Undergraduate Feminist Trailblazer Awards 2022 – Katie Horsburgh, 1st Prize

This year, GENDER.ED and the Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) came together for the launch of the Undergraduate Feminist Trailblazers Awards and Blog Series. The Awards seek to recognise and celebrate the contribution of undergraduate students from the University of Edinburgh who are furthering the cause of feminism through important and impactful work. The judges were GENDER.ED Steering Group member and ‘Understanding Gender in the Contemporary World’ course convenor, Dr Meryl Kenny, EUSA Vice President Education, Tara Gold and GENDER.ED’s Interim Director, Dr Radhika Govinda.

The first-place winner for this year’s Undergraduate Feminist Trailblazers Awards was Katie Horsburgh, a 4th year Sociology student at the University of Edinburgh. Katie impressed the judges with her incredible breadth and depth of experience and commitments, ranging from advocacy work to academic work. Katie was a Young Spokesperson for Girlguiding Scotland for 6 years, campaigning on a range of issues such as women’s representation in politics and period poverty whilst in this role. Recently, she was appointed Lead Volunteer for Girl Voice at Girlguiding Scotland – a fantastic show of her dedication to the charity. Alongside this, Katie sat on the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls, leading the Youth Consultation and representing young people in strategic gender equality policy recommendations. Furthermore, Katie is a Trustee at Edinburgh Rape Crisis, working on strategy, governance, and intersectional approaches to student support services. Outside of her volunteer commitments, Katie is committed to furthering the cause of feminism in her academic work; her studies focus primarily on the intersection of gender and race. Katie’s dissertation focused on informal feminist mentoring relationships and the power of intergenerational collaboration for the feminist movement. The judges commended Katie for her ‘focused and productive engagement in many areas of feminist political and social activity in Edinburgh and Scotland.’


Here’s what Katie had to say in response to some questions posed to her by GENDER.ED’s Undergraduate Communications and Events intern, Lauren Galligan:


What motivates you in your work to further the cause of feminism?

 I think I’ve always been motivated by fairness and justice— I was definitely that kid in the playground who wanted to make sure the game was fair and that everyone could join in. Growing up as a girl meant that the injustices I faced because of my gender felt really obvious to me, and I wanted to change that. I’ve also always been really motivated by the idea of leaving the world better than I found it; I care very deeply about helping people. These core values are what encouraged me to get actively involved in feminism as a teenager, and they are what keep me going.

As I’ve moved through the world and experienced more things, specific parts of feminism’s fight have become interesting to me. Firstly, the ways in which girls and young women can contribute to feminism are amazing. I love working with children and young people, seeing them grow and develop, and being challenged by their usually very cutting and insightful questions. Their energy motivates me to keep going. Next, having seen the ways in which patriarchal power manifests itself as violence against women and girls, and how this in turn serves to re-solidify that same patriarchal power, prevention of such violence has become a significant passion of mine, as well as supporting those who have already experienced it. Finally, having the pleasure of working with a diverse group of women and girls, and learning about how patriarchy, capitalism and white supremacy mutually reinforce each other, I really care about making feminism a space for everyone, and working to unpick each of those power systems at once. This motivates me to keep learning— I am not perfect, but I’m trying each day.


What would be your advice to any other students and non-students wanting to get involved in similar work to you?

Basic and cheesy, but just go for it! I got to where I am now by taking a leap and applying to be on a young campaigners’ group on a whim when I was 15. All I had then was passion and some skills to offer, no real knowledge and experience, but I’ve learned and gained so much by just getting stuck in.

Generally, I’ve found the feminist community to be a place of safety, mutual support, and sisterhood. It’s an amazing thing to get involved with. Obviously, I have a lot of privilege though— being a cis, white, middle-class woman means I fit into a lot of spaces. So, do your research. Find spaces where you know you’ll be emotionally safe and where you feel you will be able to make a real impact. Or get a girl gang together and go subvert some more old school feminist spaces. Or create your own safe space. Whatever works!


Who else, other than yourself, do you consider an inspirational ‘Feminist Trailblazer’, and why?

I’m so lucky to know and work with so many incredible women and girls; they all inspire me every day. However, to name a few…

Standing on the shoulders of giants: Emma Ritch

I had the absolute privilege of working alongside Emma Ritch for three years while on the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls. I was always so impressed with her detailed knowledge, which she had the unique skill of sharing unashamedly yet un-patronisingly. She created space for those of us who were new, asking us about our thoughts and praising us when we did something well. The movement in Scotland feels her loss every day. You can read more about Emma’s life, work, and impact on people here.

Two of our own: Lilah Hyman and Laila Ghaffar

I am very lucky to be friends with loads of fantastic feminists from the University of Edinburgh—you all know who you are. Two of my friends co-founded the intersectional feminist blog Clitbait while in first year, and it is going from strength to strength as they graduate this year. From blogs, to an excellent Instagram page, to poetry workshops and club nights, Clitbait really provides a space where members of the UoE community and people beyond can express themselves on a range of feminist issues. I am so impressed by their constant commitment to inclusivity and creating space. You can visit Clitbait’s website here.

One to watch: Amanda Amaeshi

Finally, some of the most inspiring feminist trailblazers I work with are the girls and young women I have the joy of working with. One to watch is Amanda Amaeshi, who at just 17 is a young spokesperson for Girlguiding Scotland and is representing the organisation on the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls in its second phase. Amanda has campaigned on a range of issues affecting girls and young women, and I can’t wait to see what she will go on to achieve. You can find out more about her and find links to her many articles and blogs here.


You can find Katie on twitter at @HorsburghKatie.


This is the first blog post in our series profiling the winners of the Undergraduate Feminist Trailblazer Awards 2021-2022, organised by GENDER.ED and EUSA. Look out for four more blog posts in this series!