30 Under 30: Zara KitsonWritten by The Young Women's Movement
Zara Kitson has the distinction of being the only woman on our 30 Under 30 list who is not, technically, under 30. Yes, she is 30 now, but one look at her collection of achievements and surely you have to forgive us for overlooking that tiny detail!
In just the last five years Zara has developed and delivered a branch of Tree of Knowledge focused on youth and community, was a programme manager for Columba 1400, was Vice Chair for Fallin Community Enterprises, was a ‘Thinking Together’ Assembly Co-Ordinator for So Say Scotland, and has run as a Scottish Green Party Candidate in multiple elections.
Take a breath, we’re not done yet.
In 2013 she set up her own business, Dream Graft, offering support, communications, consultancy, etc. for other businesses and communities going through change. She was a Trustee Board Member for Creative Stirling and is a Steward for So Say Scotland. She’s also an Executive Assistant for LGBT Youth Scotland, and is a member of The Young European Collective (a group of 12 who recently published the brilliant wee book Who if Not Us?)
Okay, really glad that this is a blog because if one person had to say all of that out loud they’d run out of air. And we’ve probably missed some things.
Although she studied public policy at uni, Zara – who hails from a small town near Stirling – has a background in youth work and community work rather than politics proper.
‘Five years ago if you’d said “Zara, in five years’ time you’ll have done so much in politics”, I’d have been like “no way”.’
But after lapsing into a bit of a rant during a question at a hustings event in May 2012 (who doesn’t love a good rant?), Zara was approached by MSP Mark Ruskell, who encouraged her to get involved in politics.
‘I said, “oh, I’ve thought about it but to be honest I feel like it’s maybe something I’ll do when I’m older. I’m too young, and I don’t think I know enough.” I was 25 at the time, and Mark replied, “well, you could wait to get involved or you could get involved now and take a generation with you.” And that made me think differently.’
Zara went from someone who’d never really been interested in politics (‘I just thought it was sort of a bunch of men shouting at each other’) to running as a candidate to be councillor – and then to be an MP – and then to be an MSP.
Although her bid to join the Scottish Parliament wasn’t successful this time around, Zara is very clear that it’s not something that will hold her back. She speaks of writing more, of empowering others and progressing agendas as she herself becomes a more confident writer. And no, she hasn’t written another candidacy off entirely, but maybe not just yet.
‘Having not been elected it’s made me more passionate about raising women’s voices outside of parliament. I’ve realized that there’s lots of ways you can use your voice outside of being a politician. I think it’s important for people to see that wherever you are and whatever you’re active in, you have power.’
And to that we give a whole world of YAASSS!
In her own words...
You can find out more about Zara on her website, or by following her on Twitter at @ZaraKitson! You should also definitely check out her book with The Young European Collective, Who if Not Us? It’s free and it’s awesome.