'I was the quietest pupil – now I'm the most outspoken'

School student Amanda Amaeshi has been named one of the most influential young women in Scotland – here's why
7th November 2020, 1:00pm
Amanda Amaeshi


'I was the quietest pupil – now I'm the most outspoken'

One School Student Named By The Ywca As One Of The Most Influential Young Women In Scotland Explains How Girlguiding & Debating Boosted Her Confidence

Growing up, I wasn't a confident girl. As a young child, I'd faced a lot of instability and change - I'd constantly moved houses and schools, due to my parents' jobs. Plus, I wanted to fit in. I knew I was very different to most of my classmates, because my skin was a lot darker, and I didn't want to draw any extra attention to myself. So, I stayed quiet. I rarely voiced my ideas. Instead, I relied on my louder, more confident friends to be my voice.

So, what helped me to increase my confidence? Well, Girlguiding played a big part and helped shape the person I've become today. I no longer need to rely on my friends to be my voice - I've found my own. I'm sure my much younger self wouldn't have imagined doing most of the things I do now, for example debating. Initially, the idea of standing up in front of a crowd and presenting an argument was so daunting - but now I have the confidence to do just that.

I remember, way back in first year of high school, the first time I stood in front of the lectern at my first lunchtime debate. I was shaking with nervousness but the experience was exhilarating. I've even gone on to take part in competitions, too, both within the school and on a national level. Debating is such a great skill to have acquired and it's definitely helped a lot with my confidence, too. I've also had the confidence to speak up when I see things going wrong at school, and have given school assemblies on topics such as the dangers of excessive mobile phone usage and the importance of Black History Month. I'm known at school for being loud and outspoken - the opposite of how I was in primary school.

Opinion: Why school debating helps with much more than public speaking

Quick read: Helping teachers to tell the Glasgow Girls' story

Last year's 30 under 30: Two pupils feature in the list of 30 inspiring young women

Also this week: 'Teaching politics is exciting - and exhausting'

Throughout my four and a half years in Guides, I had so many incredible experiences. From my first overnight camping trip to soaring through the trees on high ropes courses. I met so many inspiring people, like my Guides leader Kirsty, whose enthusiasm and words of encouragement I'll never forget. I got to be myself in a safe and relaxed environment, and it was a place where I could catch up with my primary school friends, since we all ended up going to different high schools. I look back now with fond memories of bonding with other Guides around campfires, the smell of toasted s'mores and the voices of cheery singers filling the air. I'd also go on trips abroad with some of my best friends, facing and overcoming new challenges together.

Girlguiding helped my confidence

This new-found confidence both helped me and increased further in my role of ambassador in Scotland during the Year of Young People (YOYP) 2018. As part of the year, I organised and led events, and talked to many important, powerful figures such as MPs at a Four Nations Conference, first minister Nicola Sturgeon and even Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. I spoke to them about issues that mattered most to young people - such as youth involvement in politics, young people's rights and the importance of showcasing the brilliant achievements of young people.

In Guiding, one of the best ways to grow in confidence is to become a role model for others. I'm a young leader at my local Brownies unit and it's so heart-warming to help the new Brownies, who are initially nervous but gain confidence -  I can relate to that feeling!

I'd definitely recommend volunteering with Girlguiding - you'll find that it's not only the girls who grow in confidence but you'll grow your own skills as well, which will come in useful both in school and well beyond. I'm also a Girlguiding advocate, so I get to speak out on issues that matter to girls and young women across the UK. One of the most exciting things I've taken part in was speaking at a panel session at the Women Ahead Gender Balance Summit about all things Girlguiding, young people and the future of women. It felt so surreal sitting in front of around 500 CEOs and other majorly influential businesspeople and enlightening them about my hopes and dreams - young people's hopes and dreams - for a fairer, more inclusive society. The experience made me realise just how far I've come in terms of my confidence.

There are so many talented young people out there and it is an honour to feature on YWCA Scotland's 30 Under 30 list alongside 29 other incredible young women. I hope that the work that I've done will inspire others to contribute to society in their own way and show them that, regardless of who they are or where they come from, their voice is important and deserves to be heard.

Amanda Amaeshi is a 16-year-old student at Dollar Academy, who is on the 2020 Young Women's Movement - YWCA 30 Under 30 List. She is also a Girlguiding advocate

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