Ella O’Donoghue Concannon is 17 years old and passionate about gender equality in farming.
In fifth year at Dunmore Community School, Co Galway, Ella has always wanted to farm. “We’ve a farm at home. My parents, uncle and I farm it. We do beef, dairy and suckler farming. We have horses, goats, chickens, ducks, six dogs and we rescue cats. I’ve always loved farming.”
On climate change, Ella says: “Some of the targets are unrealistic in the time-frame – but definitely achievable. But you have to remember a 90-year-old farmer isn’t going to stop doing what he has always done.”
Ellia was one of seven young people, aged between 10 and 17, who spoke at Child Talks 2021, an event hosted in November by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office. Themed ‘My Hopes for the Future’.
At the event, she told her audience that, of the 70,000 women actively farming in Ireland, only 12% are recognised as farmers by the Department of Agriculture.
Describing herself as “tractor-mad”, she recalls the proudest day of her life – when she drove a tractor independently and alone along a busy main road. But when she stopped for diesel at a petrol station, she had her most personal encounter yet with gender bias.
In the garage forecourt were seven carloads of young men – most from farming backgrounds – who were off to the county semi-final. “All eyes were on me. They were pointing over, whispering.”
Ella admits it rocked her confidence and it was a while before she drove a tractor again. Her main message at Child Talks was do what you want, not what makes you liked. “If you’re a girl who wants to be a farmer and everyone is saying you can’t, just go ahead,” she says.
At Child Talks, young people called on those in power to listen and to learn from what they had to say.
Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon said children have been through so much since March 2020.
“They’ve missed out, fallen behind and taken the blame. It is inspiring to hear how our young people are dealing with challenges, and looking forward. This year’s speakers bring so much positivity, highlighting the strength of our young people.”
- Now in its fourth year, Child Talks is a chance to hear directly from children about issues that affect them.
- Child Talks 2021 was watched by students in classrooms across Ireland.
- Speakers included Longford-based Dariusz Konefal, 16, who shared how the global response to Covid-19 gave him hope for how we might tackle climate change.
- Angelica Foley, 17, from Wicklow spoke about fast fashion and how she struggled to find a way to make a personal difference.