Sunday 8th March

| BY Paul Toner

Happy International Women’s Day! We Bring you Amanda Rusta, One of Ten’s Teen Activists


Amanda Rusta, photographed by Jermaine Francis

You can tell a lot about a person by what’s plastered on their bedroom wall, what sits on their bedside table or even by what they leave lying around on their floor. For a teenager, their bedroom is an extension of who they are – or who they want to be. Often with a Keep Out or Do Not Disturb sign scribbled on their door, teens can lock themselves away from the outside world within their own personal sanctuary, where their every need is catered for. We commissioned the photographer Jermaine Francis to explore these mini universes. The inspiration was Adrienne Salinger’s In My Room, a seminal photo book from 1995 that journeyed though a selection of teen bedrooms in upstate New York. Salinger found her subjects in shopping malls and restaurants, as well as through friends, resulting in a perfectly imperfect chorus of adolescent youth to photograph in their as-yet-uncharted territories. The only rule in place before Salinger’s arrival was that the teens were not to tidy their rooms, no matter how messy they were.

Comparing then to now, the sentiment remains that no two of these personal palaces look-alike, although for today’s teens, bedrooms are no longer dedicated to their favourite boyband member or celebrity crush. All over the country, the function of a teenager’s bedroom has evolved. Within their four walls, the modern-day teen is able to plot how they will make tomorrow brighter, both for themselves and the marginalised groups that surround them. From the climate-change warriors and LGBTQI+ activists, through to young migrants battling for their right to belong, teenagers simply can no longer wait for the government to assuage their fears for the future. In celebration of such titans, we trekked up and down the country to the bedrooms of 10 teens who are taking matters into their own hands. On International Women’s Day, we present Amanda Rusta from London.

North Londoner Amanda Rusta is on a mission to break the taboo surrounding periods. “I mostly talk about the empowerment of women through our biology,” she says. “We shouldn’t shy away from it, we should use it as a tool to help us in life and make us a stronger person all together.” Working with the youth charity Exposure, Rusta and her friend Caitlin Carter recently penned a piece that discussed why teenagers should be more open to talking about their periods, outlining how the lack of education surrounding the menstrual cycle can leave teens embarrassed and scared to talk about what’s going on with their bodies. And this is just Rusta getting started. “I am most proud of that article as I came out of my comfort zone when producing this idea,” she says. “It has had so many great reactions and has really made me confident in myself.” Having cut her activist teeth through campaigning about a taboo subject, Rusta is clearly destined for great things.

Paul Toner: When did you first feel like you were an activist?

Amanda Rusta: Once my article about menstruation was posted and I saw people could relate to it and felt more comfortable about talking about it with each other, that was the time when I would say I felt like an activist, as I inspired and encouraged girls to talk about issues that are commonly brushed away and forgotten about.

PT: What pushes you to keep on campaigning for your cause?

AR: The one thing that makes me want to continue campaigning and speaking out is the responses and effects it has on people, as simple articles and discussions make people think they aren’t alone and what they’re going through is normal, so they shouldn’t be down and ashamed about it. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and joy when I see their reactions and their attitudes positively changing.

PT: What’s the best thing about being a young activist in your city?

AR: The best thing about being an activist in London is that there are so many ideas and topics you can talk about and introduce to people from all over the world and ethnicities, just in one area. As a diverse loca- tion, London allows you to get so many perspectives and thought processes that make campaigning that much better.

PT: What’s your favourite thing in your bedroom?

AR: My favourite thing is probably my make-up section, as I can just play around with it, express myself and just be free when I am doing my make-up. It calms me down and is a sort of stress reliever when I’ve been busy, as it reorganises my thinking process and allows me to express my emotions through something that is harmless and removable, while also making a statement.

PT: What do you want to see change about the world in 2020?

AR: I would really love to see people being unified and just being grateful and happy for each other, as the world can be a dark place, but with people and love we can help it be better and fight problems like pollution and climate change all together. But I think the first step in helping our planet is for everybody to be happy and jovial together.

PT: Which fellow activists inspire you and why?

AR: Yara Shahidi inspires me as she talks about female empowerment in education and that is a key topic for me. I also love the fact that she opened a club that is a digital hangout for high-school students to discuss issues they have. This just inspires me, as people feel they are part of something and feel safe to talk with others who are experiencing the same problems.

PT: Do you make your bed every morning?

AR: Yes, I make my bed every morning before going to school, so that I come back to a nice clean room where I can then do homework and be or- organised.

PT: What’s the most comfortable pair of shoes to protest in?

AR: My Nike Air Max trainers that are all black but have that little bit of glitter are definitely my most comfortable pair of shoes to protest in.

Taken from Issue 64 – BEST, FOOT, FORWARD – which is on newsstands now.

exposure.org