A big hello from us here in Wales!

I think the work you are doing in Ireland in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is brilliant, so I wanted to share what we’re doing over here in Wales to help give girls confidence.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Shannon, and I’m currently in my third year studying Graduate-Entry Medicine at Swansea University.

I have been a member of Wales’ largest youth movement, Urdd Gobaith Cymru (Welsh League of Youth) since I can remember, and recently, a group of us were invited to take part in the Urdd’s ‘Equality for Women and Girls’ virtual workshop. It was a chance for us to talk openly about some of the problems facing women and girls in general.

Period poverty, body shaming on social media, and sexism are not the kind of things we talk to our friends about very often, so it was refreshing to talk openly about real issues with other like-minded people my age. Some of us shared how we have been treated differently because of who we are or how we look, including me…

I am a medical student, and although I love the fact that a career in medicine means no two days will ever be the same, I have experienced sexism whilst on work placements. I have been called a student ‘nurse’ whilst a male fellow student was called student ‘doctor’. Some of my female friends who aspire to be surgeons have unfortunately received comments that if they want children, they should reconsider it as a career.

I think these stereotypical ideas still exist within society today – a lot of the general population still think of nurses being women, and doctors mostly being men. Thankfully, I have been fortunate enough to meet incredibly inspiring women while on work placements, proving that women can work in any area they want. Things are certainly getting better, but there is still so much work to be done.

Taking part in the ‘Equality for Women and Girls’ workshop and sharing our stories really inspired us as a group – and we wanted to act now. And so, we decided that ‘Equality for Women and Girls’ would be the perfect theme for Wales’ 2021 Peace and Goodwill Message.

The Peace Message has been shared every springtime by the Urdd for 99 years now and is totally unique – it’s a way for the young people of Wales to share ideas and visions with other young people across the world, such as yourselves. We saw it as a chance to make a difference, to speak out about issues that women and girls face every day, and to stand with our sisters around the world. It’s been an incredible privilege to be part of something so empowering.

This year’s Peace Message has been made into a video, and you can watch it below. But we want this year’s Message to be more than just a hashtag and are calling on young people everywhere to use the “new normal” to create a better future by ensuring equality for women and girls.

The Urdd as an organisation has decided to prove that this year’s Message is more than a hashtag and has committed to tackling period poverty here in Wales. If 1 in 10 of us can’t afford to have our periods and are made to feel ashamed of something as normal and necessary as a period, how can we ever achieve true gender equality? So, from now on, free menstrual materials will be provided at the Urdd’s Residential Centres, future national sports events, and Eisteddfod festival. This means that over 32,000 women and girls will have access to menstrual materials every year, to reduce the number of females that miss days of learning or involvement in physical activity because of period poverty.

We hope you agree that this is a great start to our campaign. We could do with your help to spread the word, so please feel free to share the video with your friends and family as well!

And remember – equality for girls and women is more than a hashtag.

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