Amanda Amaeshi, a 16-year-old Girlguiding Advocate and young leader in Fife, was nominated for the Glasgow Times’ Young Scotswoman of the Year 2020 award. Here, she talks about speaking out, learning from others, and hope for the future.
Girlguiding Edinburgh: How long have you been involved in Guiding?
Amanda Amaeshi: I started at the 15th Dunfermline Guides when I was 10. Throughout my [four and a half] years in Guides, I took part in so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences and met so many inspiring people. 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 round campfires, the smell of toasted s’mores and the voices of cheery singers filling the air; and going on holidays abroad with some of my best friends, facing and overcoming new challenges together.
GGE: How and when did you become a Girlguiding Advocate? What does that entail?
Amaeshi: I came across the Girlguiding Advocate Panel by chance one day whilst on Girlguiding’s website. When I read through previous Advocates’ experiences, I knew at once that this would be the role for me. To have the chance to give back to Girlguiding on a national level would be so amazing, I figured. I simply couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by.
I’ve been an Advocate since October 2019, and I’ve loved every moment of it. Advocates are Girlguiding’s spokespeople: We speak out on issues that matter to us and girls and young women across the UK—such as media representation, education, mental health, and many more. We create national campaigns (such as the 2019 #PlasticPromise campaign to tackle plastic pollution), and our tireless work has led to big change being made across various sectors, including the announcement of free period products across Scotland, and plans to eradicate tampon tax across the UK.
GGE: How and when did you become a Girlguiding Scotland spokesperson? How is that different, and what is your role?
Amaeshi: Last April, during the first lockdown, I reached out to Girlguiding Scotland to ask if they could share to all Scottish Girlguiding members #Uniforms4Uniforms—a campaign that the Advocates created, encouraging members to wear their Guiding uniform during the weekly clap for our key workers in order to show solidarity and support. As a result, I actually got to do a takeover of Girlguiding Scotland’s Instagram page on the day of the campaign launch, which was really cool! Since then, I’ve continued to get some fantastic opportunities from Girlguiding Scotland, including getting to write about my adventures in Girlguiding for World Youth Skills Day in July, and also it was Girlguiding Scotland who nominated me to be on the YWCA Scotland’s 30 Under 30 list, for which I’m incredibly grateful.
GGE: What was your reaction to being nominated for the Glasgow Times’ Young Scotswoman of the Year 2020 award?
Amaeshi: I feel very honoured and grateful to have been nominated as a finalist, alongside four other brilliant young women. And I know this is very cliché, but even if I don’t ultimately win, I’ll still be happy: I’ve received so much love and support from those I know within the Girlguiding community, from classmates and teachers at school, from friends and family both near and far—I feel like a winner already.
GGE: You were also among YWCA Scotland’s 30 Under 30 last year. What, if anything, have these platforms afforded you in terms of getting your voice heard?
Amaeshi: Being recognised for my work feels so special. I know that there are many talented young women out there, so hopefully the work I’ve done will inspire others, especially Girlguiding members and those from ethnic minority groups, to contribute positively to society in their own way, too. After all, everyone’s voice, regardless of who they are or where they come from, is important and deserves to be heard.
GGE: You’re quite active on Twitter. How do you use social media to make a difference for young women?
Amaeshi: I use both my Twitter and Instagram to share petitions as well as amplifying information about different causes relating to equality and social justice (to do with gender, race, sexuality, etc.). I think it’s so important that activism isn’t performative or limited to social media, but at the same time I do believe it’s just as important that useful information is shared, as it’s a good starting point for having those necessary conversations and then implementing positive change both online and offline.
GGE: What have you learned from your work with Girlguiding?
Amaeshi: I’ve learned so much about other people’s experiences, from the Brownies at my unit to my fellow Advocates. Everyone has such unique perspectives, and I’ve loved learning about and working with other incredible young women.
GGE: What advice do you have for other Girlguiding members looking to use their voice to make a difference?
Amaeshi: Find your passion, figure out what it is you want changed in society. And do what you can to help be part of that change. Work together with others who also strive for that same goal. Positive change, no matter how big or small, is always good. Making change on a local level—whether that’s in your school or guiding unit, or just generally the community—is just as valuable as making change nationally. And who knows where your efforts might lead you. Never underestimate the power and value of your voice. Also, when applications next open to become a Girlguiding Advocate, BYC delegate, or a Girlguiding Scotland Speak Out Champion, go for it! You’ll receive incredible opportunities and meet lifelong friends, I promise.
GGE: How have you been navigating the pandemic and lockdown as a young person?
Amaeshi: My family has been healthy, and we’ve all been able to stay at home safely during the two lockdowns, whilst our country’s amazing key workers and carers have been fighting on the frontlines and keeping our country running. I’m grateful that my school’s online learning has been really good, and that I’ve still been able to see my friends virtually during the lockdowns. But still, it’s not been easy.
Some days, mostly during the first lockdown, I’ve woken up excited by the prospect of being able to do something new, something that, under normal circumstances, I would never have had the time for. But other days I’ve felt angry at those disobeying lockdown measures, angry at the latest atrocity that headlines the news and social media, angry at the appalling discrimination and ignorance that continues to tear our world apart.
At times, I’ve felt incredibly hopeless. Keeping connected with others, including Girlguiding friends, and keeping busy with different activities, including Girlguiding ones, have been a lifeline for me, and I’m sure many others. And now there appears to be a light at the end of this very dark tunnel. Vaccines are being rolled out, case rates are decreasing, students are returning (albeit in limited numbers) to school. There is reason for hope.