Originality, depth of research and critical thinking were the hallmarks of the two winning entries in the annual ActionAid Speech Writing Competition on global women's rights issues.
Clodagh Boyce from St Joseph's Mercy Secondary School , Navan and Kirsten Soney-Ituen from Gaelcholáiste Cheatharlach, Carlow were selected from 10 finalists after delivering their speeches to a panel of judges. The competition, now in its fifth year, is part of ActionAid's women's rights programme, which works to end early girl marriage, prevent gender-based violence, gain land rights for women and help children receive an education. ActionAid Ireland uses a Behaviour Change approach to this work in Ethiopia, Kenya and Nepal, which has helped participating women and girls, men and boys, and traditional and cultural leaders to move away from damaging behaviours.
The programme is funded by Irish Aid, which promotes engagement with the Irish public to raise awareness about these issues. The winning students will visit ActionAid's new programme in Greece in June, accompanied by their teachers. There, they will learn more about ActionAid's Protection and Empowerment Programme, working with refugee women living in areas of Athens and visit the Athens support centre, which supports Greek people facing financial problems and social exclusion.
ActionAid Chief Executive Siobhan McGee said interest in the competition was growing every year and all finalists displayed excellent knowledge and understanding of the importance of championing women's rights across the globe.
The finalists were selected from more than 150 entries from students aged 14 to 17. Judges included Gavin Jennings of RTE's Morning Ireland, Aoife Ní Fhearghail of Irish Aid, and Moira Leydon, Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland.