[Senator Susan O’Keeffe is now Chair of 50:50 North West. This is her report on the recent launch of 50:50 North West]
How great it was to launch 50:50 in Sligo for the North West. It was also great to have such an enthusiastic & interested attendance at the Clarion Hotel. (16 January 2012).
Great to have women linking together from Cork, Dublin, Donegal, Leitrim, Longford & Sligo – all keen to discuss the importance & need for women in political life
All the speakers approached the lack of women in politics & public life from a different stand point. But all came to the same conclusion – that it is undemocratic for representation to be majority male when the population splits 50/50!
I was delighted to keep the promise I made to 50:50 Group last summer to launch a group in North West – and what a great group it is.
I took the opportunity of the Launch to say that this is the time to encourage more women into public & political life – not that women are better, or men are better, but that
“we are different & have a responsibility to stand together & work together on behalf of our country. We must get up together and seize the moment.”
Mayor of Sligo, Rosaleen O’Grady opened the meeting. She referred to the shortage of women as “democracy unfinished” and “systemic discrimination.”
Noirin Clancy, Women into Public Life, chaired the meeting. She stressed how important it is to have the debate – and to include men & women in that debate.
Co-founder of 50:50, Fiona Buckley travelled from Cork to inspire us about
- how and why the 5050 Group started
- how important it is for women to seize the opportunity & challenge.
She also explained the basics about the Gender Quota Bill (Electoral Amendment (Political Funding) Act). This is due to be introduced in the Seanad on 2 February.
She stressed that the amendment is to put more women on the ballot paper – not to reserve seats for them in the Oireachtas. Ultimately the voters will choose.
Eilish Corcoran, Women’s Manifesto, talked about how women are “inspired” to do things, to get involved & to change things. Eilish described how The Women’s Manifesto Project in Longford has changed the way the women involved view politics.
She pointed out that they had learned that “change is hard and it takes time” – but that encouraging women to understand, and get involved in local politics, was satisfying & worthwhile.
Helen Rochford Brennan
Chair of the Western Development Commission, Helen Rochford Brennan told her story about getting involved in public life. She said that women remain under-represented in public life. She stressed that it is up to women to be “the change we wish to see in the world.”
Finola Brennan, National Collective of Community Based Women’s Network in Donegal, reminded us of the value of women at community level.
She said it is our responsibility to challenge “the boy’s network” at every level – from town council to the Dail – to ensure that women are part of the fabric of decision making.
Women for Election, funded by Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, was represented by Niamh Gallagher. She talked about how Women for Election aims to equip women in a practical way to take the step into politics – provide training & mentoring to women who have an interest in stepping forward – but are unsure about what a commitment to politics might mean.
Former Senator, TD & Minister for Education, Gemma Hussey officially launched the group. Gemma said 50:50 groups are setting up nationwide. They are an indication of
“The frustration women feel at the vritual exclusion of women from national politics.”
Gemma’s been involved with 50:50 since its establishment in 2010. She’s a great advocate of the role of women in political life. She was a founding member of the Women’s Political Association in 1971.
Gemma Hussey fully supports the pending legislation for gender quotas. However, she called on Minister Phil Hogan to extend the quotas to local elections in 2014. She called on 50:50 to lobby the Minister to that end.
The night ended with a glass of wine and a pledge to work hard.
Note: The legislation on gender quotas is due to be introduced in Seanad Eireann on 2 February 2012 by Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government, Phil Hogan.