Scotland is full of inspiring women and in celebration of International Women’s Day 2017, we decided to have a look at just a few young women, either from or living in Scotland, who have accomplished an incredible amount and continue to inspire us to aim higher.
We hope you’ll have heard of all of them already but if not just know that there are hundreds more women like them out there in Scotland smashing barriers, fighting for women’s rights, picking up countless awards and generally just reminding us that we can achieve anything.
After overcoming injury and a reclassification which led to wearing a blindfold in the 2016 Paralympics, Libby Clegg defied all expectations, winning the T11 100 and 200 metre finals at the Rio 2016 Olympics, partnered by her guide Chris Clarke – making her one of Scotland and Great Britain’s most successful track and field athletes of recent years.
Libby suffers from a deteriorating eye condition known as Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy disease, which means she only has slight peripheral vision in her left eye, and is registered as blind. Her remarkable performance in 2016 led to Libby being named as ‘Female Para Athlete of the Year’ and she was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to athletics and charity.
Her services to charity are inspirational. Libby and her guide dog Hatti are Guide Dogs ambassadors and regularly support the charity’s campaign work on issues affecting people with sight loss. The athlete is also an ambassador for the Royal Blind Charity and is an inspiration for all young people who are considering taking up the sport.
Although she has already experience enormous success in her career, Libby has discussed competing at the Tokyo Games in 2020 with the aim of adding to her four Paralympic medals.
12 years ago, Amal Azzudin and six of her classmates from Drumchapel High School campaigned to fight the detention of their friend Agnesa Murselaj, who had been detained in a dawn raid with her family and was facing deportation to Kosovo after their claim for asylum was rejected.
The group, who became known as ‘The Glasgow Girls’, spoke to journalists and politicians, including the then first minister Jack McConnell, held peaceful demonstrations and campaigned before and after school. Eventually Agnesa was released and the groups campaigning had a huge part in ending the deportation of children in 2010. The remarkable efforts of the Glasgow Girls was later depicted on stage as a modern musical at the Citizens Theatre and formed the basis of a musical television drama which aired on BBC Three.
Twelve years on, Amal – who came to Glasgow from Somalia at a young age due to the civil war – is still motivated by what she saw her friends going through and after graduating from the University of Glasgow with a Masters in Human Rights and International Politics in 2014, is now working as equality and human rights officer for refugees at The Mental Health Foundation and has been a campaigner and human rights activist.
Last year, Amal was also named as a ‘Young Outstanding Woman of Scotland’ for her campaigning by the Saltire Society and the Young Women’s Movement.
Most teenagers have a hard enough time juggling exams, part-time jobs and general teenage life but for Estelle Maskame, life had a focused purpose: her DIMILY trilogy.
The young author from Peterhead began working on her novel, Did I Mention I Love You, when she was 13 and published chapters on Wattpad, which she then promoted on social media. The chapters quickly went viral, receiving over four million hits and she secured a three-book deal with Edinburgh publishers Black & White.
Now 19 years old, Estelle is an award-winning, full-time author and is currently working on new projects, which are coming out soon, and the third and final instalment of her young adult trilogy, Did I Mention I Miss You, will be released in July.
Thanks to the success of her novels and her hard-work, Estelle received a Young Scot Arts Award in 2016, which celebrates the inspirational contributions of young Scots and their achievements.
You’ve heard of CHVRCHES right? Of course you have, so you’ll also know all about their distinct sound which features powerful vocals from lead singer, Lauren Mayberry.
But did you know that Lauren, who is from Thornhill in Glasgow and has a masters in Journalism, also founded TYCI, a collective run by women with a radio show, podcast, zine and website? Or that TYCI also runs live events in Glasgow every month?
The TYCI website is home to interviews, personal accounts, opinion pieces on things which affect women today and features on theatre, art, music, film, politics, current affairs and “most things in between”.
It’s inspiring to see an enormously successful band fronted by an incredible woman but it is equally – if not more – inspiring to see and read about everything Lauren does to raise awareness of issues that affect women today. Back in 2013, she wrote a brilliantly honest open-ed in The Guardian which addressed misogyny and sexism in the music industry and shared the horrendous comments she, and many other female artists, have to deal with. Since then she’s discussed the issue on Channel 4 News and wrote about abusive relationships for Lenny Letter back in 2015.
In addition to her music-making abilities and willingness to stand up for women, Lauren regularly takes part in charitable acts, including the 2016 benefit concert she performed in with Lorde, Charli XCX and Carly Rae Jepsen, to raise money for the Ally Coalition, which supports homeless LGBT youths. Lauren is also patron of Rape Crisis Glasgow and last year helped launch a high-profile fundraising campaign to help raise vital funds for the charity.
While living in the South side of Glasgow, 22-year-old marketing and enterprise student, Rebecca Pick, was told that her neighbour had been attacked when taking the bins out and Rebecca was understandably horrified.
The Strathclyde University student decided to try to make something that would help women feel safer and came up with the Personal Guardian – a tiny, discreet device that can attach to a bra strap, belt loop or lanyard, connects to mobile phones via bluetooth and can be easily triggered in the case of an attack. It then connects to a 24 hour monitoring service who can send police to your location and it records everything, gathering evidence for later use in court if needed.
The Personal Guardian is aimed at university students and companies with workers who operate alone, however the device will be available for anyone to buy later this year and will cost £119.99 for the personal guardian and 12 months of monitoring service.
Although I, liked Rebecca, wish it wasn’t ever necessary for a woman to have to wear a personal safety alarm to feel protected, it’s admirable that the young entrepreneur has come up with a viable option for women to wear. She commented on the device in an interview with The Telegraph in 2015 and said: “All I can say is we’re trying to provide a service to protect people. I wish it wasn’t a problem but it is. It does put the onus on you but when it comes to protecting yourself, I think you should do anything you can.”
The device has picked up a lot of publicity, along with plenty of awards and funding for Rebecca. She became the first undergraduate winner of the Converge Challenge, won a Scottish Edge prize and is a finalist in the 2017 AccelerateHer Awards, which recognise women-led businesses in Scotland. Rebecca has also raised £60,000 from Gabriel Investments and £744,000 from Equity Gap, to help develop her business.