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Swimming to the surface

My story as a human rights defender

Hi, I’m Eilidh. I’m 17 and in sixth year at school, studying Higher Chemistry, Physics and Maths. I am visually impaired, having both Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and ocular motor apraxia (OMA). This has led to me having 3% vision with only central vision— so I can’t see anything that isn’t straight ahead of me.

Being visually impaired has its challenges. When I walked into secondary school I was this shy person that liked to hide in the corner and not say anything. Having a visual impairment lost me a lot of confidence, as no one else in my school was the same as me. I was the red pencil in the yellow pencil drawer. My confidence continued to fall. For example, in PE I got asked to play netball and having only central vision makes that hard…

In the year of my Nat 5’s my confidence fell again as I got seriously bullied. In my maths class some boys thought that it would be fun to make fun of me. I love maths, but I still had a fear of going into that classroom.

It has been two years since this incident but I am still scared of that classroom, they did not really know what they were doing or saying and had no idea that telling someone to kill themselves is not nice. Having friends gave them an advantage. There were three of them and only one of me, and the person they were bullying had no confidence. I made for an easy target as at school I was the most vulnerable. I am so glad they left at the end of S4 but this did lead to me getting a D in maths.

At school I was the most vulnerable, but I do other things outside of school that make me happy and empowered. I have a job at Aberdeen Science Centre which forces me to talk to the public about science, something which makes me increase my confidence. I also do Scouting, which shows people that having a visual impairment is not a barrier but an advantage. I take part in RNIB’s youth forum Haggeye, and I am also about to take part in the MSYP elections.

Being a Human Rights Defender has shown me that you have to stand up for what you want, and that being shy is not an option. It has shown me a little light in the shadows.

I have found out that S5 was not a good year. And after starting to climb back up the tree of confidence, result day hit me with a bang and I slipped down the tree again. As reality came into view, I had failed my Highers. And carrying on this year has not been easy.

But standing up for what I want as the Human Rights Defenders Action Group has taught me makes me see hope…

Don’t be afraid, to swim to the surface!

Getting support if you're being bullied

Links to places that can help

It’s never acceptable to be bullied, whether it happens at home, at school, online or anywhere else. If bullying is something that’s happening to you then the links below can offer you help and support.

  • respectme is Scotland’s anti-bullying service, which has a lot of information about what bullying is and the options you can consider to handle it.
  • Childline has a page dedicated to information and advice about bullying. You can also contact them at any time if you need someone to listen to you.
  • Young people’s mental health charity YoungMinds has information about bullying and the support you can get when it happens.