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“I have a beautiful soul, a brilliant mind, and an open heart. 

I acknowledge that I am an ever-growing and always-learning work in progress.

I own my flaws, but I will succeed in spite of, and maybe because of, my weaknesses. They do not define me.

I promise to lift up other girls, to have their backs, to appreciate & celebrate our differences and to encourage them to always be themselves.

I will always be myself.

I promise to be kind, not just to others, but also to myself.

I will use my voice in a positive way and be a positive influence in this world.

I am enough.”

That right there was The Shona Project pledge. My name is Izzy, and one of my personal greatest achievements in my short life has been becoming a part of the Shona Project, of which I will be talking about today, among other things. 

Empowering women can come in many different forms. The Shona Project, founded in 2016 by Tammy Darcy, has become a beacon of inspiration for young girls all over Ireland. Tammy’s goal was to help, encourage and empower as many girls in Ireland as possible. Through a website, social media and school workshops, Tammy gives her time to making change in this world.  

I joined the Shona Project in June of this year, by writing an article publicly coming out as a lesbian and speaking about the importance of Pride month. The Shona Project, and Tammy, supported me wholeheartedly through this milestone in my life, as not only did I publish my story online to thousands of readers, but I forwarded the link into my family group-chat with the caption ‘surprise!’  

Since then I have ambassadored for The Shona Project, writing more articles; from mental health to climate change. If you told me this time last year that I would be sharing my experiences of anxiety with young girls all over Ireland, I would have laughed and anxiously said: ‘not a hope’. 

Now, I see that the best way we can encourage and empower young women is through support. Just as Tammy supported me, we must all support each-other. Empowerment means ‘to rise’: we must lift each-other up, rise ourselves to the occasion, and continue to climb.  

This world, I believe, is so full of jealousy. We also unfortunately still live in a society that undervalues women.  In 2016, just 57 percent of the world’s working-age women were in the labour force, compared to 70 percent of working-age men. Also, an estimated 62 million girls are denied an education all over the world at this very moment. In a world where we are already undervalued and unequal, there is no reason to be fighting against each-other. These figures give more reason to why we should band together and why we need to continue to support each-other. 

We can do this by beginning from the grass-roots. I challenge you, today, to tell someone you know something that you admire about them.  

I’ll begin: to all the women in my life, You Inspire Me.  To myself, as someone who has come so far since this time last year, a jittery and stuttering mess to a comfortable and happy young woman: I am learning to adore you.  

The Shona pledge also speaks extensively about loving yourself. Self-empowerment is the strongest form of power we own. To be able to look yourself in the eye and to say: Yes, I Am Enough; that is truly incredible. When we begin with ourselves, and learn to help ourselves first, only then can we help others. Only when we are whole can we begin to fill others. Only when we believe that we are enough, that others will believe it too. 

 The Shona Project is so much more than a website or a handout. Michelle Obama is so much more than a quote on a page or a picture on the news. They signify something more, something good. The amazing likes of Greta Thunberg and Malala Yoursafzai inspire us to reach beyond ourselves into this hard, cruel world and to show a little kindness. They are not just people, they are manifestations of hopes and dreams. A hope that our world can be saved from the ravishing of Climate Change, and the dream that every girl may get the chance to go to school.  

And so, I leave you with a question: how will you empower someone today? Will that person be the girl beside you, or a person at home, or possibly, will you choose to empower yourself? Will you take the Shona pledge and believe, truly, that you are enough? I hope you do. 

 Izzy x

This post was adapted from a speech made my Izzy at a local public speaking competition last week. She nailed it, and won and is now through to the national final. Because of course she did!!