A year in the life our British Youth Council delegation
Thinking about joining our British Youth Council delegation? Al Jones interviews her fellow delegates about why you should - in a review of their Nando’s-fueled rollercoaster of a year
We first met each other on a rainy day in June
10 nervous members of The Senior Section gathered on the upstairs floor of Girlguiding HQ and introduced ourselves. What followed was a whirlwind year as part of the UK’s biggest youth council – with first-time media appearances, shoulder-rubbing with feminist icons and lots and lots of laughs.
Thanks to ample training, some unique opportunities and the ongoing support of Girlguiding's Advocacy team, we’ve grown into a campaigning powerhouse. Here’s how it happened - with the embarrassing bits left in!
Summer – Starting out
I still remember when we first met and were staying in a hotel – we stayed up for ages playing games like werewolves and getting to know each other! – Kate
After a surprisingly pleasant selection process (except for the bit when Elena fell of her chair during the Skype interview and showed off her pink fluffy pyjamas), eight new members from across the country were picked to join Girlguiding's British Youth Council (BYC) delegation.
Most of us didn't have any campaigning experience before joining. Some members like Emma hadn't had much opportunity to talk about these kinds of issues before, because ‘where I come from is very traditional and you don’t talk about politics. Whenever I come here and see all the other girls talking about inspiring things, it gives me so much hope’.
In a very busy first weekend, we had sessions on social media and blogging, campaigning and about the British Youth Council. We even got to meet Laura Bates, which caused some serious fan girl moments.
Autumn – Stepping up
The process of writing the Sexual Harassment in schools motion - and then having it picked by other young people as a key issue for the BYC - was really empowering. Now it’s being talked about in parliament and Sex and Relationships Education is becoming compulsory in schools! - Julia
The biggest event of the year for BYC members is the Annual Council Meeting (ACM). All of the different youth organisations across the UK meet up to discuss the issues they think are important to young people.
As Rowena says, ‘There are so many young people at ACM who are passionate about so many different things – it’s really inspirational’. Topics varied, from making first aid compulsory when you take your driving license, to calling for the government to recognise people who don’t identify as either male or female.
This year we thought tackling sexual harassment in schools, improving young people’s well-being and addressing online abuse were important. For each of these issues, one of us stood at the front of the room and made a speech about why the BYC should take the issue forward.
After the event, it was agreed that tackling sexual harassment in schools would be one of the five key issues the BYC would campaign on this year. We were so proud!
Winter – Using our voices
I think I’ve grown as a feminist because I’m surrounded by so many empowering girls and young women. You’ve all really influenced me because I get to go home to my little town and talk about my feminist friends - even my teachers are keen to hear what I’m doing – Elena
We kept busy throughout the rest of the year too. We went to workshops ran by local youth councils. We appeared on the panel of an equality event focusing on women, LGBT, black and minority ethnic, and disabled people. And we attended a drinks reception in the House of Commons - all along with multiple trips to Nando’s and other places for food (the most important factor of any BYC trip).
We also had lots of opportunities to be media spokespeople – from doing radio interviews about tackling sexual harassment in schools, to being filmed for ITV Tonight, even being the guest editor for the 5 Live Daily programme!
Spring – Over to you!
Being part of the British Youth Council delegation does make you more confident because you realise that you’re just 10 girls who are representing all the other girls across the country – Olivia
So what next? Well, really that’s up to you! We’re looking for two more members aged 14 to 26 to join the delegation. As Caitlin says, being part of the group ‘lets you know that you can speak out about things you care about – it’s OK to have an opinion’. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people from across the country and gain new skills for your CV.
Interested? Just fill out the application form and hopefully we’ll meet you soon!