Being A Feminist In Regional Australia

My name is Georgia Shakeshaft, I am 15 years old and I live in the Southern Highlands, a group of country towns in New South Wales. I am a feminist, and I have been as long as I knew it was a title for someone who believed in gender equality. I am founder and co-president of Girl Up Southern New South Wales and this is my story of being a feminist in regional Australia. 

Growing up in a town in regional Australia, about two hours from both Canberra and Sydney, feminism was not something I was openly exposed to. Attending a Catholic primary school, I was forced to learn that girls were seen as less than boys, through taunting insults about how I would never be fast enough, smart enough or strong enough to keep up with the boys. I knew that I thought that girls were equal to boys, but not many cared, or even shared my opinion. Of course, my mother was always a strong woman and a great role model, always reminding me; believing in yourself, even if others don't believe in you, will show them that you are strong. This taunting and subtle put-downs of girls continued throughout primary school and my extreme distaste for these comments only grew, however, I was the best in my year at understanding and being engaged in politics, both in Australia and abroad. 

Moving to an all-girls boarding school was a very different feeling. The headmistress was a strong woman, and there were great role-models in both staff and older years. This was also the year where I discovered social media, I was exposed to more diversity when my some of my best friends came out to me and I had a name for my beliefs, "feminism".

This is when I started becoming interested in social activism, following feminist accounts, researching women's equality and for the first time immersing myself in what it meant to be part of a wider community. I started writing speeches in classes, and then on a wider stage. Last year, I wrote a speech called "Pants", which was about giving girls freedom of choice and explored feminism all over the world. This speech won me the Junior Legacy Public Speaking Competition State Champion and National finalist title and had local news outlets talking about my speech and passion for gender equality. Article on my 2018 speech "pants"

The title of feminist was also not adopted often within my community and was a badge worn by myself, as well as a few of my friends. While gender equality was something most girls in my community believed in, most seldom made it a thought in the forefront of their mind. Unlike girls in the larger Australia cities, there were no feminism clubs or marches for equality. It was just myself and my beliefs in my country town. 

Further engaging in feminism on social media allowed me to connect to a community which I felt far from, physically. That's when I found Girl Up. They appeared in my Instagram suggest and I immediately was interested. At that time in Girl Up, they had advertisements on their story for teen advisors, and I thought, "Wow! This is so me! My whole life I've wanted to make a difference and here's my chance! I could work with a diverse and like-minded group of feminists to change girl's lives!" I was shortlisted in the Teen Advisor 2018-19 applications, which alone I was so happy with, because this application welcomed me into what Girl Up is and what it means to be part of Girl Up. I thought to myself, there must be others ways of changing lives and making a difference without becoming a Teen Advisor, and I had to find out what! It turned out, the answer was right in front of me, unite girls in my community, promoting feminism and making a difference through a Girl Up Club! 

I am now in my last week of an online Stanford University Course, International Women's Health and Human rights, which I started taking so that I would have an extensive knowledge of Women's rights all over the globe. Girl Up Southern New South Wales had been operational for a few months and suddenly, I am inspiring people to make a change. I have realised that I have to use my voice, because I can, and change really does begin with me. Girl Up has given me a platform to make a change, which I am so grateful for, and I can and should keep making changes through that platform, and through others. I now use my social media to promote peaceful social change more than ever, and I keep working to make positive change. 

No matter where you are in the world, I want you to know that you can make a change within your community! Believe in yourself, take advantage of your talents and never let go of your dreams and beliefs because the world around you doesn't like them. 


 
Posted by georgiashakeshaft on Oct 7, 2018 10:36 PM EDT

Comments

Tags