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Sunday 22 September 2019

Joella highlights racism on day with Taoiseach

Joella Dhlamini (16) from Drogheda spent World Children’s Day with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Mark Stedman
Joella Dhlamini (16) from Drogheda spent World Children’s Day with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Mark Stedman
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

A teenager from Drogheda, Co Louth, tagged along with the Taoiseach yesterday and highlighted the racism she experiences in Ireland.

Joella Dhlamini (16), originally from South Africa, spent World Children's Day attending various engagements with Leo Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar said he would do his best to give her an insight into what an average day was like for him and also listen about the issues she and her peers experienced.

After meeting him in Leinster House later that afternoon, Mr Varadkar tweeted: "Joella is really taking to this job... looking very at home behind my desk".

The Lady's College student revealed she had frequently been called 'gorilla', 'monkey' and other racist slurs on her way home from school.

Although she said her fellow pupils had been very welcoming, Joella described others as not so accepting.

"The N-word is quite common. These are a few of the many insulting things I hear every day," she said. "This is a topic that is not talked about and it needs to be talked about.

"My mom felt it would be a better place for me to grow up because the education system here is really good and because we were victims of violent crime in South Africa multiple times. She wanted us to relocate somewhere safer.

"It was really hard because I had to leave everything behind, but I thought to myself I'm very lucky to move to Ireland by choice and not because I'm being persecuted or forced to leave due to war."

Talking on RTÉ's 'Six One', the teenager said she would advise other people who experienced racism to try to not let it affect them.

"My advice is to just keep living your life and don't let them affect you in any way," she said. "You only live one life, live it to the fullest."

Joella said her experience with the Taoiseach had been "amazing" .

"The Taoiseach was really kind and welcoming and made me feel comfortable in every single way," she said. "My favourite aspect of the job was addressing the media. I think [Mr Varadkar] did it very well.

"[The experience] has changed my life tremendously. It shows how the Government actually listens to young people in Ireland. In other parts of the world young people are not considered in any way."

Joella was one of several children from around the world who spent a day in key roles, such as politics, media, business, sport and entertainment to highlight pressing issues faced by their generation.

Irish Independent

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