What Katie Said

The War on Other Women

I was standing at Clapham Junction Station on Sunday waiting for my train when I felt someone’s eyes literally burning into the back of my head. I turned around to find a girl, no – a young woman about my age (twenty three) looking at me like I had murdered her mother, her father, her siblings, her grandma, her grandma’s dog, her grandma’s dog’s puppies, and her grandma’s dogs puppies’ puppies (too far?). Seriously, this girl was looking at me like DIRT. I’d never met her. I hadn’t even seen her before I had caught her looking at me. As far as I am aware, there was no reason for her to look at me like that at all. I caught her eye and as I did she gave me the dehumanising up and down look girls give you when they want you to feel self-conscious, and of course – I did. I am only human. I immediately started over-analysing what I was wearing, whether my legs looked fat, or my skirt was too floral, but then I thought – WHAT THE HELL?

The truth was that is wasn’t the first time I had been looked at like that by another woman and it definitely wouldn’t be the last because that’s apparently what women do to other women, and most of the time for no apparent reason. It sounds petty, and very high school drama, but we all know it still happens, and without a doubt we have all been given that horrid up and down look by our friends, our work colleagues, strangers, older women, young women…the list goes on.

I am simply just fed up with women waging war on other women. We all know that we are guilty of it. I am not going to deny that I haven’t caught myself looking at another girl in what may be perceived as a “bitchy look”. I didn’t intend on it being a “bitchy look” in anyway. I’ll be honest and say that if I did find myself taking notice of another girl’s appearance, it’s usually because I am feeling self-conscious. If I am accidentally giving the “stink eye” to a girl with amazingly beautiful long tanned legs it’s because I wish they were MY legs.

I know most women will not be as willing to admit this as me. Most women claim they don’t have a “bitchy” bone in their body (it’s usually these women who are the first to stab the knife in once your back is turned). BUT I know I am not alone. I have seen friends of mine who I know constantly worry about their weight, look the rest of us up and down OR stare at a part of their body and then a part of yours. COMPARING. This is normal in a way we live in a society where we are constantly reevaluating ourselves against others. That’s an issue, of course, but the issue I want to address is that these insecurities we are all harbouring are impacting our relationships and the the way we interact with other women.

There is absolutely no need to rip a girl to shreds with your eyes because you are envious or insecure. Even if you aren’t intending to look at her in that way, you need to be careful on how your actions may be interpreted. That’s the problem really – most women don’t even realise they are doing it (and if they do – then that’s a whole different issue) and definitely wouldn’t admit to doing it.

No one. No human has the right to make another human feel rubbish. AND – women? SERIOUSLY. We have bigger battles to fight than waging war on other women.

I am not saying I have the solution or I even understand the reasons why women turn against other women. I am sure that there are plenty of feminists out there who will blame men, but I don’t think there’s any solution in blaming men. I think this is a problem we need to take ownership of ourselves (even if you won’t admit to yourself that you do it). We need to be more conscious with how our actions (and looks) impact others. If you see a friend looking at another friend or even a random stranger – tell her she looks beautiful. If you catch yourself looking at another girl’s arms because they are slim and perfect and you think yours are fat – tell yourself you are beautiful (or go to the gym), and if you catch the eye of another girl giving you ‘evils’ – SMILE – and remind yourself that she’s probably fighting a battle you know nothing about.

When discussing this blog post with my male and female friends, I was told that this ‘women versus other women’ thing is an age old issue that probably will be never be resolved. I really hope that isn’t true. I really hope that one day if I have a daughter she can grow up in a world where women don’t feed off each others insecurities.

We need to stop waging war on other women.

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What Katie Did

UNHLP Round 3: Indonesia

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As detailed in my previous post, the UN High Level Panel was commissioned to examine what should replace the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015. It is chaired by Prime Minister David Cameron, the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Having met in London, Liberia, and now Indonesia , the group will pass their recommendations to UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon at the end of May 2013.

I have been involved in the consultation process since the first meeting in London where I represented Plan UK (you can read more here). The Indonesia summit was the final time the panel would all come together before taking back their decisions to their national governments. For us, this was the final time (in the foreseeable future), that we had the opportunity to influence their decisions. However, in our minds there is no finality to youth engagement in the process.

