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Speaking Out on Period Poverty, Climate Change and More

By Rachel Collier, CEO and Co-founder, Young Social Innovators

Above: Pupils from St. Bricin’s College, Cavan pictured with Niamh Smyth, TD and Catherine Martin, TD, dropping off essentials at the Homeless Period Ireland drop off point in the Dail after briefing the women’s caucus on their period poverty campaign.

Prior to this week's Dáil motion on period poverty, the word ‘menstruation’ had appeared only 27 times on Oireachtas reports. Yet young people in Ireland have shown that they are not afraid to speak out on historically taboo subjects such as period poverty, through Young Social Innovators.

Their work was recognised during the historic motion debate, with comments also made about the importance of conversation and participation in Irish society.

Deputy Martin pointed out that the lack of conversation in the Dáil on menstruation “mirrors a societal silence on the issue.” Indeed, wider research by Plan International Ireland showed that 55% of Irish girls feel embarrassment or shame about their periods.

That silence and embarrassment is something that has not been missed by our young social innovators. Students from St Bricin’s in Cavan and Eureka Secondary School in Meath were represented in the debate because they carried out their own research on the issue, which revealed the shame and embarrassment felt by girls when they have their period, along with the difficulty they have discussing the issue with parents and family.

Indeed, Deputy Martin acknowledged the value of their voices in the debate when the students “spoke about the work they are doing through their Young Social Innovators projects and the real impact it is having for students in their schools.”

Deputy Martin went on to say that “when we shroud issues in stigma, when we fail to have open conversation, we often end up further marginalising whole sections of society.”

At a time when young people all over the world are speaking up about the issues that affect them, such as climate change, I am happy to report that our young generation is certainly not afraid to speak out and take action!

The importance of youth voice in public debate is something that Young Social Innovators has, since its inception in 2001, advocated and supported. On Friday, March 16th, young people all over Ireland will join students all over the world as they demonstrate in an effort to get governments to take more action on climate change. They are part of a growing movement of young people who are working hard to bring attention to the issues that matter to them.

During March, a staggering 6,000 young people are speaking out about social issues they care about at 13 YSI Speak Out events at regional locations all over Ireland. But they are not just speaking out, they are putting forward their innovative ideas and turning these ideas into actions which are, in turn, improving the well being of people and society. This is real civic engagement. We are, during the 2019 Speak Out Tour, witnessing the amazing contribution our teenagers are making to building a fairer and more participatory democracy.

Young people are making their opinions heard on issues such as climate change, sexual consent, mental health, LGBTQI+ rights and more. They are being asked to tell their story to public representatives and many, many teams are doing just that, as evidenced yesterday as two YSI teams briefed the women’s caucus on period poverty.

At a time when young people all over the world are speaking up about the issues that affect them, such as climate change, I am happy to report that our young generation is certainly not afraid to speak out and take action!