We must use our voice: Katie on UK gender stereotypes | ActionAid UK

Katie Horsburgh

Day of the Girl guest blogger

Katie is from Edinburgh. Despite only being 15, she is already a Girlguiding Advocate, a champion for girls and much much more. As part of our celebrations for International Day of the Girl this week we asked Katie about her achievements, her ambitions, and why she cares so much about Global Goal 5 - gender equality.

Katie showing her support for Goal 5 of the #GlobalGoals for Development - gender equality.
Katie showing her support for Goal 5 of the #GlobalGoals for Development - gender equality.

Katie, what’s your proudest achievement?

One of the things I am most proud of is joining my school Debate Club and participating in a Model United Nations conference. We discuss many topics at debate club such as UK politics, world issues and gender equality. I love to debate and enjoy both expressing my views and listening to what others have to say. We also went to a Model United Nations Conference, where each school represents a different UN country and debate current world issues. I made several points during these debates and I even had an amendment passed. I am most proud of this because it is frightening at first to talk in front of a lot of people but I did it and find public speaking much easier (even enjoyable) now. I hope that by throwing myself whole-heartedly into debates I can encourage the younger girls at Debate Club to express their opinions about the various issues we discuss.

Why do you think it’s important that girls have equal opportunities to boys?

I think it’s extremely important to give girls and boys the same opportunities because then each child will have the opportunity to fulfill their potential and to achieve their dreams.

I think that there are huge pressures on girls in the UK. The 2015 Girls’ Attitudes survey, conducted by Girlguiding has shown the extent of these pressures. For example, girls aged 7-10 associate themselves with words like ‘caring’, ‘helpful’ and ‘shy’ whereas they associate ‘strong’, ‘brave’ and ‘adventurous’ with boys. Also, 75% of girls aged 7-10 think girls are treated differently to boys. Many girls feel limited by gender stereotypes and they are stopped from fulfilling their full potential.

Personally, I like to challenge gender stereotypes and try to be my full self without worrying what other people think. It can be very difficult but overall I’m happy being me and want to help other girls feel the same!

Katie and her fellow Senior Section girlguides - Senior Section is like guides but for 14-25 year olds.

What are your thoughts on attitudes to girls in other countries?

I think that girls in other countries around the world face different challenges to girls in the UK, many of which are more difficult. British girls face issues like cyber bullying and everyday sexism – both of which are very important – whereas girls overseas face bigger problems such as lack of education and female genital mutilation (FGM).

I think, therefore, that it is vital that we tailor our approach to achieving gender equality (Goal 5 of the Global Goals for Development) to the country in hand. For example, girls in other countries need sanitary towels and clean water to allow them to go to school whilst on their period and more legal protection of girls and their rights. 

I think it’s really important that as British girls, we use the voice – that we are very fortunate to have - to shout out for girls abroad so that their lives improve and their rights are better protected.

What are your ambitions for when you’re older?

When I’m older I’d like to do journalism because I love writing and it wouldn’t be boring because the news is always different. Alternatively, I’d like to work in film because I think it’s fascinating and I really like creative things. Another idea I have is to do something to do with politics because I am very interested in it. I love debating, expressing my views and listening to other people’s.

To do this I need qualifications, so I intend to work hard at school to get the grades I need. However, mostly I will need determination because I know that if I try really hard I can achieve anything.

What changes would you like to see in the world for girls by 2030?

I would like to see every girl being given the opportunity to go to school and study the same subjects as boys; an end to gender-based violence; and a societal change in attitude toward women and girls – girls should be seen as valuable, unique and determined!

Share Katie's blog on Facebook and Twitter so people hear what she has to say and to raise awareness of the importance of gender equality.

We asked three more girls about their thoughts on gender equality and their vision for 2030. Listen to what they have to say:

Photos: ActionAid