During the technical sessions, we discussed the thematic areas of ‘Global Partnerships’ and ‘Means of Implementation’. We offered our understanding of the global partnerships required to ensure the new framework is successful and incorporates the responsibility of everyone. We asked the UN High Level Panel to ensure disaggregation of data, especially in terms of age and gender. Finally, we agreed that young people must continue to be at the centre of the post 2015 process and this was not the end of the road.

Following the meeting, I met with the Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening.  I was really excited about this, as I attended a side event hosted by Restless Development where she had voiced her belief and commitment to the inclusion of young people in decision making, especially in development. I was also really impressed with her commitment to girls’ education and ending violence against women and girls. These are things I am particularly passionate about and, as highlighted through the youth consultations, are essential parts of the post-2015 framework. During our meeting, I asked the Secretary of State how she was going to continue championing youth engagement in the process and she suggested that we meet back in the UK and share ideas about how to make this happen.

You can read more about my time in Indonesia in my guest blog for Plan UK .

 

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What Katie Did

“Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.” – Abraham Lincoln

The Spirit of London

As some of you may know, I have been working and volunteering with Plan UK as a youth board member and campaigning for girls’ rights and education since I was 11 years old. During this time I have taken part and led many campaigns and projects to raise awareness about Plan’s work. I have also worked in India, Vietnam and Cambodia on youth empowerment programmes and teaching mostly English, Drama and Dance. Specifically, I have worked in Thailand on the Thai-Burmese border with young women who had been rescued from trafficking to help them establish their own youth panel to raise awareness about the dangers of trafficking in their home towns. I won’t bore you with the details now because it’s not really my experience nor achievements I want to talk about.

However, for this post to make sense I need to tell you that I have been shortlisted for The Spirit of London National Campaigner Award for the work I have briefly discussed above. I must be honest with you: this nomination came as a complete and utter shock. I had never heard of the Spirit of London, never mind the award and I never thought that I deserved to be nominated for anything of the kind nor anybody would think to nominate me.

When I first heard about the nomination and that I’d be shortlisted to the final 3, I had no idea who had nominated me. Furthermore, The Spirit of London team kept me in suspense for another week and a half before they told me.

As my parents and housemates will tell you, I was in complete and utter despair. I was convinced they’d contacted the wrong Katie Washington or that somebody had been mistaken something I’d done and nominated me for finding the cure for cancer or something. My despair heightened when I saw how amazing the other two finalists in my category were.Jonjo Heurman is only 10 years old and has raised almost 90K for The Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK through sponsored walks and Jack Negus, who at 17, is already a social entrepreneur and has raised thousands of pounds for Little Hearts Matter. I just didn’t know what I’d done to deserve it.

Jonjo (centre), Jack (right), and I at the Spirit of London Awards

Finally, I was informed that I was nominated by a lady called Vanessa Cole from Save the Children (thankfully for all the right reasons – no cure for cancer!). However, this just confused me further as I have never met or worked with a Vanessa Cole nor have I worked with Save the Children. I emailed Save the Children UK and asked if I could be put in touch with Vanessa and they responded and said that there was no Vanessa Cole who worked for them so I emailed Save the Children International and they also said there was no Vanessa Cole who worked for them so the mystery continued. I still have no idea who Vanessa Cole is. All I want to do is thank her for the nomination and for taking notice of my work. So Vanessa Cole – if you are out there (or you know a Vanessa Cole) – please make yourself known?

Anyway – slight tangent. My point is – I was nominated for this amazing award by a complete stranger. She documented things I’d done in the nomination that I don’t always tell people (I’m not very good with self-promotion) and I am just completely overwhelmed that this kind-hearted stranger would sit down and put the time and effort into nominating me. (Thank you, Vanessa Cole!)

However, the aim of this blog post is not for me to harp on being all self-deprecating. My point is: I didn’t realise people noticed!

I have never and will never do what I do for recognition or for praise or to better my C.V or get into university. I do what I do because I feel I have an obligation to do to. I want to help people.

I wanted to write this blog post because:

1. I know I am not unique. I know that there are 1000’s of other young people, some of who I have met and worked with, who have also been campaigning and working endlessly for a cause or for an organisation for many years and have not been recognised. I am sure, like me, they do not really want to be recognised and are happy doing what they are doing because they feel it in their hearts that is the right thing to do. But people do notice and people do appreciate it so keep it up

2. I wanted to emphasise that you do not always have to do a big thing to make a difference or to help others. I have not raised 90K for charity (Don’t worry I still think you’re amazing, Jonjo!) nor have I saved somebody’s life or changed government policy but I have been doing lots of little things for over 10 years of my life and somebody noticed and thought I was worthy of an award. So, what I am saying is – don’t think what you are doing isn’t good enough or isn’t making a big enough change. As long as you are making a little change then you are already helping make people’s lives better and one day that little change will grow into a bigger change and you will see the difference you have made.

