Today we celebrate International Women’s Day and all the fearless, visionary women down through the generations who have advanced the cause of equal rights.
The first International Women’s Day took place in 1911 and there is no denying that we have made huge strides towards equality in that time.
Today it continues to be celebrated by women everywhere, and has become a global day of recognition of women’s contributions to society celebrating the economic, political, social and cultural achievements of women.
While remembrance and honouring those who went before us is good, it should also be remembered that International Women’s Day is not just a celebration, but a protest, a cry of defiance and a call to action.
Despite more than a century of resistance the suppression of women continues around the world today.
And while it is important that we show solidarity with women facing oppression around the world, and demand that our government’s act, we must not kid ourselves into thinking it is a foreign issue.
Gender inequality is still very prevalent in modern Irish society.
Women continue to suffer from the private tyrannies of domestic and sexual abuse. While I am delighted to see the Criminal Law Bill come into effect it is a disgrace it has taken the Government almost four years to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women.
How many women in those four year could have used the extra protections it guarantees and how many will now not get a chance to?
We still do not enjoy Equal Pay and continue to face barriers when accessing work due to a lack of childcare provision. A recent EU report found Ireland to have the highest cost of childcare in Europe and described it as the single biggest impediment to employment here.
Poverty has doubled among lone working parents here in the past five years. Again, this is an issue that disproportionately effects single mothers, trapping them in a cycle of unemployment or finding part time work just to cover the cost of childcare, removing the options of education or a career for them.
And still we remain resolute. Still Irish women and women around the world look to the future with hope, assured that we have the strength to change the world, as we have done numerous times before.
We continue to build on the legacy of great women of the past, from Sheehy Skeffington and Petra Herrera to Celia Sanchez and Mairead Farrell.
This International Women’s Day, let us learn from the past but look to the future and teach our daughters to be as fierce and fearless as they were.
“Ní Saoirse go Saoirse na mBan.”