30 Under 30: Katie Burke

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It has been almost exactly a year since Holyrood unanimously passed a bill allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote. That means that if you are 16 or 17, last month’s election was the first Scottish Parliament election in which you could vote.

Katie Burke presenting at an eventBut did you know that people have been campaigning for 16 years – that’s your entire life if you’re 16 now! – to get you that vote? At 19, Scottish Youth Parliament Chair Katie Burke hasn’t been in the fight that whole time (although the image of a 3 year old with a placard is brilliant), but she was lucky enough to be involved when the bill finally passed.

It’s just one of the incredible things that Katie has done to support young people in Scotland, and that’s seriously impressive when you remember that she is still a young person herself!

Katie is the Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament for North East Fife, having stood for election in St Andrews after moving there to study International Relations at the University. Prior to that she spent four years as the MSYP for Helensburgh and Lomond (she’s from Helensburgh originally). Not enough? She’s also a board member for YouthLink Scotland.

Katie, fellow Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament, and MP Mhairi Black hold leaflets for the 'lead the way campaign'Her work hasn’t gone unnoticed: she was the winner of both the Argyll & Bute Young Citizen Award (2013) and the SYP John McCann Unsung Hero award (2015).

And a couple of weeks ago, when most other 19 year olds were (rightly!) celebrating the end of exams, Katie and a colleague on the SYP board were off to Geneva to present to the United Nations Committee on Childrens’ and Young People’s Rights (you know, as you do).

‘As the only two young voices there we sat in direct opposition the 25 person strong Government delegation informing the committee of what it was really like to grow up as a young person in Scotland today, and where young people felt work needed to be done. The final report was published last week, and within it lie almost every point we put across to the committee. Being able to contribute, alongside other child rights experts in Scotland, was an awe-inspiring experience.’

But Katie isn’t just focused on improving the rights of young people in Scotland. She also describes herself as a proud feminist, something she carries with her when she speaks to young people in school about their career ambitions.

‘There are so many moments in my life where I have noticed different treatment particularly because I am young and a woman. Many continually assume that I will be less able than my older or male counterparts. Women in the political world continually have to fit an image of perfection to gain respect and be listened to in meetings.’

Preach, Katie!

You can find out more about Katie and the Scottish Youth Parliament on the SYP website, and if you’re on Twitter you can follow both Katie (@KBurkeMYSP) and the SYP (@OfficialSYP)

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