Pamodzi means together
I’m a young woman who has been lucky enough to be offered lots of awesome opportunities; I feel as though it’s my responsibility to speak out about the inequity of opportunities, also. But at the same time, I feel that by sharing successes, we can create positive change through a positive focus. It might be the final push that encourages that young person to apply for an internship or encourages a board to give another young person a seat at the table. So I’ll attempt to do both.
I have been incredibly lucky. I’ve been offered some great experiences, and a fair few have come along in sort of a domino effect. The story I always share when talking about what I do is this:
I’m a student and youth activist. I have always been involved in student voice type things, but in secondary school, an opportunity arose for some of the members of our student council to take part in a Portsmouth-wide student forum, the Council of Portsmouth Students (CoPS). In all honesty, I wasn’t entirely fussed about going - I didn’t really know what it was, but a trip seemed fun, and so I put myself forward. Long story short, I had to rock, paper, scissors for the final place and my goodness, I am so thankful to little Ella for winning that game. I joined the forum and stayed a part of it for 3-4 years, working with schools around LGBTQ+ education and better integration for disabled students, among other things. In the 2nd and 3rd years, I was elected vice-chair of the forum (a big thank you to the facilitators that encouraged me to run that day). -The nerdy little ginger girl won! Those roles alone brought me incredible opportunities; I got to go to board meetings and speak at conferences and even got to go to the House of Commons. Before this, I had never realised that adults and decision-makers cared about the views of young people, and it was eye-opening.
Now, I understand that not every adult or decision-maker is like this, but that’s just fuel to my fire. Eager to keep doing more, I got involved in projects like Future in Mind, a mental health-focused steering group that used coproduction. Then I was nominated for and presented with a Diana Award, something I will be forever proud of -even though that imposter syndrome pokes its head from time to time.
This domino effect that I talk about, CoPS really kickstarted that for me, so a big thank you to Unloc, who host the forum, for all of the support over the last few years.
Long story short, I was able to get involved in projects working with the Solent NHS Trust, even getting to speak at their AGM. I was voted to be head girl at my secondary school and was also successful in applying to be a youth ambassador for ONE, a global movement campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030. For the last three years, I have been able to say that I campaign with other ambassadors and lobby MPs in my free time (which I find pretty amusing). Thanks to this role, I’ve now been to the House of Commons a fair few times, and I still get as excited as the first. I’ve also gotten to participate in the YOUNGA youth delegate programme, working with young activists from around the world to form communiqués ahead of the UN general assembly.
And now, I find myself on two advisory boards; I still campaign with ONE and have just been elected as one of Portsmouth’s Deputy Members of Youth Parliament. It makes me so excited to have the chance to give back to a city that has offered me so much.
However, we all know that not many other young people are as lucky. Nobody would have to rock, paper or scissors in an ideal world to gain access to opportunities. Luck should never play a role in the development of young leaders and change-makers.
One of the biggest challenges I face is learning to say no. I recognise that I am fortunate to be invited to take part in the things that I do, and not enough young women have the same and so it can feel like I am not genuinely valuing what others offer me and that I’m letting down those that aren’t so lucky when I do say no.
As you can guess, with that comes quite a big workload. I’m currently in the midst of exams for my A-Levels, and I have to be quite strict with myself in remembering that, right now, I have to be a student before attempting to be this superhuman youth activist that has endless hours in their day. That doesn’t mean I feel any less guilty, though.
I do want to emphasise that I’m not telling you to stop reaching out to young people to collaborate. There are lots of us that do! But just remember that a majority of opportunities go to the minority, and we are probably working on lots of other things too.
My diary can get pretty busy at times. When working with adults and professionals that don’t usually coproduce with young people, I find that there can be this sort of disbelief at the fact I might not have loads of availability. Yes, I’m at college for regular hours of the day, but I have calls scheduled around that (Dare I say, Zoom has made commutes easier); I have to work, find some time to do ‘normal’ thing (urgh, I hate that word) oh and fit in some food and sleep somewhere. I’m not selling myself as an easy person to work with, but I’m trying to say that there seems to be no middle ground in this world of empowerment. You have all the outreach or none. And for those of us that have lots, we really don’t want to say no (you’ve found a rare one of us if we say no straight away regardless), and if we had a few more hours in the day, there would be no stopping us.
I don’t share the adventures that I’ve had so far in vain, honest! I take every opportunity to encourage decision and change-makers to work with young people and to give them a seat at the decision-making table. And with the world of online conferencing, though I do recognise the inequality amongst tech access, I don’t see any excuse not to branch out and work with a greater variety of young people.
I think empowered generations go on to be responsible generations. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think about a time when we need that any more than now.
challenge, affirm, inspire.
Lead Author : Kelly Marie Baker
Kelly-Marie is a tree loving, free spirited mum of two. Based in Southsea, she leads her family on a Home Education journey, learning from life and the world around them. Over the years her creative soul has been fed with the likes of poetry, dance, choreography and, more recently, writing. Her writing is predominantly focused on personal growth and development with a special interest in using the platform to challenge social norms and provoke deep thought. Kelly believes that The Arts are an immensely important tool to communicate complex and delicate issues and is proud to be collaborating with Pamodzi Creatives. Kelly’s favourites are nature, travel, personal development and coffee…all the coffee!