With applications for the next cohort of our mentoring programme open (23 May to 15 June 2015), we hear from former mentee Catherine Fookes on her experience of the scheme.
Reading about the FWN scheme in the Observer was a defining moment. My first steps into Westminster to meet the other mentees were nerve wracking, but in hindsight I can confirm that it was absolutely worth it. The buddy scheme, where you can talk to previous mentees, along with the wonderful attitude and encouragement of Christine and Caroline and the other women attending the programme, created an incredibly relaxed atmosphere. Meetings with my mentor Madeleine Moon MP have been really helpful – but the whole scheme is so much bigger than your relationship with your mentor.
We’ve been to Brussels, Westminster and Barnsley! We’ve spent a day at Labour Party HQ, we’ve heard about life as a minister, life as a whip, life as an MP, life as a parliamentary candidate, life behind the political scenes, and what it is like to be involved in public life. Perhaps even more valuable than these experiences is that we have swapped ideas and debated them fiercely, gleaning advice from 28 other fabulous women – councillors, campaigners, lawyers and lobbyists, who all have something hugely positive to offer society.
As a result of the FWN scheme, it seems that many of us have found our political voices. Many of us feel that now is the time to stand up and get involved, and there is no reason why we – and many more women after us – can’t add our voice and our energy to helping make our country a better and fairer place to live. Finding my political voice was certainly one of my key objectives in joining the scheme. I wanted to understand whether it was possible for an ‘ordinary’ woman with no special links to the political world to get involved in politics. The answer has been a resounding ‘yes’.
Catherine Fookes is a food campaigner. She tweets @organiccath
Click here for more information on our mentoring programme and how to apply.