‘Who would have thought that a single parent on Universal Credit would get into politics?’

Maxine is a single mum from Glasgow. Last year, she joined Oxfam’s Future Skills project to gain skills and boost her confidence. Here, she reflects on her experience of being part of the programme.

I first heard about Future Skills when I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw that Oxfam were looking for women to get involved.

It really stood out to me as I have a passion for fighting poverty and helping people. The programme was offering shop skills which I was needing with my five-year unemployment gap due to having my daughter.

I am a single parent living on Universal Credit. I’d previously worked in the hospitality sector but I’d had a five-year break from employment to have my daughter. I knew I wanted a career change and to get into the third sector; I couldn’t go back to working the unsociable hours the hospitality sector requires. But I have no qualifications; I felt stuck.

Before I started Future Skills, my confidence was low and I had depression and anxiety. I was lost. That all changed when I joined Future Skills.

Through Future Skills I did a volunteer placement in Oxfam’s Clarkston shop. The warm welcome from the manager and volunteers made me feel really at ease and I learned how to use the till, serve customers and even learnt all about Gift Aid.

The best part of my placement was getting to know all of the amazing volunteers in the shop over a cup of tea (there were a lot of tea and biscuits)! It’s a rare thing to have a hard-working volunteer team who help each other and empower each other even when the shop can be busy.

As well as the placement, Future Skills gave me the chance to attend monthly workshops at Oxfam’s Glasgow office, facilitated by the lovely Future Skills Coordinator, Suzanne. At the workshops, I got to meet other women on the Future Skills programme who were based in different shops. I loved meeting them every month and making lovely connections with all of the fabulous women.

Future Skills also gave me the opportunity to have regular sessions with a professional coach who was absolutely amazing. My coach got me to focus on my goals and helped motivate me to achieve them.

Every month I gained more confidence, and I was promoted to volunteer supervisor in the Clarkston shop. I now help to run the shop and train new volunteers along with my manager, Morag, and the deputy manager, Chris. Morag and Chris trained me up and empowered me to believe in myself and become the leader I am today.

While I was on the Future Skills programme, I saw a post on social media promoting an opportunity for young women in Scotland to apply for a leadership programme aimed at getting more women involved in politics. Future Skills had given me the confidence to apply and I got in!

The leadership programme is run by the Young Women’s Movement Scotland and I’m now a Young Women lead. The programme is run in partnership with the Scottish Parliament and it’s now in its second year.

Through the programme, I and 29 other young women have created model committee sessions on our chosen topic: To explore the relationship young women have with sport and physical activity, with particular regard to issues that might prevent participation.

We held our first live committee session in February at the Scottish Parliament, chaired by Linda Fabiani, the Deputy Presiding Officer. Our next meeting will be held in April and we’re also launching a survey of young women in Scotland on their views on sport and physical activity to get them engaged with politics.

The young women programme has given me a voice in Parliament, my community and in my life. Who would have thought that a single parent on Universal Credit would get into politics? It certainly wasn’t my original plan!

My progress is all thanks to Future Skills, Oxfam and the Clarkston shop. I was given a chance to build my confidence; I was given my life back. My six-month placement has now finished and the journey has been amazing. I have so much love for Oxfam that I have decided to stay on and volunteer in the Clarkston shop and help empower more volunteers to gain work skills and confidence, because every individual is worth it.

Oxfam gave me a purpose in life and I’m now planning for my future career; I’m hoping to stand for election in my local community in 2021. I want to inspire more women to get into politics, especially single parents; empowered women empower women. I really want to inspire the next generation, including my own daughter, to make Scotland a better place to live in.

I want women to know that they don’t need to wait until they’ve reached their goal in order to be proud of themselves. They should be proud of every step they make towards reaching that goal.

From my perspective, I am the happiest I’ve ever been and my depression and anxiety have gone. My dreams have come true.

If you’d like to keep up to date on Maxine’s progress you can follow @youngwomenscot on twitter and instragarm look out for the hashtags  #ScotWomenRise #YoungwomenLead