Katie Horsburgh is a 21-year-old Girlguiding Scotland Young Spokesperson. Here she talks about what it means to be an advocate and why it is important to use your voice for good.
(Pictured at Pride 2018 with Girlguiding Scotland: ‘I’m so glad to be part of an organisation that’s open to all and working actively to become the best ally possible.’)
Hello, everyone! I’m Katie, I’m 21, and I’m a Girlguiding Scotland Young Spokesperson. I also study Sociology at the University of Edinburgh, work part-time in student representation and democracy, and volunteer as a Trustee for the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre. When I graduate I hope to go work with women’s organisations, specifically with a policy focus, so I’m doing as much as I can to learn about that space now. I’m also really into netball, running, walking, cooking, reading, and hanging out with friends.
I’ve been a member of Girlguiding since Brownies and am a lifelong feminist, so when I saw that Girlguiding UK were recruiting for their Advocate Panel, I jumped at the chance to get more involved. ‘Advocate’ is Girlguiding UK’s youth voice forum. They’re a group of amazing young women who campaign on issues that matter to them and make a positive difference to the world.
As an Advocate, I got to write blogs, co-design campaigns, and I even had the chance to make a speech in the House of Lords when I was just 15! I was the youngest member of the panel and felt pretty intimidated at the start, but I learned so much from my time there and made friends for life. If you’re thinking of applying, I cannot recommend it enough.
‘Advocate’ was just the beginning of my activist journey. Soon after I finished being an Advocate, I was invited to sit on the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG), on behalf of Girlguiding Scotland. It was a huge honour to be invited to represent Girlguiding Scotland on a group that works so directly with the most powerful decision-maker in the country. Again, it was intimidating at first, but I soon got stuck in.
NACWG aimed to be a catalyst for change and bring about gender equality in Scotland. We worked on three reports over three years, covering ‘Attitudes and Culture Change’, ‘Policy Coherence’, and ‘Creating an Intersectional Gender Architecture for Scotland’, each of which made specific recommendations for the First Minister to take action on. These are all really big topics and it was a lot to get to grips with, but I loved every moment and learned so much. I would never have realised that this was the area I wanted to work in, nor made such fantastic friends and connections, if I hadn’t said yes to this amazing opportunity.
One of the best things I did at NACWG was leading the Youth Engagement Strategy. Each year we consulted more than 1,000 people from across Scotland, and I worked hard to make sure that young people, especially those under 18, were represented. We designed an arts-based programme to help young people get stuck into these tricky topics, and you can find the amazing zine they produced on what a gender-equal Scotland could look like here.
Throughout my time as a Young Spokesperson, bringing other girls and young women along with me has been really important. I love seeing girls speak passionately about what they care about, and it’s so vital to bring underrepresented voices into spaces to which you have access.
Although NACWG’s first incarnation is coming to an end, I’m really excited to see what it will do in the future. I now sit on the Gender Equality Taskforce on Education and Learning, chaired by the Deputy First Minister. This group came about because of an NACWG recommendation, and is just one example of how this work will continue to have an impact. It was also based on much of my experience as a Young Spokesperson that I was able to become a Trustee, where I hope to learn more about third sector strategy and governance.
One thing really has led to the next, making it easier to climb the ladder. I would not be where I am now—someone with confidence, knowledge, and expertise—if I hadn’t taken the first step. If you’re passionate about something, I really encourage you to speak out about it, whether that be by joining ‘Advocate’ or Girlguiding Scotland’s Speak Out panel, or by starting your own campaign. Your voice is important, and you never know where it might take you.