Young Women Lead - Journal #1

Sometime last year, my friend Katie told me I’d get a lot out of the Young Women Lead Programme she’d taken part in the year before. I always think of Katie as a bit of a mini-me, since she’s currently training as a journalist (she’s also incredibly sweet so check out her blog).

I obediently listened to Katie and applied for the programme, which is designed to assist young women (“young” in my case) in engaging with and participating in politics. Since it’s for women aged 30 and younger, this was the last possible year I could have taken part so I figured I had nothing to lose. Luckily, I was accepted and we had our first meet-up at the Scottish Parliament at the tail-end of 2018.


Basically, the aim of the game is to get more women engaging with politics and we get to set up our own government committee to research a topic of our choice.

If you spend any time online at all, you’ll see near-constant jokes about “snowflakes” (made my people who get upset about vegans having access to sausage rolls), “safe spaces” and “ARE U TRIGGERED??” The nature of YWL and having 30+ women in one room desperate to change the world means opinions flying all over the place about tough, tough topics. And well…it genuinely is a safe space! We might not always agree but the freedom to throw shit at the wall and see what sticks without any judgement is rare and probably the thing I’m most grateful for.

I was already relatively confident in my political knowledge when I signed up, but I didn’t realise how insecure I was about expressing political opinions until this process started. As someone with a certain level of self-awareness (the big 3-0 does that to you), it was a bit of a shock to learn my engagement with politics was relatively superficial and rarely strayed beyond a retweet of someone who I’ve assumed must know a lot more about this subject than I do.


One of the best parts of this programme is getting to stay at Hotel Paterson, aka my Nana and Grandad’s house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Since I live more than four hours away from them now, I usually only make it down a few times a year if I’m lucky but this has been an excellent excuse to sprawl on the sofa watching old episodes of Who wants to be a millionaire? AND I get marmalade on toast made for me in the morning. I am in heaven.

Before Christmas, we split into three groups to make presentations on a chosen topic. We then present these presentations (I know, genius, right?) and then vote by ballot for the topic we’re going to move forward to committee stage with. I was in the Brexit team, which ended up being almost too huge a topic for us to cover but our presentation by Amy and Hannah was incredible. Amy and I have really clicked and she’s a natural leader - when she speaks, you think YES, WHEREVER YOU’RE GOING, TAKE ME WITH YOU.

The topic that won out was…drum roll…

To explore the relationship young women have with sport and physical activity, with particular regard to issues that might prevent participation.

The day after the presentations, we paired up with someone from another group and I gravitated towards The Other Lauren as we did our first icebreakers together on the first ever day. She’d missed the presentations so instead of giving each other feedback (which was the task), I skilfully re-enacted them, for which I’m sure she is eternally grateful.


Women’s relationship with physical activity is a great topic because it affects every single one of us. If we didn’t engage with exercise, why not? What barriers were we up against? And if we did engage with physical activity, what encouraged us? I’m training for a marathon this year; if you’d told me that a year ago, I probably would have burst into tears because every time I tried to go for a run, I’d have a panic attack and walk home sobbing, such was the emotion tied to my relationship with exercise. If I can do anything to help younger women get to where I am now, but quicker, I’ll be thrilled.

There’s almost no question that 2019 will be the most exciting year of my life so far. I’m writing a book, I’ve started a new job and now this! But it also means I have no time to savour any of the great things that are happening for me. I got all of my good news at once and I wobbled. I had a crisis of confidence and I’m only now starting to settle in at work and feel like I belong there. I worry I won’t enjoy Young Women Lead as much as I should because my mind is always off somewhere else. I’m always doing at the moment. I’ll need all these wonderful women to keep my feet on the ground.

Lauren Aitchison