When a political career grows out of UWC inspiration to give back and make a difference

Beth Knight-Yamamoto (UWC South East Asia, 1999-2002) has worked in politics internationally - for the time being she is based in the UK, but she will soon be relocating to Canada following a year which she perceptively described as being politically, both “hugely inspiring and incredibly dispiriting”.  Currently Beth works for Citizens Advice, a charity which offers free advice and help to the public on a huge range of issues including welfare, housing, employment and personal relationships.

My team and I work to change policy or practice by lobbying the Government, Parliament, local authorities and the business community; as well as running education campaigns which aim to raise awareness of issues or promote behavior change amongst the public”. Specialising in consumer issues Beth’s most recent work aims to strengthen protection for victims of fraud and changing practice in the telecoms sector.

Prior to this, I was at an international development charity called VSO where I worked on issues around women’s political empowerment across Africa and Asia, including a few months in Myanmar where I worked with grassroots organisations and NGOs ahead of the 2015 General Election. I was also hugely lucky in being able to work with colleagues in South Africa and Lesotho on civil society and education projects”.

Her time at UWC South East Asia was integral to Beth’s decision to work in politics; her education taught her ways to see the world which led to a major U-turn in her career. Starting in banking but quickly realising it was not the industry for her, Beth embarked upon a Politics Master's degree in at Washinton DC. Whilst studying she worked for a number of political organisations and the Democrats and began to specialise in advocacy.

My choice of working in the political sphere was almost certainly influenced by my time at UWCSEA. We had supportive and talented teachers who encouraged us to see ourselves as part of the wider world. One where we could, and should, make a difference. I was surrounded by classmates who were from a multitude of nationalities, experiences and backgrounds. People who were, and still are, curious about the world around us and passionate about how we can make it better. We were taught that there was no limit to what we could do and I’m so grateful for that. UWC fosters an environment that breakdown all sorts of barriers and showed us that we’re just all citizens of the world but also that we have a responsibility to help and give back. I sometimes forget that not everyone was lucky enough to grow up in a similar setting. That drive that UWC instilled in me, to give back and that we can all make a difference, even in a small way, is something that continues to drive me still”.