fight and be a force for good, to go out to make a difference and take control of their own lives as strong-minded independent women is the role model our girls need.

Cheryl Cole has her place but as a role model for a generation of girls? I don't think so.

SEPARATED by just a stretch of water, could the French and English be more different?

As Gordon Brown and co cling by their fingertips trying to save our little island from drowning in debt, the French political elite is occupied with matters far more earthy.

Sex. Only in France.

Since foxy minx model-turned-singer Carla Bruni married diminutive president Nicolas Sarzozy apparently it's not just his shoes that have needed lifting.

We're told, as if we need to know, from his personal trainer, that she's been working on his perineum because 'sexual relations are better if the male perineum is in good shape.' Ooolahlah.

Then, as another foxy minx Rachida Dati - the justice minister back at her desk five days after a caesarean section - steps down, or is squeezed out, we learn that Madame President Carla never cared for Dati, sniping at her in the President's flat within sight of the marital bed soon after their wedding: 'You would have liked to occupy it, wouldn't you?'

Politics in France, it seems, is anything but dull. I'm just trying to imagine the scene acted out in Downing Street. On second thoughts, best not.

So 'Wossy' did apologise after all and quite a good one it was.

You've got to hand it to him, his apology was delivered with enough charm to wriggle well and truly off the hook.

Then back in the smelly stuff he stepped the next day with a tasteless remark about an elderly Spanish woman.

Ross is our Teflon man with a humungous fan base - mostly male, hardly a surprise - and don't the BBC know it? Calls for his head can be shouted until his haters are hoarse but this man is going nowhere.

Are the days of the wine club, the vestige of the middle classes, numbered as the meddling Nanny State spreads its might?

Like the cigarette, the wine club and the cheeky reds and whites they peddle look in line for the next campaign from Government health killjoys.

In latest figures from the office for National Statistics - pity these number crunchers weren't spending more time scrutinising figures on the economy than what we get up to in our own homes - middle-aged professions are far more likely to be drinking too much than blue collar workers and the young.

You don't say, she said, opening another bottle of fruity Merlot.

Wait for it… some 43 per cent of those in 'managerial and professional' occupations - many of them women - exceed healthy drinking limits compared to 31 per cent among those in routine and manual jobs.

Some 60 per cent of all women drinkers said the week's heaviest drinking session happened at home.

So sisters are hitting the wine at home leaving the lads down the pub trailing with their lagers.

They've banned smoking in pubs. What next? Wine in homes? Wine clubs, your days are numbered. You've been warned.

Photographers snapped the Chancellor's wife one day with her worthy Bag for Life and the next clutching a plastic carrier bag.

I can sympathise. I've a house full of hessian and cotton carriers but invariably end up at checkouts bagless because I've left the pesky things at home or in the car.

Most of us share the sentiment for a plastic-bag-free world but remembering a bag for life every day is just another thing to do.

And, if we were honest, the trusty old plastic bag is just too handy in the home to do with out. Nothing does the trick to wrap muddy football and rugby boots and leaky drinks bottles like a plassy bag.

A friend was made redundant this week.

She works part-time, school hours and was an easy target when the axe had to fall.

It's women who will feel the brunt of unemployment this recession with forecasts that they could be out of the workforce for a generation.

How, after years of fighting for equal rights, can it still be that women are the first out of the door? In some parts of the country, twice as many women are losing their jobs as men.

Men still say. 'Well, she's got a husband hasn't she?' when a woman faces the dole queue, as if a job for a woman is a luxury, for pin money.

Does anyone say when a man is made redundant? 'Well he has a wife hasn't he?' Exactly. We've come nowhere and are reversing even further.

Ministers are right to fear some of those being laid off are victims of discrimination by bosses, unlawful though it is, so many bosses believe they are above the law.

Sometimes I'm astounded to hear how some employers treat women in their workplace and get away with it because women are too scared to complain.

Women need their salaries as much as the men and, if bosses were truthful, they know women, on the whole, are far more productive and reliable than may male workers.

But ingrained in our culture is still that women are somehow dispensable from the workplace, especially if they have a man to 'look after them.'

Gillian Merrick enjoyed a happy NewYear's Day with her family, posing with them for a family photograph on a woodland walk.

The next morning she vanished from her home and has remained missing without trace, leaving her husband of 20 years and two children angst-ridden.

Whatever the background to 45-year-old Mrs Merrick's disappearance, cases of people vanishing into thin air seem to be increasing.

Often the people left behind are perplexed and saw nothing amiss before the disappearance.

But perhaps these missing people had been suffering in silence for months, years even.

Mrs Merrick might not have been mentally ill, I don't know. But for some, disappearance is the culmination of a long, often unrecognised or detected, mental illness.

People, particularly women and mothers, struggle on for other people hiding the truth of their suffering to spare those they love and because of the stigma and discrimination against people with mental health problems.

Then, one day, it all becomes too much.

We must all sit up and take notice of the new Time to Change campaign to raise awareness of mental illness and make us all a little more tolerant, understanding and sympathetic of those suffering.

We'd do all we could to help someone with a broken leg or strained back, after all, why not a chemical imbalance that's making their brain and personality malfunction? Everyone deserves compassion.

My nine-year-old was watching reports of a woman in America who gave birth to eight babies this week.

'So what?' he said. 'Dogs have been known to have litters of 25. Eight is nothing.'

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