This post is a contribution from Victoria Jenkinson, a second year dual honours Sociology and History student. In this post Victoria reflects on the connections between her voluntary and activist work and her sociology studies. As well as being a student, Victoria is also a local councillor and a Girlguiding Advocate.
Being passionate about the support and development of young people has led me to take up positions of representation during the last two years of my university study. In May 2015, having noticed a profound disparity in the representation of younger and older people in my community, I chose to stand for election to my local council at the age of 18, in order to get the voices of young people in my community heard and, most importantly, listened to and acted upon. Since my election, I have established a new committee for the ‘Support and Development of Young People’ and have increased the involvement of young people in local groups and community projects. I am currently working towards a ‘Youth Council,’ project which is in the process of recruiting the first members of a group of young people who will design the Youth Council and its operations. I am also in the process of improving communication networks between the council and the community as I believe that new avenues of communication are key to community engagement, particularly for young people. I consider it important to create a positive atmosphere for young people so in order to make this a reality, I have been actively encouraging the production of positive publicity for young people in our local community.
My passion for representation led me to apply to become an Advocate for Girlguiding. The Advocate panel are a group of seventeen young women from all over the UK selected to speak on behalf of girls and young women. On a national platform, I now speak to MPs and decision makers about the issues affecting women and girls such as violence, harassment, representation and education, so that their concerns are addressed and taken into account during the policy making process. Through my work as an Advocate, I am regularly interviewed by the media regarding the issues most important to girls and young women in society. Most recent media encounters have included the Victoria Derbyshire Show, BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour, and Channel 4 and Sky News on the topic of sexual harassment in schools.
I was invited to attend the recent Commonwealth Day Celebrations as a representative of young women of the UK, which included an audience with the Queen at Westminster Abbey. One of my favourite events was addressing an audience at the pre-screening of the new Suffragette film which was followed by the ActionAid conference in Parliament. During my speech I stressed the importance for girls and young women to share their stories with others so that we can raise awareness of the horrors inflicted upon many girls and young women around the world. I emphasised the importance of feminism so that women know they are not alone and that we stand together against violence against women and girls.
I believe that my work outside of my degree course has thoroughly enriched my studies and enabled me to apply my sociology work to a wider social context. I have been afforded the opportunity to see for myself the impact of hierarchical structures and social discourses present in our contemporary world. Having listened to some of the most inspiring women from all over the world speak and share stories of their own experiences, I have learned to value my education more than ever before. My experiences have particularly reinforced the importance of the study of society and its operations for me as it has afforded me the opportunity to understand social change and how it can be achieved.