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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

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Human rights and Hob Nobs: what motivates Amnesty’s Kate Nevens

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​Kate Nevens, Amnesty International Scotland's new interim programme director, on what makes her tick

What makes a good day at work?

At Amnesty International, we live for the days when a prisoner of conscience who we've been campaigning long and hard for gets released. But in between these moments for me it's about days when I feel we've managed to engage with new people about human rights, or as a team we've come up with a new idea for working on an issue we really care about.

How many hours do you normally work in a week?

Varies a lot, sometimes I'm up at 6am for a Good Morning Scotland interview, other days I'll sleep in and try and preserve some energy ahead of a heavy weekend of campaigning.

What do you procrastinate over?

Pretty much everything, but particularly writing tasks. It takes me a while to get into the headspace to do proper analysis or writing.

What turns you into the office Victor Meldrew?

People being late to meetings, though I'd usually quietly seethe rather than loudly complain. I do love a good meeting though, and need to recognise that not everyone shares my enthusiasm. I'm very excited that my team have gifted me with a bell I can ring to indicate the beginning of a meeting.

Kate Nevens

I do love a good meeting, but I need to recognise that not everyone shares my enthusiasm

Kate Nevens

Is the third sector a calling or an accident?

It was always the third sector or journalism that appealed to me, and it seems less and less likely as I progress through my career that I'd find the same degree of satisfaction or fulfilment from the private sector; though I'd be happy to be proved wrong on this.

What happens during your perfect weekend?

One two-day weekend is never enough, so my ideal weekend would be nestled in the middle of a two-week holiday, ideally somewhere with exciting nature, landscapes, or culture and tasty food, so it could be anywhere from Skye to Sri Lanka.

What’s your favourite film and album?

I spent my teenage years making endless lists of my top 10 films, books, and albums, and do disappointingly little of that these days. My 13-year-old self would say OK Computer probably. Recently, I really enjoyed the TV adaptation of Handmaid's Tale, a book that made a deep impression on me when I was younger, and the novel Human Acts by Han Kang. I'm listening to a lot of Mashrou' Leila, a Lebanese indie rock band, partly in the hope that it might help me maintain my (minimal) Arabic now I am spending less time in the Middle East.

Would we all be better off if charities did more in our society?

Sadly, a growing amount of what charities do is fill in gaps which should be being filled by government services, particularly during the politics of austerity. However, space for campaigning and holding our decision-makers to account is crucially important, and we need to collectively battle against any shrinking of space for civil society to do this, whether here in Scotland or globally.

Would your 16-year-old self be impressed with where you are now?

Definitely not with my inability to name a favourite film. I think she'd be happy I've got to see so many different countries as part of my work life, and make friends with people from all over the world.

You’re home, fully fed with your feet up – which comes first Eastenders or emails?

Emails, with Pointless or RuPaul's Drag Race on in the background.

Is this a step on the ladder or your final destination?

I'm actually doing maternity leave cover for the wonderful Naomi McAuliffe, who you've profiled previously, so for me this is a small part of a winding, but lovely, career path. I'm not a fan of ladders; I'm scared of small heights.

What do you think is the main strengths of the Scottish charity sector?

It's incredibly vibrant, and feels really inclusive. I love that there's such a strong feminist voice in the charity sector here.

What are the main challenges facing the human rights sector in Scotland?

Probably Brexit, though I'm not sure anyone has yet worked out the full ramifications it might have on the sector.

What does your dream retirement look like?

Somewhere warm in the hills with a view of the sea, surrounded by books, with friends dropping by to chat and drink tea or wine and eat biscuits. (I'm surprised and rather disappointed to not be asked about my favourite biscuit. It's a Hob Nob. Or, if I'm feeling fancy, a Choco Leibniz.)

Brian Denis Cox or Brian Edward Cox?

I had to google to find out which one was which! Can I choose Laverne Cox instead, please?