Young Women Speak Out – a Great Ydea

4 April 2018

Great Ydeas is YWCA Canberra’s small grants program, providing up to $2,000 to women to help kick-start a great idea for a business, community development project, or to support professional development or education and training opportunities. Applications for the 2018 Great Ydeas program are open until 6 April, and in the lead up to announcing this year’s recipients in May, we’re featuring some of our amazing past recipients to highlight what can be achieved through the program.

Amy Blain and Hannah Gissane received a Great Ydeas grant in 2017 for their project, Young Women Speak Out (YWSO). Here, Amy tells us about her experience as a Great Ydeas recipient, how the YWSO project came together, and shares her advice for this year’s grant applicants.  

Young women are not just the future, they’re the here and now.  Young women are ready to speak out, to make changes so the world reflects their vision; they just need opportunities, platforms and support to be heard.  We need young women to see that their views matter and count.  This was the driving force behind Young Women Speak Out (YWSO).

The Great Ydeas grant gave us an amazing opportunity to kick-start an idea we’d be talking about for years; giving young people a platform to speak out.

YWSO has built the capacity of six 16-17 year-old young women in the ACT to campaign and advocate on issues that matter to them. The YWSOers had a two-day intensive advocacy and campaigning skills training workshop, designed and led by Hannah Gissane. The group is now in the process of developing their photography campaign challenging gender stereotypes.

We know it’s a great time nationally and internationally for young women’s leadership to be embraced and nurtured. Intersectional and intergenerational feminism are core to YWSO. We’ve created a space for young women to identify the issues that matter to them, and supported them to advocate on issues they care about. Tanvi gave an incredible speech on the impact of #MeToo on young women and the representation of women of colour in the media at this year’s Women’s March Canberra. Our YWSOers have connected to campaigns on Marriage Equality; Axing the Tampon Tax; Prosecute, Don’t Perpetrate and shown solidarity with the US #ENOUGH gun reform campaign.

Most importantly, the YWSOers have built their sisterhood network, linking with young women from Country to Canberra, Girls Leadership Network and learning from great young women leaders like ACT Young Woman of the Year 2018, Caitlin Figueiredo. We have loved seeing the connection and friendship that the YWSOers have built with each other.

“I love that YWSO has connected me to other like minded, strong young women and given me so many opportunities to be involved in and given me skills to improve my activism.”

Through leading this project, we have learnt so much! We have become adept at trouble-shooting, and exercised our resilience, adaptability and flexibility. We’ve enjoyed the validation that comes with an organisation like YWCA Canberra saying our idea is a good one and worth investing in. We have all hugely benefitted from the network building and being surrounded by women empowering other women, particularly young women. It’s a sisterhood that we all need to get in on, and do the work that needs doing.

“I have met some incredible people through this project and been connected to some great activist networks that will absolutely help me in future advocacy and campaigning.”

Our combined desire to change the world has meant that the group’s ideas have been hugely ambitious and the grant cannot quite match those lofty ambitions. Adding a touch of reality to what can be achieved on small grants is a useful lesson for the future! Skills and the time of professionals should be paid for, and we have scaled our campaign accordingly. Fitting in a campaign around busy school and uni lives has been a challenge, but the journey has, without doubt, been worth it.

It’s definitely worth applying for a grant if you have a great idea; you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The experience alone of putting your words into action and seeing where it takes you, is a real privilege. Where to next with YWSO? Who knows! Making it a networking and mentoring program is definitely an option; we’re both keen advocates that dream big, so we’d love to support more young women in their campaigning if they’re out there.

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