Fiona’s Thought Provoking Speech Made National ActionAid / Action Talks Finals

Fiona Brosnan was chosen as a finalists in this year’s Action Talks competition. Photograph: Katie O’Reilly.

Fiona Brosnan, a student at Presentation Secondary School, Castleisland, was chosen as a finalist in the 2021 ActionTalks National Speech Writing Competition run by ActionAid.

The competition was open to all students aged 14 to 17 years old.

The competition, which took place entirely online this year, focused on the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact it is having throughout the world.

A statement from the adjudicators clearly revealed the impression the students’ deliberations made on them.

“As well as the high volume of entries, we could see that students from across the country worked hard on the speeches, including researching how the pandemic had affected people in other countries.

“We were really struck by the strong analysis students did on their own situations and it was interesting to hear how the pandemic has impacted on young people,” according to the statement.

The following is Fiona Brosnan’s Entry:

Pandemic Reminds Us of The Importance of Global Solidarity and International Aid

Teamwork. It’s a word that we have unknowingly put into practise since we were about five, by playing dodge-ball or making jigsaws together in playschool.

We learned to share and help each other, warning your friend that the ball was flying towards them or filling in their pesky missing jigsaw piece.

The more we grew, the more complicated the world seemed to become. Teamwork became solidarity. Sharing and helping each other became aid.

I understand that the challenges faced around the world may scare us, especially since we know that we’re all responsible for overcoming them.

But do not forget that while the scale of these problems may have grown, so have we.

Rising Poverty Levels

Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed judges and fellow speakers, I am here to remind you that you are not five anymore. You can help. You must help.

For the first time in over 20 years, the international poverty levels have risen.

The coronavirus pandemic has compounded the forces of conflict and climate change, which were already slowing the progress of reducing poverty.

Millions in Extreme Poverty

This global disaster is estimated to push an additional 88 to 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, but this figure could rise up as far as 150 million in 2021.

One hundred and fifty million more people may live in extreme poverty because of one virus – over 30 times the population of Ireland. Ask yourself: Is that fair?

Around 80% of workers in developing countries are engaged in tasks that are unlikely to be performed from home, meaning lock-downs are preventing them from working whatsoever.

Child Labourers

Many of these will fall below the poverty line, forcing children in the family to work.

There are around 265 million child labourers in the world today- almost 17% of the worldwide child population.

Ask yourself: Is that fair?

Research carried out by ActionAid this year showed that global lock-downs and coronavirus restrictions have led to a shocking increase in gender-based violence against women and girls.

Increase In Femicide

In Brazil, 143 women were killed across 12 states in March and April this year, with a 22% increase in femicide compared to last year.

In Italy, a review of more than 228 shelters saw the number of women who asked for support, through the government’s anti-violence hotline, increase by 59%.

Again, ask yourself: Is that fair?

Welcome to Solidarity

If you don’t think that it is fair, if you don’t believe it’s right and if you are not going to simply sit back and watch it happen, then welcome to solidarity.

Welcome to the realisation that if you do not do something, nothing will be done.

We are all human and we must stand together in a world that sometimes feels more divided than ever.

Global solidarity is vital if we want to get through these harsh, unprecedented and scary times together.

Hundreds of Injustices

I’ve merely listed three injustices in today’s world – there are hundreds.

If that scares you, you must not hide away or avoid the scary truths. You can help. You must help.

Fortunately, there are solutions. International aid plays a huge role in the fight against poverty, child labour, gender inequality, lack of education and healthcare and more injustices which are more prevalent than ever as the Coronavirus pandemic takes its toll globally.

Aid builds economies; it builds countries. If extreme poverty is rock bottom, then international aid is the ladder out.

Justice Being Served

We tend to think of international aid as charity work, as something that we so generously grant to those in developing countries- unfortunate countries that just aren’t as prosperous as ours.

Instead, I ask you to think of it as justice being served.

It is our duty to provide aid, and it will benefit us. Successful countries lead to a successful world.

The Right to Dignity

Nelson Mandela once said: “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”

Ireland has announced that the budget allocation to Overseas Development Aid for 2021 has increased by almost €30 million.

A Message of Hope

I would like to leave that with you as a message of hope.

Times are undoubtedly strange, but our country has shown its solidarity by providing more international aid than ever before.

This pandemic has shown us that it is more important than ever, so I ask you: how will you show your solidarity?

Thank you.

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