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Home > News and views > Ensuring that girls are given a voice

Ensuring that girls are given a voice

This year’s ESU-Churchill Public Speaking Competition played host to a series of great speeches – 100% of which were delivered by girls

With subjects as diverse as human cloning, the freedom to rebel and how to measure happiness, the choice of topics for this year’s public speaking final did not disappoint.

Equally, the delivery and quality of all the young contestants’ speeches ensured that the audience were treated to an afternoon of top-class public speaking and quick-fire questioning.

But what was perhaps most surprising, and promising, was that 75% of all contestants and 100% of all speakers were girls.

Sam Leith, literary editor of The Spectator and one of this year’s judges commented:

‘It was a great pleasure to help judge this competition. And the entries were of a hugely impressive standard. When I wrote a book about rhetoric a few years ago I found myself, slightly apologetically, having to acknowledge that nearly all my examples (with rare exceptions such as Margaret Thatcher and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I at Tilbury) were from men. As Mary Beard’s Women in Power has since explained, the public voices of women have been systematically stifled for most of human history. So seeing not just a substantial minority but one hundred per cent of the brilliant main speakers in this competition being young women was the revelation of the day. If I live long enough to update my book in three or four decades’ time, on this evidence, it will paint a very different picture.’

Indeed, Mary Beard herself celebrated with us on Twitter remarking that: ‘it’s great to see women speaking out!’

We agree! It was inspiring to see so many strong young women speaking out about the issues that they care about. We hope that the voices of women will continue to make it to the main stage and, as part of our ongoing mission to ensure all voices are heard, we will continue to create spaces for all young people, regardless of gender, ethnicity or circumstance, to have the opportunity to speak out.

Congratulations to the winning team, St Philip Howard Catholic High School; best chair, Ria Bansall from Manchester High School for Girls;  best questioner, Jack Harvey from Colston’s School and best speaker, Mollie Finniear from St Philip Howard Catholic High School, and finally outstanding personality, Linnet Drury, from Oxford Spires Academy.


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