Nicolson students meet First Minister

Sarah Mackay (left) and Julia Lisowska.
Sarah Mackay (left) and Julia Lisowska.

An Inspiring Woman - by Julia Lisowska (S6)

On the 1st of March I found out that I would be meeting the First Minister on the following Monday, along with other female prefects. Was I excited? Very. Hysterical? Most definitely. Did I almost have a meltdown? No, but I was close.

Having Nicola Sturgeon come to Stornoway felt unreal to me, especially the fact that I had the chance to meet such a powerful woman.

I was absolutely delighted, but the emotion that I felt along with all the excitement was pride.

Nicola Sturgeon, a woman, exalted to the position of a First Minister in a (I hate to say it) male-dominated career.

She defied all odds and became an inspiration to millions of women out there, including myself. I believe in equality between the sexes, always have and always will.

Having Nicola come to such a small town and give the most inspirational speech I have ever heard made me believe in the ability and power of women even more.

I was so thrilled at this opportunity that I remember racing home and typing ‘how tall is Nicola Sturgeon’ into Google just in case we got a chance to take photos with her, and since I am a towering 5’9” I had to know if I should wear heeled boots or opt for flats. I went with flats.

As I came to An Lanntair, I was beyond excited to find out I would be sitting in the front row, with the stage and two seats for the First Minister and the host right in front of me.

The hall was filled with women of all ages, and to my joy I even spotted some men. When Nicola came onto the stage, she was introduced by the host and began her opening speech.

Safe to say she was everything I had hoped for, and more. Her speech was incredible; she spoke about her life in politics, what it was like to be a woman in such an important position, the problems that media and stereotyping place on women and her inspirational quotes made me listen and look on in admiration.

After Nicola’s opening speech, the audience got a chance to ask her some questions.

I was honoured to be one of the two girls from The Nicolson Institute chosen to ask her questions, and it was the two of us who fully opened up the question time, being the first from the whole audience to speak. I was so tempted to ask her where she got her shoes from, but in the end I went with the question presented in front of me: ‘has your gender ever been a barrier?’

I felt the nerves rush through me as the microphone was handed to me, and I was so nervous I stuttered during my question, feeling insanely embarrassed about it afterwards.

At least I brought myself to say something, as the sheer thought and fear of opening my mouth and have nothing come out made my hands sweat.

She spoke to us about how powerful the media can be, and what effect it can have not only on your self- esteem, but on the opinion of others around you.

She explained how sometimes during meetings, some questions would be asked to the men attending the meeting, although she is the First Minister and most questions should be allocated to her.

The fact she was a woman didn’t cause her problems, but it had its challenges. Her answers were honest, encouraging, and fun.

After the question time, Nicola Sturgeon came down the steps of the stage and made her way along the row of grinning prefects, asking how we were and thanking us for coming.

I remember gripping my seat and thinking ‘I am so not ready for this. Nicola Sturgeon is going to talk to me. Face to Face.’ Although we didn’t get a chance to get any pictures with her (I should’ve worn the heeled boots), I still enjoyed the experience thoroughly and could do it again if I could, this time really asking her where she got her shoes from.

As I walked back to school, I was still in awe from the whole experience.

Texting my dad, I told him I was a woman and women rule. He replied with ‘Julia I know you’re a woman, and yes they do rule, especially you.’ Thanks dad.

Meeting Nicola Sturgeon was a privilege, and I will never forget this experience. She made sure to let us know we shouldn’t feel as if we’re less than men, how to stand up for what we believe in and that we can do anything, even as young women.

We can truly make a difference and have an impact not only on our society, but our future. She was funny, inspirational, and honest above all else. You could tell she loves politics and this country, and will do anything to make the people of Scotland happy. I’d like to think we’re in very safe hand.

Event Part Of National Women’s Day - by Sarah Mackay, S6

It was quite exciting being part of a group of all female prefects that were asked by An Lanntair to come and listen to the First Minister speak about National Women’s Day.

As we were sitting in the front row it dawned on myself and some of those sitting around me that this was an opportunity we were never going to get again.

For a Monday morning An Lanntair was filled with women (and some brave men) to listen to Nicola Sturgeon speak to us about what it has meant to her about being a woman in politics.

After the First Minister made her opening speech, which gave us an insight into the troubles she’s faced from both the media and also fellow politicians because of her gender, the audience was given a chance to ask some questions.

Two girls from The Nicolson Institute were the first people to ask her a question which was answered very honestly as she told us how she has found the media to be a particularly powerful source of information both positive and negative.

She also informed us of how she had sometimes felt undermined by male politicians around her because of her gender, as she was seen as being less important.

As Nicola Sturgeon left the stage she made a point of stopping in the front row to speak to all of the female students from The Nicolson Institute.

She stopped for a while and just spoke to us about our day and if we had enjoyed our experience, she also thanked us for coming to listen to her.

After the talk we all felt very much empowered as young women after the example shown by our First Minister.

She showed us how we should not feel disheartened because of gender inequality and to also stand up for ourselves against those who don’t believe in it.

One of the points that she made that really stuck with us was that we can do anything that we want to, no matter what gender we are.