Sunday 18 August 2019

Schoolgirl tells Taoiseach of the racist slurs she faces each day on her walk to school

Joella Dhlamini spent the day with Leo Varadkar as part of World Children's Day
Joella Dhlamini spent the day with Leo Varadkar as part of World Children's Day
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

A teenage girl has said that she has been called a "gorilla" and had other racist slurs shouted at her as she walks to school.

Joella Dhlamini (16) said that she has had enough of this behaviour and urged Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today to help teach people that racism is wrong.

Joella - who was born in the township of Soweto in South Africa but moved to Ireland in 2013 - met the Taoiseach today as part of World Children's Day.

Children around the world took over roles in fields such as sport, politics and the media to highlight the issues affecting them.

Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTE Radio One, Joella said of the racist abuse she has faced: "Every day when I'm walking home I'll be called a gorilla or a monkey.

"I have been told, 'go back to your own country, you don't belong here.'

"The N word is really common as well, it's really upsetting and it's something I have grown to accept but it is not something that I would want anyone to think is normal.

"It's not normal, it's wrong and something should be done about it."

Joella, who lives in Drogheda in Co Louth, said that just because this kind of racist abuse happens regularly that doesn't mean that it should be normalised

She said: "At this point sometimes I even laugh about it and walk away but it's something I had to adjust to, but nobody should have to adjust to it.

"Thousands of people around Ireland have had to adjust to this - you go home and tell your mam this has happened to me while I'm walking to or from school.

"She will tell me there's nothing I can really do about it and I just have to keep walking but it's unacceptable.

"I know if this ever happened to your child you wouldn't accept this behaviour so why should my mam? Why should I? Nobody in Ireland should accept this kind of behaviour."

As she prepared to spend the day with the Fine Gael leader, she said she wants him to help lead a more inclusive Ireland.

She said: "I won't ask the Taoiseach for anything big to happen but even just to try and educate people about these kind of things.

"I want him to ask people to educate their children about this and to let them know that it's not fair for anyone to be treated like this.

"I want him to tell people to treat other people as you want to be treated because I know no-one in hell would accept this.

"It's a simple message that needs to be out there."

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