Meet the five young women from the Highlands and Islands who have made the 30 under 30 list.
The Young Women’s Movement showcases 30 inspiring young women and non-binary people in Scotland.
They are being recognised for all of the changes they are making within their communities and the wider society.
Five of these women are making significant changes throughout, Inverness, Oban and the Scottish Highlands.
Who has made the list?
Iona M.J. MacDonald
Iona M.J. MacDonald is a 17-year-old award-winning journalist from the north-west Highlands.
She has been working as a trainee community reporter at Highland News and Media since she was 16 and believes that her passion for equality will lead her throughout her career.
Iona was trusted to curate the TikTok content at the Inverness Courier’s SNP leadership debate earlier this year. This was followed by their A9 Crisis Summit, where she sat on the front row beside Scottish Government representatives, capturing content – which amassed hundreds of thousands of views.
She has a passion for investigative journalism and even put forward the idea to test how easy it is to buy vapes underage.
Passion for investigative journalism
Undertaking extensive research by contacting the police and Trading Standards, she pulled together a team including an editor and photographer, and went into shops herself to see if she could buy vapes underage.
Her investigation went viral, being retweeted by prominent journalists including the head of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. As a result, she was invited to a Scottish Parliament roundtable meeting to discuss the subject with politicians, health campaigners, and environmental activists.
Jessica Carlyle is a 25-year-old from Shetland Islands who dreams to become a qualified counsellor.
She has a passion for helping young people and has created positive change within her community.
In 2016 she started volunteering as a peer educator with OPEN. She then began volunteering as a peer mentor and started to work with them part-time in 2019.
Dreams to become a qualified counsellor
In 2021, she took on the role of organisation development lead. In that role, she has worked alongside young people aged 16–29 to turn the organisation into an independent, youth-governed charity.
Going through hard times herself, she says she would not be where she is now, if it weren’t for the support around her.
She recently started a new role earlier this year as the young survivors practitioner with the Compass Centre (formerly Shetland Rape Crisis), where she carries out research to better understand the needs of young people in Shetland.
Kirsty Pallas is a 29-year-old mountaineering and rock climbing instructor, introducing people to the mountains.
Coming from a mixed heritage background, she says she is very aware that the outdoors has historically been dominated by white, middle-class, straight men.
Over the last few years she has worked on increasing diversity and inclusivity within the outdoors, both through her organisation Our Shared Outdoors, and her job at Mountaineering Scotland, by raising awareness within the community and reaching out to affinity groups.
She teaches skills like navigation, ropework, and winter skills, or guiding experiences like scrambles and rock climbs.
Loves seeing people ‘blown away’ by the mountains
Describing it as “very rewarding” she goes onto say how she loves “seeing people being blown away by the mountains and landscape we have in Scotland.”
She also delivers talks about how clubs and organisations can be more inclusive and support underrepresented communities to access the outdoors.
Being a volunteer member of Oban Mountain Rescue for 10 years, she is the training officer and one of the call-out managers for the team. This involves ensuring the team is trained in all areas, as well as be on standby 24/7 for call-outs.
Rebecca Wymer is a 30-year-old career baker currently in training to be a nutrition coach.
She is from the Scottish Highlands and has run a deli/bakery with her mum for the past seven years.
Having severe Endometriosis and Polycystic ovaries, she is scheduled for her fourth major surgery in the last five years.
She expresses how living in the Highlands means she faces an extreme lack of healthcare access, with basic services centralised to over 100 miles away and 200 miles away if you need Endometriosis or fertility services.
Breaking taboos around subjects
Setting up the North Highland Women’s Wellbeing Hub alongside two friends, they aimed to provide support to women in the highlands and fight for improved access to care.
Rebecca feels “blown away” to have made the 30 under 30 list and hopes the Women’s Health movement of the Highlands encourages others to start up their own.
Srija Shrestha is a 26-year-old Nepali artist based in Inverness who came to the UK in 2021 to pursue MA Illustration and graduated from Teesside University in 2022.
She left home for the very first time and has navigated her life in an entirely different culture and environment, which has been a major experience in shaping her creative practice she shares.
She expresses these themes through the fusion of Nepali and English language and culture, and connecting them with the stories of finding a home away from home.
Throughout her career she has collaborated on projects with organisations both in Nepal and the UK, such as British Council, YUWA Nepal, UNICEF South Asia and Student Minds UK to highlight issues of mental health.