This year my life has changed a lot... from leaving school and year 12 last year and starting into university and Tafe studies this year I can certainly say I've learnt a lot these past 9 months. I've been lucky enough to become involved with MYS and my life has really changed for the better thanks to some of the amazing workers and programs that I've been so humbled to become a part of.
The main thing I would like to write about in this piece is the tremendous impact that our young women's leadership group has made for me.
When I first heard about the leadership program I thought it sounded interesting but I was scared and worried that I might not be good enough or confident and special enough to do the program as it had been a long time since a role or option of leadership had come my way. I contacted Siobhan and was so excited and grateful when she offered me a spot to participate.
Through high school in a prestigious all-girls school, I often found myself to be treated more as a number than a person of worth. A lot of us girls felt this way simply because of the way we were not only perceived but treated as well... unless you were super smart, popular or a teacher's pet you didn't really have a chance of becoming a leader in the school, and by year 8 I didn't even bother to apply anymore as I knew I would never get chosen for anything.
In primary school, I had been a Junior school council vice president but somehow once I got to high school I no longer believed in myself or my abilities to lead, help or inspire others. The past few months have made me start to wonder... how did this happen? How did I go from being a confident bright and happy young girl who was never afraid of anything to suddenly being too scared to even put my hand up in class in case I looked or sounded stupid? The fact that I was also blonde and often referred to as ‘Barbie or Bimbo’ in some classes probably didn’t help the matter. As I have reflected on these things recently I realized that this is a fundamental part of where we as a society, education system and support system around young women and girls are failing. Why aren’t we teaching girls to try for leadership roles and opportunities, why are our young women feeling like they are not worthy of such opportunities?
Something I learnt very quickly this year after leaving school and particularly at the start of the young women's program is that I'm actually not a stupid, quiet or voiceless person... although there have been many a time where I have not felt able to speak up or attempt opportunities simply because I was told I was 'too quiet' or 'wasn't likely to achieve much' I've learnt that I can and I have just as much right as anyone else to reach for my goals even if they are harder for me to achieve compared to some. I and all other young women have a voice, we have rights and we can do whatever the hell we want if to speak up, try, apply for opportunities and give everything our best shot. We may not always be successful, but if we are unafraid to try who knows what may happen.
It's now that I realise that I have my own life and my own power, I can and I will have a voice in what happens to me in my own life.
We as young women put ourselves down so much that when other people or a guy does it we tend to believe them. And this is where the damaging effect of gender inequality begins. By letting ourselves think we are not good enough, we are only fueling more into the male’s power of using that to put us down/get their own way in situations. Our lack of self-confidence is preyed upon.
Quickly I would like to talk about and highlight some ways my life and views have changed since the start of this program -
I've realised it's okay to say NO to anyone about anything anytime
It's also okay to say YES and you have the right to enjoy yourself and do things you want to
It's okay NOT to want children yet or even at all
And it's ok NOT to want to get married and find a partner
It's ok to APPLY for opportunities even if they are likely to choose a man
It's also ok NOT to apply for opportunities if you don't feel you want to
The main thing is that we all need to learn and remember that we have a right to our own decisions and choices, we do not need to be dictated by anyone male or female, older or younger. And no matter what anyone says, you have the right to your own decisions that impact YOU.
I could go on and on for hours about how amazing this program has been and the tremendous impact it has made towards my life and views in the world but mostly I just want to say, if even just one woman walks out of this program with the ability and the power to stand up for herself, to reach a dream or escape a bad situation, then Siobhan, Divya and the team have achieved their goal!
This program needs to be a statewide initiative and should be provided to all young women throughout Australia so that we can not only fight Gender Inequality but also become educated, safer, stronger, independent and self-confident young women ready to take on the world!