President Higgins praises global feminism in bid to tackle oppression

President Higgins praises global feminism in bid to tackle oppression
Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

President Michael D Higgins has said that global feminism is tackling "pervasive structures of oppression" that remain in today's society.

In a speech to women parliamentarians and diplomats from around the world, President Higgins praised the "confident and renewed feminism" which he said will advance the economic and social spheres.

Speaking at the first International Congress of Parliamentary Women's Caucuses at Dublin Castle, the president said the recent women's movement is capable of "overturning existing injustices".

The global gathering includes parliamentarians and diplomats representing more than 40 countries - including the UK, Australia, the USA and Malawi - as well as activists, writers, artists and academics.

The event will discuss issues facing women and how parliamentarians can work to address them.

The Oireachtas Women's Caucus was established last year and is made up of past and present female Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The Caucus aims to bring awareness to the issue of women's representation and the range of concerns facing women in politics, nationally and locally.

Speaking at the event on Sunday evening, President Higgins said: "We can now speak of a fourth-wave of feminism, a feminism global in its scale and in its ambition and universal in its solidarity, dedicated to confronting some of the most pervasive structures of oppression which yet still remain.

"Yes, it is about participation, but it is also about transformation in the achievement of equality, the deepening of democracy in our institutions.

"The workplace is now, in some settings more than ever across the world, the site of struggle against sexism, discrimination and exploitation.

"Women still carry the double burden of labouring in the fields and factories, and in the house - the United Nations estimates that women do three times the amount of unpaid domestic labour and care work, so that on average women spend nearly 20% of their day undertaking the unpaid work necessary to sustain their families."

The theme of the congress is 'Our Vision for Women in 2118' and will feature speakers Harriet Harman QC MP, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy and Professor Mary Beard.

Chair of the Oireachtas Women's Caucus, Catherine Martin TD, said she hopes the event will further women's impact on political decisions.

Speaking at the event, she added: "It is my hope that we will encourage all women, of every age and background, to aspire to step forward, to represent and to lead.

"And most importantly, that this will encourage them to refuse to accept the historical narrative - a narrative that has often ignored and undervalued women.

"Tonight we remember those who have been written out of that narrative, and we recognise the invaluable work of those who seek to restore the place of women in our histories.

"And tonight we salute those women who today are still persecuted and who remain unfree, and we pledge to work together to free all from discrimination.

Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail, said that while huge strides have been made over the last 100 years, there is some distance to a "truly equal society".

He said: "Much work remains to be done to encourage more participation by women in politics and to ensure that there is a balanced participation of women and men at all levels in political life.

"Progress in politics here in Ireland has been slow over the past 100 years - and I'm sure other countries have had similar experiences. But it should not take another 100 years to reach equal representation.

"Any group, organisation or society where half of the people are not fully participating, for whatever reason, is the lesser for it."


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