Former Achievement Award Winner and an inspiration to young people by Hetvi Parmar
Our Youth Consultation Panel member and former Achievement Award winner Hetvi sat down with another former Achievement Award winner to talk all things young people – The Lord Mayor of Westminster, Hamza Taouzzale. The Lord Mayor graciously answered all Hetvi’s questions about his job, journey and motivation, and even gave us a tour of his office!
I would like to thank the Jack Petchey Foundation for giving me the opportunity to interview The Lord Mayor of Westminster, Hamza Taouzzale. Not only is he a former Achievement Award winner, but The Lord Mayor is the youngest mayor to be elected in the city and is a true champion of young people.
When he graduated studying politics at Goldsmiths College and Global affairs at King’s College, he knew that one of his aims is to support as many youth organisations as possible. In 2018, he was elected to Westminster city council representing the Labour Party at Queen Park, and went on to be elected Lord Mayor of Westminster at the young age of 22 in June 2022. A huge achievement!
I had the honour of asking The Lord Mayor about his role, and his hopes for young people.
When asked, the Lord Mayor said that one of his favourite things about his job is that it varies so much. For example, the day when we visited him he met with Princess Eugenie as well as one of the city’s “Mini Mayors”. He enjoys doing the big and the small – particularly when it comes to young people.
“My favourite part of the job is that it inspires young people and the future generation.” He said, “It shows them that they have the opportunity to do things which they have never before been told that they can. I like being part of that change.”
At the age of 16, he realised he wanted to get involved in politics for his community and those around him.
“I thought ‘Why are young people from my area having less opportunities to succeed than those down the road?’” He didn’t like seeing kids having difficulties just because of their circumstances and he believes young people have so much potential to achieve – it’s all about having opportunities available. So he decided to take the step to represent those young people who need it. He wanted to be the voice of many young people who were not able to speak up. “That’s my motivation”, he told me in the interview.
While the Lord Mayor is very successful in his role, it hasn’t always been an easy ride. I asked him if he had faced any struggles on his journey and how he overcame them.
“During my first year of university, at the age of 18, I became a councillor. It’s very unusual to be in this role as a young person so some people doubt you, treat you and speak to you differently because of your age”. He said, and went on to explain that that could sometimes affect his confidence at that time, but that he made an effort to remember how he had earned his place and believe in himself.
We then moved on to the topic of young people. The Lord Mayor said he relates to young people and challenges which they may face.
“Sometimes I forget that I am a young person!” He laughs, “But I do believe that young people have been dealt “difficult cards” not only in the past few years, but even before that.”
He explains how he feels this is particularly due to cuts in young people’s enrichment opportunities and how he believes that it is just as important for young people to grow and enjoy life together with their education and work.
Because of this, the Lord Mayor continually supports young people by meeting with them during his visits to youth clubs, schools and local places. He aims to get out in all areas of the community in order to support them, and also invites them to visit council offices to show them what the council does.
He explains how he likes to engage young people in the history of Westminster and in helping them to know that they are an important part of the borough and that they are making the future of it.
I asked him what advice he would give to young people today. After a short pause, he says: “Try not to worry too much and enjoy your time being young, don’t undervalue it. Focussing on school is important but allowing yourself to enjoy time with family, friends and activities are also very important.” He also expressed the importance of having long-term plans and goals to strive for, so that they can work towards them.
“Acknowledging young people’s contributions to society and rewarding them is so important.” He adds, “I don’t think young people are “bigged up” enough, and it can make a huge difference.”
I ask him about his own Achievement Award, and how he won it.
“I was 16 and I won it from London Tigers Football Club – I remember the coach called me into the office and told me I had won an award. I had never heard of it before, but it made me so happy.” The Lord Mayor was awarded the Jack Petchey Achievement Award for his leadership and showing an interest in helping the community- inside the club and beyond. “I have always been a team player and a leader and that came through despite not being the best player.” He laughs.
He shares a memory of showing his achievement to his mum as it was an important thing as he states “My achievement is not only my achievement, it is my family’s achievement. They raised me made me the person I was then and today.”
Finally, we turn to the future. I ask him where he would like to be in 5 years time, and he shares his ambition to be a cabinet member, potentially in education or for young people.
“I definitely want to keep giving back to the community,” He says, but explains that for now his main focus is to be the best Lord Mayor of Westminster he can and to do the best by the people.
After finishing our interview, he very kindly showed us around his office, the conference room where they hold different events (including for young people) and the Silverware, where they engrave records of all the events of the year.
It was so inspiring to speak to someone so young who has achieved so much but still has a clear goal of sharing opportunities with others, especially young people. Thank you for your time, Lord Mayor!
Are you a former Achievement Award winner who would like to share your story? We want to hear from you! Email email@example.com with a little info about yourself and what you would like to write.