Posted on 06/12/2012
Continuing our series of inspiring stories, we spoke to student Katie Washington, whose campaigning against child poverty and for women’s rights led to her meeting the Prime Minister at a special reception last week.
Katie, a Politics and International Relations student, has been shortlisted to the final three nominees for Campaigner of the Year at the Spirit of London Awards, which recognises inspirational young Londoners who make a positive contribution to the capital. She is also Vice-President of The Royal Holloway Diplomatic Society and a project assistant at Equals, an equal rights charity partnership.
We spoke to Katie after the Downing Street event about David Cameron, Band Aid and inspirations:
Who is your inspiration for your campaigning work?
Marie Staunton, the CEO of Plan UK, is one of my biggest inspirations. Ten years ago she gave me the opportunity to be one of the first members of the charity’s Youth Advisory Panel. She passionately believes in the potential and importance of young people and she has spent nearly her whole life working to help them make positive change to their lives. Isabelle Grinsdale, my drama teacher at college and a Royal Holloway alumna, is also an inspiration, as her passion and dedication to the welfare and education of young people showed me that nothing is impossible if you are willing to work hard enough. It was Isabelle who inspired me to apply to Royal Holloway.
How did it feel meeting the Prime Minister?
Fortunately, given our differing political views, he did not have a lot of time to speak to each of us. I figure this was a good thing because, given the chance, I would have had a lot to say to him about the way he is running this country. However, prior to the Downing Street event I bumped into William Hague, Alistair Darling, George Osborne, and Gordon Brown. As I was currently writing an essay on the situation in Syria, I took the opportunity to ask Mr Hague what the UK's position was. It was interesting but no use to my essay though because he made it clear he was speaking off the record!
How did you get involved with the children’s charity Plan UK?
I started working for Plan UK when I was 11 years old. I had just seen the Band Aid Do they know it’s Christmas? video on the TV, showing images of starving children. I think I started to cry and my Mum came in and told me that if it upset me then I should do something about it. I wrote to Plan UK and asked if I could help raise money for the organisation at my school and, to my surprise, I received a reply asking me to become a member of the newly founded Youth Advisory Panel.
Why is fighting for woman’s rights important in 21st century Britain?
My work is mostly focused on women’s rights in the developing world, where the violation of their rights is costing lives. However, despite the UK being the home of the Suffragette movement and feminism, women are still under-represented in Parliament, still suffering from discrimination in the workplace and domestic violence still kills over two women per week in the UK. Furthermore, the UK media constantly destroys women’s self-esteem and confidence by setting the standards of “beauty” we have been institutionalised to strive for.
What are your long-term aspirations?
I would like to continue working in the international sphere focussing on the development and education of young girls and women. I believe that all human beings have equal potential and I want to help people realise this and make positive change to their own lives. I don’t know exactly how I want to achieve this but I will seek out the most effective route, whether that is working for an NGO or in politics, and take it.