Neguela Whittaker

Neguela Whittaker

Gang leader to graduate: Nequela Whittaker’s tale of resilience

Nequela Whittaker was once a gang leader in south London.

At 17 she was sentenced to four years in a Scottish prison. She was released aged 20 and has turned her life around.

Nequela now has a degree and works at a youth club with young people in danger of getting into trouble.

She explains how resilience has helped her get through the challenges in her life.

Nequela is a guest on the Woman's Hour New Year's Day programme. You can listen to it via BBC Sounds or the Woman's Hour website.

Neguela Whittaker says more “safe spaces” are especially what the country needs. “Places where young people, who feel like they’re in danger can go to and where there’s a protocol to help them.”

Youth workers say they’re still waiting to be heard at a national level, to solve what they consider a national emergency. In Blake’s view, the UK needs a designated minister with deal specifically with the issue of young people in street crime, with expertise on the challenges females face. “We don’t seem to have a voice in parliament. But every day there’s a stabbing in our community. Every day,” she says. “It’s not until you’re stabbed that you’re seen as a priority.”

As we walk out of Merton Council together, a girl runs up to Whittaker and hugs her. “She was in my play,” Whittaker says, who has written a book about her life called Street Girl. She introduces her with a wide smile.