I am a resilient woman. If someone tries to knock me down, I simply rise up even stronger than before. I am a survivor. I am in control of my life. I will not allow others to mistreat me. I am no longer silenced. Today is International Women’s Day and I thought I would never be able to say these words.
I am honoured to be able share my story with you. Recovery is a lifelong journey so as it continues I am glad I am able to stand up and speak out. I feel proud of my achievements.
The past year has been a poignant one for countless women. The ‘Me Too’ movement has enabled many to speak out feeling safe to do so. We are finally uniting and standing up to the responsibility of shame we are made to feel when interpersonal trauma is inflicted on us. It is perpetuated by systemic beliefs that have been accepted for too long. I believed these beliefs. So achieving my goals and receiving the awards during the ‘Year of the Woman’ has been an amazing triumph. I was isolated through fear for so long.
I have now graduated with an MA in creative, digital and professional writing. Returning to education wasn’t just about learning new skills. It has given me routine and the opportunity to grow as a person. I feel more able to take on personal and professional tasks.
Having been awarded by Festival of Learning with a high commendation at the Houses of Parliament in 2018 I was asked if I would like to become a learner ambassador. I was overwhelmed by the kindness and respect from the Festival of Learning team and immediately accepted the offer.
My first role as an ambassador was an invitation to speak in Brussels at the EAEA conference – ‘European Association for the Education of Adults’ during the EU Summit. I spoke to representatives of agencies and education services in Europe – many offering services to refugees and women overcoming trauma so my story resonated with the attendees. It was an enormous moment for me and I feel very proud.
Following this I was then invited to speak publicly at Dublin City University. I presented a seminar to social science students. It was an incredible experience. Although daunting at first, I was there to share my story, my experiences and I have nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about – I also have my grounding techniques thanks to trauma education I received at the Traumatic Stress Clinic.
I invited the students to begin thinking about solutions to trauma: how they can notice some of the signs of trauma and the importance of safe spaces, communication and mindfulness to enable them to support their own students or service users in the future at work. I was approached by many of the female students when I finished my presentation – they were inspired by my story – it was extremely humbling. It was such an honour to attend the university to meet with them.
Education feeds your soul. It nourishes your mind. Everyone’s experience is unique to them and we all have obstacles to overcome. It can be tremendously challenging returning to education with or without learning difficulties but we all deserve the chance to be the best version of ourselves. Believe in yourself. We all have a right to education. Support is available to help you overcome your fears and the opportunities are endless. Education enables you to focus and rebuild your future, taking control of your own destiny.
Oriana was highly commended in 2018 in the Outstanding Individual Learner category. Our 2019 winners will be announced in July.