Now that really didn’t mean to end up sounding like a motivational speech and don’t worry I won’t go on for much longer but before I go I want to tell you all to book tickets to The Spirit of London Awards at the O2 Arena. There is an amazing line up of Labyrinth, Maverick Sabre, Stooshe, McFly, Angel, Diversity and Yolanda Brown. And of course an evening meeting 30 amazingly inspirational young people from across London. You can buy tickets here.

Over and Out!

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What Katie Did

We’re banging on the door of development, please let us in: Youth Engagement and the Post-2015 agenda

Today, the UN High Level Panel met with the private sector, the civil sector and young people to discuss the post-Millennium Development Goal agenda.

As discussed in my post yesterday, the UN High Level Panel is governing the worlds process in developing a global framework which will build on the successes and failures of the Millennium Development Goals. The November 2012 London meeting is one of the first steps in this process.

Along with 23 other young leaders, I was invited to engage with the UN High Level Panel as a youth participant representing Plan UK. With the risk of sounding melodramatic – I am not ashamed to say that it was one of the most inspirational and empowering experiences I am yet to have. Not because of the ’eminent’ and influential people who make up the High Level Panel but because I have never felt prouder to be part of this “restless” generation and other young people I was working with.

This type of High Level youth consultation is the first of its kind and without doubt, I think we can conclude that we made our collective youth voice heard and can only hope that more consultations like this will shortly follow.

During the session, I sat between HM Queen Rania al Abdullah of Jordan and USA Representative John Podesta whilst sharing the table with youth representative Edith from Nigeria, Andrew from the USA, and Ravi from India. The youth session was also attended by Graça Machal, Gunilla Carlsson, Amina Az-Zubar, and more. To our great disappointment David Cameron, who is not only the UK Prime Minister but also the co-chair of the UN High Level Panel, failed to attend the youth session. However, in his absence, he was represented by Michael Anderson.

Through the sharing of youth interventions and personal experiences, we debated with the UN High Level Panel on why the post-2015 framework needs to include a dimension of youth-led development and how to ensure young people can be consulted and further included in the process of developing the agenda.

The full outcomes and recommendations of our discussion are going to be drawn into  a paper by Restless Development and will exist as an appendix to the UN High Level Panel’s final report which is due to be delivered in May 2013. However, to summarise, the UN High Level Panel concluded the following:

  1. Young people should and need to be included in all post-2015 agenda-setting discussions.
  2. A need for emphasis of the potential of youth and the facilitation of a space for youth to make valuable contributions
  3. Young people want to bear the burden of development; we want to be held accountable so decisions need to be made about the most effective way to foster this.
  4. Young people are in control of their own destiny and therefore should be at the heart of the post-2015 framework
  5. We need to breakdown the stereotypes and stigma around youth representing social-unrest. We need to build up the idea and reality of youth being the solution.
  6. If youth participation in the post-2015 agenda is to be valued and non-tokenistic, world leaders and young people both need to commit for the long run.

*Please note that this is only a summary of the conclusions from our discussions today and does not directly represent the opinion of individual UN High Level Panel Members present. 

To finish the day, all panel members and participants were invited to take part in a “Town Hall Meeting” which was an opportunity for a less structured discussion about what the post-Millennium Development Goals framework should look like. Although this was very informative, I felt that it was quite unproductive. Once taking the floor, most representatives  just took the opportunity to describe their organisation’s work and the issues they focus on or relay a list of statistics. The High Level Panel would then just respond with the high impact words and emotive statements which they thought we all wanted to hear.

Maybe I am wrong but I feel it would have been much more beneficial to participate in a debate focussing on how we are going to address the successes and failures of the Millennium Development Goals and the how we are going to tackle the issues acting as a barrier to global development.

The most refreshing contribution of the discussion came from the youth representatives who avoided statistics by replacing them with real experiences from their own lives and who instead of spending time describing the issues, told the High Panel what they wanted them to do about it.

