Where are they now? Dr Pip Gardner

Dr Pip Gardner
Dr Pip Gardner
UN Women Beijing+25 Youth Task Force member and LGBTI+ activist
BA Archaeology and Geography 2011, PhD Geography 2018
Pip is a vocal gender equality and LGBTI+ campaigner. We asked them about their best memories of Sheffield and what is next for them as part of a UN Women Youth Task Force.
Dr Pip Gardner

What did you study?

In my undergraduate I studied Archaeology and Geography as a dual honours degree – I was attracted to Sheffield as one of the few places that would let me explore my interest in both subjects. I guess that came from an interest in people and the spaces they inhabit and these subjects let me look at that in both the past and the present.

I went away to do an MA in Museum Studies at the University of East Anglia and then came back to Sheffield a few years later to take that further when the opportunity to do a PhD project collaboratively between the Department of Geography and Museums Sheffield came up. I worked closely with the team redeveloping the galleries at Weston Park Museum in 2014 to 2016 and even got to curate one of the cases on the Romano-British period in the Archaeology Gallery.

What first attracted you to Sheffield?

I really liked that the campus is embedded in the city - that it’s not in its own bubble. Also, I was coming from Peterborough and the fens which is completely flat, and at the time was very excited about the hills and being close to the Peaks. Everyone was really friendly when I visited on the open day and that sense of welcome made me feel like it was the place I wanted to be.

What were some of your favourite things to do in Sheffield?

Walking was one of my favourite things to do in Sheffield. When I was an undergraduate I spent a lot of time exploring the city, and even walking out to the edge of the Peaks from my home in Crookesmoor a few times. When I came back to study for a PhD, I lived with my partner and our dog in Firth Park and spent a lot of time at Wincobank and also driving out into the heart of the Peaks. I played rugby throughout the three years of my undergraduate degree and that was also a focus of activities, with training three times a week as well as matches and socials.   

What is your best memory of Sheffield?

That’s difficult to say having spent seven years out of a decade at the University. I guess the constant is Weston Park and all the different memories I have, from my first visit on an open day, through to spending time there at both of my graduations.

You currently work for Woodcraft Folk, an organisation that helps young people develop self-confidence and social awareness – what drew you to working for them/in that sector?

I benefitted a lot from similar organisations as a teenager and volunteered a lot with children and young people in the past, including organising large camps and events.

Woodcraft Folk had been an organisation that people I knew in other cities had been part of (including in Sheffield), but they’d never been in Peterborough when I was growing up. The job I started with at Woodcraft Folk was to do just that – to open new groups in Peterborough and elsewhere in East Anglia so it seemed perfect.

My role then developed to include being the Communications Manager for the whole organisation and helping to promote our groups and centres across the country. One of our centres, Lockerbrook, is above Ladybower Reservoir and I’ve loved coming back to the Sheffield area to run trainings there.

Pip Gardner (centre) with other members from the Youth Task Force
Pip (centre) with other members from the Youth Task Force

You were recently been appointed to the Beijing+25 Youth Task Force convened by UN Women. Can you explain a bit about what the group is doing?

I was nominated by my current employer Woodcraft Folk, and it’s international umbrella organisation International Falcon Movement - Socialist Education International (IFM-SEI), and I am the only British member of the task force which is made up of 30 leading youth activists from around the world and which attempts to give intersectional representation to the diversity of youth.

The Youth Task Force has been convened to ensure a higher level of youth representation at the core of the Beijing+25 Review Process. 2020 is the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, the international gender equality framework that arose out of the fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

Over the next year, the Beijing Platform for Action is being reviewed through a series of action-orientated events to set out how we might further the gender equality agenda over the next ten years and achieve the targets set out in the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. 

And what will your role be as part of the task force?

My role within the Youth Task Force draws upon my experience of non-formal education and training, as well as teaching experience gained at the University of Sheffield, to devise capacity building opportunities for more youth activists from around the world to mobilise for gender equality. We will be holding webinars and creating resources to develop the skills and knowledge of other youth ahead of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2020, and the Generation Equality Forum, which kicks off in Mexico in May and culminates in an event in France in July 2020.

Out of these events, UN Women are seeking to create action coalitions involving governments, civil society and the private sector joining forces to tackle the biggest gender inequalities in the world right now, and the work of the Youth Task Force is to ensure the concerns and experiences of those aged under 30 are firmly included in those conversations. 

You are also a vocal gender equality and LGBTI+ activist – how do you feel society is changing with regards to openness and acceptance?

I’m so honoured to able to continue the gender equality and LGBTQI+ activism of those who came before me. We’ve come so far - when I was at school we didn’t have an equal age of consent, we didn’t have equal marriage or even civil partnerships, and section 28 was still in force. But we still have so far to go.

The last few years have seen dramatic increases in hate crimes, intersex children still face medically unnecessary surgeries without their consent, and trans people still don’t have the access to the dignity of getting official gender recognition through self-declaration, especially non-binary people like myself who have no legal recognition in the UK.

Awareness of LGBTQI+ people has definitely increased, but with regards to openness and acceptance there is plenty of work still to be done. Studies show that positive attitudes to LGBTQI+ rights often correlate with knowing someone who is LGBTQI+ personally. I hope that being out in my everyday life about my gender and my sexuality can start some of those questions, and enable others to understand and become advocates for our rights too!

Pip with members of the Woodcraft Folk team at Pride
Pip with members of the Woodcraft Folk team at Pride

What can we all do to foster and promote a more inclusive society?

Sometimes it’s not safe for LGBTQI+ to out themselves, often that work can be mentally exhausting even if the risks are low, because you’re always trying to second guess how people are going to react. That’s why allies are really important – we need allies to help create environments where it’s safe and comfortable for people to be out, and where people of all genders have equal opportunities. That’s about challenging language that might be homophobic or transphobic, is derogatory to women, or that normalises violence like rape. It’s also about making sure that there are inclusive facilities – if you can convince the place where you work or study to offer a gender neutral toilet, it makes life so much easier for trans and non-binary people to feel safe out and about in the world.

Aside from the Youth Task Force, what is next for you?

In the new year, I’m starting a new role as Chief Executive of The Kite Trust. Based in Cambridgeshire it provides services for LGBT+ young people in the county. I’m looking forward to the step up in my career and to being able to make a real difference for young people questioning their gender and sexuality in the same area where I grew up. I struggled with finding role models and faced a fair amount of homophobic and transphobic attitudes during my teens and I really want to make sure that’s not the case for the next generation.

What is your ultimate goal for the future?

I think there will always be more to be done to make the world more equal and ensuring everyone’s human rights are respected, because that’s protecting the freedoms we already enjoy as well as tackling inequalities. I’m not going to change the entire world by myself, but all of us have a role to play in the collective endeavour of improving others’ lives. I used to have a t-shirt from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts which had a quote from Robert Baden-Powell: “Try to leave the world a little better than you found it.” I guess that’s my ultimate goal.