AMANDA Amaeshi can still recall the shock she felt on hearing her name announced as Young Scotswoman of the Year.
The 17-year-old writer and campaigner, who was our 2020 winner, laughs: “I just didn’t think it would happen – I couldn’t believe it.
“I am really grateful to the Glasgow Times, and to everyone who took time to vote in the public vote, and to everyone at Girlguiding Scotland for their support.”
She adds: “Being the Glasgow Times Young SWOTY gave me a platform to make my voice heard.”
Amanda, from Dunfermline, overcame shyness and a lack of confidence in herself to speak up on a range of issues which matter to young people.
Having lived in various places as a young child – her Nigerian-born mum and dad, who moved to Scotland in 2002, are a public health researcher and university lecturer respectively – she often had to get used to new schools and new friends.
Becoming a Girl Guide helped her confidence enormously, and she is now a member of the Girlguiding Advocate Panel, a group of 18 young women from across the UK who speak up on issues affecting girls and young women.
She has presented to business bosses on gender bias, campaigned against racism and helped inspire girls to take STEM subjects at school.
Amanda is also an awardwinning writer – in 2017, she won the Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) competition, writing about problems concerning food waste in Scotland and potential solutions.
This year has been busier than most – after winning SWOTY, Amanda was back at school, studying for her Highers, and she is now in her final year at Dollar Academy, studying Advanced Highers.
“I hope to study law next year – I am keeping an open mind about what kind of law, but I am interested in human rights law.,” she explains.
“It’s the area in which I feel I would be able to help people the most, and that is what I want to do – to continue to help people.
In October last year, Amanda attended the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, where she met senior UK politicians including Health Secretary Sajid Javid to discuss sexual harassment laws and violence against women and girls.
“I was a bit nervous, because these are influential people, but once I started speaking, those nerves disappeared,” she said.
“They did listen to what we were saying, which was encouraging, and took it all on board.
“Most of the people at the Conservative Party conference were quite old, so I think they were very interested in hearing what younger people had to say on this very important issue.”
Winning Young SWOTY has been an eye-opening experience for Amanda, who says she is delighted to be considered a role model for other young women.
“I have heard in particular from some young black and ethnic minority women, who wanted to get involved in volunteering because they saw me doing it and realised it could be for them, too,” she explains. “I think if you don’t see someone like yourself doing these things, you maybe won’t feel it is something you can do. If other young black women see me and they feel inspired then that is a great thing.”
The nomination process for the 2021 Glasgow Times Scotswoman of the Year and Young Scotswoman of the Year awards is now open.