United against violence on International Women’s Day

REFLECTING the diverse contributions of women in modern society, International Women’s Day was marked throughout the country yesterday through words, art, music and expressions of solidarity.

Amnesty International’s Irish section led the way with a day-long programme of events that culminated in a protest march to the Dáil calling for increased government attention to addressing violence against women.

Earlier, the organisation conducted a roundtable discussion with women’s representatives in Temple Bar aimed at formulating a final report on the state’s responses to violence against women.

“We want to open up the discussion to inform our final report on violence against women in Ireland so that it can be used to inform the National Strategy for Women,” said Fiona Crowley, legal officer with Amnesty.

The theme of violence against women was prominent in many of this year’s events, with the Rape and Sexual Abuse Centres in both Cork and Wexford highlighting the phenomenon.

In Wexford, a poster exhibition on the subject was opened at the Westgate Heritage Centre while a group of men took part in a 24-hour fast in support of women who experience violence.

“Women around the world are of one mind today and it’s a good day to celebrate women and raise awareness about these issues,” said Yvonne Pim, director of the Wexford Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Service.

Cork’s deputy mayor Cllr Mary Shields attended the city’s sexual violence centre to launch a visual artworks event involving the sale of postcard-sized artworks.

Events highlighting inequality and the discrimination of women, which are viewed as the underlying causes of violence against women, were also held.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland invited female politicians from across party lines to the Mansion House in Dublin to launch a campaign to boost women’s involvement in politics.

Politicians including Liz O’Donnell, Mary O’Rourke, Liz McManus and Mary Lou McDonald discussed the potential benefits and challenges of having a Women’s Political Caucus in Ireland.

“We want to support women in politics and show women who are doing such good work in their communities that they could play a part in politics,” said Dr Joanna McMinn, director of the National Women’s Council. Women account for just 13% of all public representatives in Dáil Éireann compared with up to 43% in Sweden, and representing just a 1% increase over the last 10 years.

“It can be done, but it takes political will and support to make it happen and there are barriers for women such as childcare and attitudes,” said Dr McMinn.

Elsewhere, the Lord Mayor of Cork, Sean Martin, welcomed members of the Cork Federation for Women for a courtesy visit to his chambers, while the Lady Mayoress, Ann Martin, attended a celebration of International Women’s Day at the Northside Initiative for Community Health in Knocknaheeny.

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