I joined Shona at the start of Transition Year. I had just been looking through our year group’s Google Classroom for any updates on the week’s activities when I saw that our TY Coordinator had put up an announcement looking for someone to be a Junior Ambassador for the Shona Project, along with a link to the group’s website. I had no idea what this was, but we had all been encouraged to sign up for as many things as possible, and I had been looking for a way to take on some more responsibilities in the school as I moved into the Senior Cycle, so I made a mental note to myself to send an email putting myself forward for it later.
It was only really when I actually started to write my email that I started thinking more deeply about the position. I knew from looking over the website and from the original post that Shona was a feminist organisation focused on specifically girls and young women. I thought about what I felt the pressing feminist issues that I wanted to list in my email were, but quickly I found I wasn’t able to think very clearly at all – the moment I began to consider any aspect of misogyny in society, a huge feeling of anger, despair, frustration and ultimately hopelessness rose to the surface. I couldn’t move past how much worse the world we were growing up to inherit was than what we had been promised when we were younger. It seemed like no matter how many steps forward people took, there was always an incomprehensibly long distance to go.

I typed out a very impassioned email talking about all the injustices in society I wanted to help fight (looking back, it was probably a lot more serious in tone than what had been expected) and sent it. And then I decided to take a closer look at the website of the Shona Project.

To be honest, my memory isn’t good enough to tell you exactly what it was I saw that stuck with me. What I remember distinctly is the positivity that just seemed to radiate out from the website. Thankfully, 16-year-old me is slightly less pessimistic than 15-year-old me, and although I couldn’t trace that mental journey exactly, I believe joining the Shona Project was definitely a big step on the way. Everything about it just seemed to scream ‘We are not giving in. You don’t have to either.’

I think a big problem today, especially for people of my generation, exposed to social media more consistently across our lifetimes than any other generation, is people becoming overwhelmed. There is so much evil and violence in the world that we hear more and more about every day, not even mentioning the looming spectre of climate change, which I was told at age 12 would be irreversible by the time I was 22. Whether that was true at the time or not, it stuck with me.

Sometimes even existing as part of an oppressed or marginalised group feels like a constant uphill battle. It hardly even feels possible to express your feelings about this; rather than finding support, others with shared experiences and catharsis, you just find more and more things to cause despair – like when I was writing my email, once you start you can’t make it stop. Or at least that’s how I often feel. And this feeling of crushing hopelessness can prevent people from feeling like they could ever possibly have an impact for the better.

Seeing the website of the Shona Project felt like an antidote to that. I was being shown a way that I could actually do something. I have always felt that a good approach to a big problem is to break it down into the most manageable parts possible.
“I may not be able to personally lead society-wide change just yet, and I don’t know for sure that I ever would be, but even the ability as a Shona Ambassador to create a few small changes made me feel more positive about the overall potential for everyone to create change.”

The hope and determination that everyone involved with the Shona Project displays is a constant inspiration to me. We all have our bad days, always for a variety of reasons, but  knowing that I have the ability to make things even a little better, even for just a few people, certainly brings me out of a moment of overwhelmed negativity.
“Shona has given me what I think so many people of my generation really need: a way to channel our frustration at the world into something positive. I truly believe we could all achieve incredible things if we were freed from the idea that because we cannot change everything at once, we can change nothing, and it is my greatest hope that more and more young people can find something that inspires them to keep fighting for the world we all deserve, like Shona has done for me.”
Thank you to everyone for reading this, and I hope you find something that gives you the strength to keep going forward. For our generations, and for all that come after us.

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