The first time I saw Orla on a stage, I thought to myself, "I want to be friends with her", she made us all laugh and had a way to speak that made me want to listen. Now we voice message frequently, talking about racism, the cervix, and everything else, still makes me laugh and still makes me want to listen.
I love seeing her determined to change things and constantly doing the work! Continually stepping out of her comfort zone and making sure she brings as many people as possible with her in the journey.
I am so proud to call her my friend and excited to showcase some of the awesome things she does as part of this interview!
Who is Orla McKeating, and how are you determined to change the world?
I am Orla McKeating, I am a white CIS female of privilege. I use my voice, my knowledge and my experience to build communities and safe places to learn, talk and share experiences to reduce stigma and work towards equality.
I am a founder and a motivational speaker from Belfast, Northern Ireland. I am passionate about equality; my public speaking raises awareness in issues typically attached to stigma. I am committed to learning and sharing time, knowledge and experience with those around me.
I am also a single parent to a bi-racial son. My mission is to normalise my soon seeing people who look like him in the storybooks, TV and media to allow him to see what is possible, to be able to understand the importance of being aware of other beliefs, abilities, types of love, respect and live diversity.
I do this through my business, Still I Rise Diversity Storytelling, where our mission is to read stories to celebrate diversity, tolerance acceptance and encouraging open hearts and minds to create a more loving world.
What is the biggest impact on what you do?
It is seeing change, from seeing a little girl in a Hijab's face light up when she see's someone that looks like her in a story to getting an email from a deaf parent thanking us for creating a space that is inclusive and where he and his sharing family can learn and contribute together.
Most of all it is seeing my son, a black boy of a single parent, thrive in a world that doesn't support him.
What has been your biggest learning since you started this journey?
The only person I need validation from is myself. I love, respect and cherish my own thoughts, ideas and progress. I am often wrong; I am always learning, and the unlearning and awareness is the hardest.
My only barrier is myself.
What is the goal? The big vision of what you would like to achieve.
I will shape diversity into the curriculum in Northern Ireland to promote inclusive learning so that all children will grow up in a world with equal opportunities.
I will promote and foster awareness for adults to be willing to accept the beliefs we have been conditioned with and the tools to unlearn, keep learning and progress together.
I will create spaces where stigma is reduced, where mental and physical health is nurtured and where we can all have a collective respect and inclusive approach.
What is Feminism for you?
Feminism is inter-sectional for me, so it is when all member of society have equal opportunities and access to education, healthcare, autonomy and where decision-makers and leadership teams are fully diverse with experience on policies they are implementing and where we can see all groups of society are represented in books, tv and media.
Which "everyday sexism" really bothers you?
The typical lack of awareness in the use of non-inclusive language.
For example, 'guys', 'policemen' instead of police officers, the commonality of saying 'babysitting' instead of parenting, and various microaggressions.
Do you remember when you start identifying as a Feminist and why?
I started to identify as a feminist when I started becoming more aware of the world around me, when I actively listened and recognise feelings in my body, when I started reading more books about a quality about intersectional equality about inclusion about diversity and realise that the world is not actually as lovely and nice and sugarcoated as we are led to believe.
Once I realise that everything changed. Changing my own daily habits and behaviours and words and finding the strength to speak up. The more I did that the easier it was for me to continue the fight for equality
Who is your biggest feminist role model?
Maya Angelou – she overcame abuse, used her voice, she was versatile and did what she loved and grew her talents as a marginalised black woman and changed the world through words, wisdom and poetry.
What is your favourite Feminist quote?
"Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I'll rise." MAYA ANGELOU
What is your proud feminist victory?
My proud feminist victory is raising a black male feminist.
What is your feminist recommendation?
- Book: Grit by Angela Duckworth
- TV show: The Duchess
- Film: The Magdalene Sisters
What is your feminist call of action to whoever is reading?
Your voice matters, you matter, do the work.
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