At the end of January, I’ll be leaving my position at IGLYO to take up a new job in Scotland. After eleven years of being involved- four as a volunteer and seven as Executive Director- I can truly say that IGLYO is in my blood and that the organisation will always have a special place in my heart.
The biggest privilege of my role has been to meet and work with so many inspirational young people, many who are fighting for our rights in dangerous or hostile environments.
To IGLYO’s members: I’m in awe of the work that you do. My own motivation and ambition for IGLYO have been constantly driven by your courage, commitment, and determination to ensure LGBTQI young people have the support they need and the rights to which we should all be entitled.
To IGLYO’s alumni: I am forever grateful to you for creating and developing a network that achieves so much for LGBTQI young people, and for continuing to contribute to the rich history of the organisation. Meeting with many of you and hearing about IGLYO’s past make up some of my most cherished memories during my time in post.
To queer young people everywhere: when times are tough or you feel alone, remember there is a powerful international community ready to provide support, friendships and love. And while it’s vitally important that we recognise the complex diversity of our movement, and keep working together to tackle issues of under-representation, we must not lose sight of what unites us. We need to stand in solidarity with one another and ensure that our differences add to our collective strength rather than divide us.
In 2009, IGLYO entered my life when I helped to host the Annual General Assembly in as part of my role at LGBT Youth Scotland. During those three days, my eyes were truly opened to international activism, learning about the inspirational work carried out by so many organisations across Europe. It was also the beginning of many dear friendships which continue to this day. Hungry for more, I joined the IGLYO Board in 2011. This gave me the chance to develop a host of skills, and gave me hands-on experience of leadership and governance. Then in 2013, the ultimate opportunity arose- the chance to work for an organisation that had given me so much.
Working as IGLYO’s Executive Director for the last seven years has been an honour. With a background in youth work, I’ve always been passionate about youth rights and strongly believe in young people. IGLYO remains very special as it is both an LGBTQI organisation and a youth organisation. It provides LGBTQI young people with safe and supportive opportunities to explore their own identities, connect with other young people internationally, and learn from one another. With the rising backlash and outright attacks on LGBTQI rights, these international spaces for queer youth become even more precious.
While these founding aims will always remain at the core of IGLYO’s work, the organisation has grown and developed significantly over this time, achieving more for LGBTQI young people and our members. This means it is much better equipped to advocate for LGBTQI youth rights, to conduct extensive research into LGBTQI youth issues, provide mentorship and organisational capacity building opportunities for members, develop our alumni network, and greatly increase its communications and campaigning work.
Two areas of work of which I am most proud to have been involved in are, the creation of the Activist Academy, led by IGLYO’s Programmes Manager, Tudor and the Inclusive Education Project, led by IGLYO’s Policy and Research Manager, Rubén. The Activist Academy has now trained over 120 young people to become effective campaigners, public speakers and community leaders, building a powerful collective of youth activists. The Inclusive Education Project has provided the first comprehensive account of LGBTQI inclusive laws, policies and practices in education across Europe and gathered over 17.000 LGBTQI young people’s experiences of school, to ensure that national governments never forget their commitments to providing quality education for all young people.
My sincere thanks to all the young people who have given time, energy and ideas by volunteering for IGLYO’s Board, working groups or prep teams. My thanks to everyone who has been part of IGLYO’s Secretariat for their tireless work – it has been a genuine pleasure to work with you and I wish you all the best for 2021 and beyond. Finally, a very special thanks to my predecessor, Virginia Prasmickaite, for setting up the office in Brussels and laying such strong foundations for the organisation’s Secretariat.
The Board and Governance Team are working hard to appoint an Interim Director before I move on, but the Secretariat will remain in very good hands with the Management Team (Tudor, Rubén and Lucille) and the wider staff team (Michael, Petra and Matteo). Two additional roles of Administration Officer and Programmes Officer will also be recruited early this year, bring the staff team to nine positions.
While my new role will not focus on LGBTQI rights, IGLYO has made me a lifelong activist and I am looking forward to finding new ways to contribute to and engage in our international movement. Although it will no longer be my job, I will remain IGLYO Forever!