Sharing knowledge, getting inspired

Monday 23 March 2015

I had been looking forward to the Young Women’s Trust Advisory Panel Residential from the moment  I  received the details! Not only because it would give me a weekend free of cleaning and cooking but also because it would  give me the chance to get inspired.

Sophie KathirThe thing with most people is once they have attained their goals and have success, they forget how it all started; especially how hard and alone the journey can be for many people. And then they miss out on sharing their knowledge and advice on how to do things differently for someone who is going through great difficulties like they did. Luckily for me, I now have a flourishing career and a beautiful family but that hasn’t always be the case. I remember when I finished university and was looking for work how employers use to take advantage of me. From working free in the name of ‘training’ and then working below the National Minimum Wage in warehouses both before and after my degree, I know how horrible it can be and how little support young women have. But having my children motivated me to come out of this vicious circle of working in jobs that were not related to my degree and very low paid, if at all. Sacrifices have to be made when you start your career and for me it meant my husband quitting his job to look after the kids full time since childcare for both of them cost £1,400 per month! I managed to find a job related to my degree which wasn’t very well paid, but it gave me the stepping stone to where I am now with a  good salary and close to my home, which means I spend less time travelling and more time with the kids. I know I am not the only one to have these experiences so that’s why having the opportunity raise my voice as well as the voices of other young women at the Advisory Panel Residential  was so important.

So, on Friday 6th March it was time to pack our bags - and my packing I mean throwing all of our clothes and toiletries into the bag (I knew my basketball skills would come in handy) - and pick my daughter up from school. She, my younger son and I caught the train to Birmingham. We arrived after 8pm and made our way to the conference centre. The kids were so excited about the big hotel room and my daughter loved that it was coloured pink. All of the excitement tired them out and as soon as their heads hit the pillows they were asleep.

Saturday morning came around and after breakfast we did a bit of sightseeing and ended up playing in a local park before other members arrived and the Residential started. We considered going to the science museum but it was £22 entry. No thank you! I can go for free in London! We returned to the conference centre in time to sign-in for the Residential and lunch with all the members. I then delivered the kids to the nannies and made my way to the advisory panel meeting. It’s so fantastic that Young Women’s Trust organises to have event nannies at Residentials. It means that finding alternative childcare for my children doesn’t become a barrier to me coming to the Residential.

The meeting started with Nadine, a member of the advisory panel capturing what Young Women’s Trust has been up to since the last residential and how they took our views forward from the last Residential. It was also so good to see all the little things each and every one of us have been doing as well; how a team of 30 advisory panel members along with staff at Young Women’s Trust can make a better and bigger difference to young women’s lives. Excitingly I was presented with some Love to Shop vouchers for being the person who contributes most on the ‘secret’ Facebook group, this prize is going to be something that will be presented at each Residential going forward.

Lydia, the Participation Manager then spoke about developing the Regional Networks to reach more young women on a local level. This was the bit of the meeting I was really looking forward to and all of the ideas about regional networks so far didn’t disappoint me either. I could totally envisage this and it gave me lots to think about in relation to the young mum’s group I am about to set up in Harrow. We spent a lot of time sharing ideas about how to get these Regional Networks up and running in terms of support, training, communicating to each other, membership requirements and much more. I think this is a fantastic initiative can’t wait to see how our ideas are implemented.

Victoria, the Director of Fundraising, then talked about a fundraising event in May where all of the Advisory Panel members have been invited to update donors on what Young Women’s Trust has been doing with their money. We were separated into groups and each group was given a £2000 budget to plan our ideal event and again, our ideas didn’t lack in creativity, that’s for sure! That session ended the meeting so I went back to pick up the kids before dinner. After dinner we went along to a Colour Me Beautiful session where we learnt all about our colours, body shapes and lots more. It was a great evening with lots of laughter and some of the members rocked their best colours at breakfast the next day.

Sunday, also International Women’s Day, consisted of media training with media professionals Mike and Laurie. During the training we learnt how to present ourselves during media interviews, keep our cool and how to deliver our message clearly. We then got to put this training into action and were called in to do individual interviews in front of a camera. Now all I have to do is put these media training skills to use!

What a coincidence that the Residential fell on International Women’s Day. In celebration we mentioned who our #everydaySHEro is. For me, it’s my daughter and that’s because when I had about enough of life a few years ago God gave me one of his best angels! All that I do now is for my daughter and my son to live in a better world. They have both inspired me and helped me find confidence that I didn’t know I had. It was amazing to hear fellow members nominate their #everdaySHEroes too.

The residential inspired me to do more things for young women, especially young mums because we all have the potential to be inspirational in our lives and the lives of others with the right support and opportunities. My involvement on the advisory panel has also given me the chance to attend several conferences and parliamentary events sharing my story so that other young mum’s going through what I went through feel less alone and better supported.

Thank you to Young Women’s Trust, Lydia and the team for my first unforgettable Residential trip.