Mary was one of eight girls to win this year’s BSP Women’s Scholarship Grant.

This year’s competition question is based on the theme for International Women’s Day 2017 ‘Be Bold for Change’, which calls on everyone’s help to forge a better working world – a more gender inclusive world.

Applicants are asked to answer this question in a written essay, “How can you as a woman/girl help forge a better working world in Vanuatu?”

The judges for the entries to win a BSP Women’s Scholarship Grant are prominent women leaders in Vanuatu including the New Zealand High Commissioner, Mrs Georgina Roberts, Miss Katura Marae, Vanuatu female pilot, Mrs Angeline Dovo, Parliamentary Counsel and Mrs Florinda Aru, Director Finance, Reserve Bank of Vanuatu.

This is Mary’s winning essay

My name is Mary and I am in grade 4 at Pikinini Playtime. I like reading, writing stories and helping my friends with their homework. When I was 12 years old I did not go to school, I didn’t know how to read and write, I was afraid all the time and could not speak or understand English. I also used to shut my mouth because I was scared.

My life changed for me and my little sister when I spoke out about something bad happening to us. After that our lives changed because my big sister put us in school. There are many women in Vanuatu who feel scared and afraid to talk when someone does something bad to them they think they are safer when they stay quiet.

I want to say if we talk and speak out we can make our country better and stop struggling. I can change Vanuatu by believing in myself and speaking out like reporting a crime to police, writing a letter to the government or singing a song. Because I spoke out me and my little sister have a better life. If more women speak out we can have a better country.

Mary’s story was published with permission from her guardian