I want to conclude with a comment made by one of our High Level Panel members, regarding the strength and importance of youth participation and inclusion in the development of the post-2015 framework:

“Youth are too plentiful and powerful to be excluded…in terms of population, there is China…then there is India…and then there is Facebook…you are the third biggest country and therefore a reason not to be ignored”.

Preparing for the roundtable discussion pre-arrival of UN High Level Panel

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What Katie Did

Reactive, Revolutionary, and Realistic: Youth Engagement and the Post-2015 Agenda

During the next two days, London will be host to 26 world leaders meeting to represent the UN High Level Panel on the Post-2015 agenda. This meeting is first of many in shaping how we move on from the successes and failures of the Millennium Development Goals. The panel will be chaired by David Cameron, the President of Liberia – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the President of Indonesia, Sisilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

As part of the meeting, the panel will be meeting with 3 different groups of people who they think can offer a different perspective on the post-2015 agenda: the private sector, the civil sector, and young people. Along with 23 other young leaders from across the world, I will be participating in the latter discussion representing Plan UK.

Whilst the UN High Level Panel were beginning their initial discussion today, we also began our discussion at the Girl HUB in preparation for presenting to the panel tomorrow. We had an incredibly productive day full of learning and innovative conversation focused around our diverse range of experiences.

The overarching theme of tomorrow is Household Poverty which focuses on the issues of Education, Health and Employment.

We believe our aim of participating in this event is to demonstrate to the panel how important it is to involve young people in all stages of decision making, especially when the decisions being made directly affect our lives and development. Young people represent 3.5 billion of the global population and deserve to take the steering wheel in setting the objectives which will shape our future. However, we want to avoid talking about youth engagement in only abstract, idealistic terms and show the panel real examples from our lives of how innovative and revolutionary a youth led approach to development can really be.

Our session will be opened by CEO of Restless Development, Nik Hartley and will include examples of youth-led programmes in Education, Health and Employment from Ben from Zambia, Michelle from the Philippines and Ravi from India. We will lead lead into 2 round table discussions, one of which I will be facilitating, where we will discuss, face-to-face with the UN High Level Panel, our objectives for the post-2015 agenda and what we can learn from the examples we have shared.

As one of my peers commented today, “youth-led development is infectious” and I hope we can successfully show the importance and pertinence including young people in the process of moving on from the Millennium Development Goals and shaping our future.

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What Katie Said

Waxing Lyrical…

It still amazes me how obsessed modern day feminism is with pubic hair removal. You think you’ve read it all and then once again, an over-excited blogger springs out of nowhere denouncing all women who enjoy a monthly wax.

This is not a critique of feminism. I identify as a feminist myself. I am just bored of the hypocrisy of being told what I should and should not do to my own body.

It was claimed in a recent blog post that body hair is a feminist’s “war-paint”. Wrong. Knowledge, choice and an open mind are a feminist’s weapons for battle. Hairy armpits do not increase my sense of empowerment. Quite frankly, I find the obsession with women removing their body hair disempowering. I feel I am repeatedly being chastised and being told that although I think I am making my own choices; I am not – I do not know myself and every time I wax my legs I am succumbing to men’s ideals and desires.

We are constantly asking world leaders to stop making decisions which are controlling women’s reproductive rights. Pro-choice campaigns have gone viral, asking the government to get out of our uterus’ and too right they should. Reproduction affects lives. Waxing does not.

So feminists – please get out of my pants?

I recently read a piece in the Independent reporting that a physician was launching an appeal to end the “war on pubic war”. She asserts that young women are putting themselves at greater risk of infection and STI’s by removing their pubic hair. Of course, I am not arguing she’s wrong; she’s totally right – the hair is there for a reason. My point is – are we not being told on a daily basis about the different risks we are all exposing ourselves to by eating, drinking and acting in certain ways? It’s 2012 and according to ‘research’ everything gives us cancer.

The use of pubic hair as front line for the fight for equality is futile; it doesn’t matter whether you choose to love, respect and worship your hairy armpits or not – the point is, you should have the choice and in equal respect, I should have the choice to wax without feeling I am letting down woman-kind.

The world is a mess. We have bigger issues to tackle than what is going on inside your or my knickers: women and girls across the world are still being denied an education, pushed into early and forced marriage, subjected to violence in the home, school and workplace, raped as a weapon of war, forced into female genital mutilation …the list goes on.

So if you don’t mind me – I am going to focus my time, attention and strength on helping these girls and women and fighting the issues that threaten their lives on a daily basis and continue to wax my vagina.

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