30 under 30: Hazel Marzetti

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Hazel Marzetti, 28, born in London lives in Edinburgh

Hazel Marzetti is one of the busiest people you’d ever meet, and she spends the majority of her personal and professional time helping others and doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary in her very extraordinary level of commitment and achievements.  

Hazel smashed through multiple barriers as a queer, disabled woman from a working-class background to go to Edinburgh University to study Philosophy. Whilst at uni in 2011 she was elected as the Women’s Rep on the NUS Scotland LGBT Committee, and then the NUS Scotland LGBT Officer, campaigning for and representing LGBT+ students across Scotland. Hazel then ran for election as Vice President of Societies and Activities (VPSA) in her final year, and won. Her portfolio included student welfare, equality and diversity, student societies, volunteering and charitable activities. She ran multiple welfare events and campaigns to improve support for students, and particularly those with additional needs or protected characteristics. 

After being VPSA she started working for Edinburgh University – first as the Project Co-ordinator of Inclusive Learning, implementing the Accessible and Inclusive Learning Policy. She then moved on to the Leading Enhancement in Assessment and Feedback (LEAF) project, looking at improving the way students get feedback.

While she was doing all that, she also volunteered for a whole bunch of different organisations. She was an e-mentor for Future First, providing online support for 6th form students deciding whether or not to apply for university. She was also a Researcher for the Edinburgh Museums’ Proud City exhibition that celebrated the LGBT+ culture and community in Edinburgh from 2005-2015. On top of all that Hazel also volunteers with LGBT Youth Scotland every other week, mostly with the Beyond Gender group that supports trans young people in Edinburgh and helping provide them with support, advice, a safe space and a listening ear.

She’s also heavily involved in Edinburgh Frontrunners, the LGBT Running group, on a weekly basis and helped to organise the first ever JogScotland run to officially allow non-binary entrants, which came out of a meeting she had with them about the barriers that were being created by Jog Scotland requiring people to tick one of two gender boxes to become members/attend runs.

A couple of years ago Hazel decided her life clearly wasn’t busy enough and started doing a part time Masters in Educational Research- whilst also simultaneously working full time (!). Despite having literally no spare hours in the day she graduated from her Masters with both Overall Distinction and Distinction in her dissertation, which examined the experiences of LGBT+ students at Scottish universities – a topic that had not been really researched before. She’s continuing her important research in a PhD at Glasgow University, examining how offline and online communities influence young LGBT+ people’s mental health and wellbeing in Scotland.

Hazel faces (and overcomes) barriers every day and still does more in a week than most people do in three months! We’re beginning to suspect that she somehow got her hands on Hermione Granger’s time turner! [If true, please share with us Hazel!] She’s a total boss and a passionate intersectional feminist who tirelessly advocates for others, and we can’t wait to read the results of her much-needed research!  


What’s your proudest achievement?

Hmmm this is a tough one to answer without feeling like I’m boasting. I think probably my proudest achievement so far has been being awarded my PhD funding earlier this year. In my secondary school initial assessment I think I was predicted to get maybe a couple of GCSEs (I am not a fan of standardised testing, as you can imagine), I arrived at university not even knowing what postgraduate study was, and now after lots and lots of studying I have my own research project that I designed and I get to grow and develop, which is pretty amazing.  

What women inspire you?

I always feel when answering questions like these that I should have some big, famous inspirations that I can reel off, but actually I find the women who I see and speak to in everyday life the most inspiring. Watching my friends, family, colleagues and peers around me pursuing their dreams, whilst balancing all the trials and tribulations of day-to-day life, and still managing to support their friends to do the same, I think is truly inspiring. That said, I think that the academic and feminist killjoy Sara Ahmed has been really inspiring to me personally as someone who has spent almost all of their adult life in universities, for speaking out against the racism, sexism, ableism, queerphobia, and other toxic prejudice and discrimination she has witnessed in higher education.  

What change would you like to see for girls and young women in Scotland in next 10 years?

This is a huge question! I’m going to focus on the changes that I would like to see for LGBT+ girls and young women, as this is where my experience both personally, and as a researcher and an activist, lies.  The short version of this though is that we as a society need to listen to the voices and respect the choices of young LGBT+ women at every level of social participation but the long version is something like this… 

Experience and risk of queerphobic bullying, discrimination, prejudice and harassment is an everyday reality for those who negotiate the world both as women and as LGBT+ people, and this can have a seriously detrimental effect on mental health. Casual queerphobia and the undermining of LGBT+ identities is an unacceptable day to day reality found in all forms of media, and I believe gives validation to people who hold queerphobic views and gives them more confidence to follow through on them. A significant step to combat this would be to stamp out queerphobia, and particularly transphobia, in all forms of media and to increase positive media representations of LGBT+ lives.  

LGBT+ identities are often entirely erased in education setting, and so I would like to see greater visibility of LGBT+ people and content embedded throughout every level of  the curriculum in Scotland, and not just limited to the occasional mention in sex ed or a special mention during LGBT History Month. I believe that knowing our history and having clear, visible role models who share our identities is essential for LGBT+ people to be able to construct positive futures, and this is particularly the case for young LGBT+ women who also have other minoritised or oppressed identities, such as LGBT+ women of colour and disabled LGBT+ women.  

Healthcare is another important area for change, both gynecological and mental health are under-funded, under-researched and under-resourced, and disproportionately affect young women. Young women’s health experiences are often not taken seriously with LGBT+ women denied accurate gynecological and sexual health information and women of colour’s experiences often silenced. Obviously better resourcing in these areas is essential, but also putting young women at the centre of their treatment, listening to their health care concerns, believing in their pain, and giving them autonomy and choice in their healthcare decisions is equally required to make healthcare effective for young women. This autonomy is particularly pertinent for young trans women, who face massive bureaucratic barriers going about their day-to-day lives. 

What can we do to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all?

There are huge both structural and day-to-day barriers experienced by young women at work and I think that it is important not to focus on the actions of those women to challenge this, but instead to focus on the institutional actions which could be taken. I want to see more areas of work taking responsibility for creative initiatives that will inspire young women from diverse backgrounds to see their industries as desirable places to live out their futures. This will inevitably mean changing the way we work to be more flexible and facilitative of young women’s lived realities which may need to make space for caring responsibilities, long-term illness and disability, and chronic under-confidence. I want society to show greater respect both culturally and financially to historically gendered professions which are often under-valued. Finally, given these changes in circumstance, I would like to see more women, and particularly women from minority or oppressed groups, in leadership providing role models, changing leadership cultures, and supporting other young women to follow in their footsteps. 

What 3 women (past or present, real or fictional) would you invite to your dream dinner party/picnic?

I think my first choice would be Judith Butler so I could quiz her extensively on all her writing and I would probably take along all my copies of her books and show her my favourite bits. My second would be Paris Lees, for big political chats, because every time I see her on the TV I feel like we could be pals. My final choice would be Nicola Adams, because I find her advocacy on mental health, her determination, and her proud bisexual visibility hugely inspirational (and as an aspiring dog owner I would quietly hope she’d bring her Pomeranian along!). 

What would your message be for girls and young women in Scotland?

Be kind to yourself. Don’t blame yourself for the structural barriers that meet you. Don’t blame yourself for people’s narrow mindedness. Just find your people, keep dreaming, stay determined, and try your best to use your successes to support those around you to achieve.  

Find Hazel on Twitter @hazelmarzetti 

Pictures courtesy of Hazel Marzetti

You can see the full list of our amazing 30 Under 30 2017 finalists here, and keep a look out on the blog as we feature a different finalist every day throughout November.

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