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Dublin: 9 °C Sunday 5 April, 2020

'Walking home, I'll be called a gorilla or a monkey' - Teenager meets Taoiseach to discuss racism

Joella Dhlamini lives in Drogheda having moved from South Africa.

NO FEE 8 UNICEF Taoiseach Global #KidsTakeOver Joella Dhlamini (16) from Drogheda spent the day in the Taoiseach's office. Source: Mark Stedman

A 16-YEAR-OLD girl who lives in Drogheda having moved from South Africa three years ago has spoken about the racism she regularly encounters on the streets of the town.

Joella Dhlamini was participating in Unicef’s #KidsTakeOver initiative as part of World Children’s Day and met with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in his offices in Government Buildings.

The teenager attends Our Lady’s College in Drogheda and is originally from Soweto in Johannesburg.

Dhlamini first moved to Ireland at the age of two, before returning to South Africa at the age of six. She made a permanent move to Ireland at the age of 13 and has two brothers who still live in South Africa.

Dhlamini  entered a competition that sought children’s views on what changes they would like to see for children in Ireland.

Dhlamini wrote about the racism she has encountered here since moving from Soweto in Johannesburg and about how it must be stopped.

Tweet by @RTÉ News Source: RTÉ News/Twitter

(Click here if video doesn’t play)

Speaking to RTÉ, Dhlamini said students at her school have been welcoming but that she often gets verbally abused on the way to or from her school.

“Every day I’d be walking home, I’ll be called a gorilla or a monkey, or be told go back to your own country you don’t deserve to be here,” she said.

The n-word is really common at this point, which is really upsetting and it’s something I grew to accept and I just don’t want anyone else to think that this behaviour is normal, it’s just not normal, it’s wrong and something should be done about it.Sometimes I even laugh about it, and I just walk. It’s something that I had to adjust to. Thousands of people around Ireland have to adjust to this behaviour. Going home, telling your mam, ‘Mam, this is happening to me while I’m walking from school or to school’, and she’ll be like, ‘Joella, you can’t really do anything about it, you just have to you know get on with and walk’, and I’m like ‘it’s unacceptable’.

“And I know because if that ever happened to your child you wouldn’t accept that kind of behaviour, why should my mam accept that kind of behaviour? Why should I accept that kind of behaviour?,” she added.

Tweet by @Leo Varadkar Source: Leo Varadkar/Twitter

Dhlamini met with Varadkar in his offices today with the Taoiseach saying in advance of their meeting that he was keen to learn about her experiences.

“I’ll do my best to give her an insight into what an average day is like for the Taoiseach and I also want to hear directly from Joella about the issues which are of most concern to her and her peers. I hope we can both learn a lot from the experience,” Varadkar said.

NO FEE 11 UNICEF Taoiseach Global #KidsTakeOver The Mr. Taoiseach mug was left to Varadkar by his predecessor Enda Kenny. Source: Mark Stedman

Unicef has said that the #KidsTakeOver intitive will see children ‘take over’ high-visibility roles in media, politics, business, sport and entertainment to shine a light on the most pressing challenges faced by their generation.

Aside from Varadkar, a number of other world leaders are taking part including French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Read: Twitter strips verified status from Richard Spencer and others after new rules against hate >

Read: Australian minister tells homeowners to ‘automatically’ tell Irish people to get away from their door >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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