Women's Lives

Everyone needs a gender lens

The Women’s Equality Awareness Raising (WEAR) seminar draws more than 70 people.

Finola Brennan

Reporter:

Finola Brennan

Email:

editorial@donegaldemocrat.com

Everyone needs a gender lens

Participants at the WEAR seminar.

Last Thursday, over 70 people attended the Women’s Equality Awareness Raising (WEAR) seminar in the Regional Cultural Centre, hosted by NCCWN-Donegal Women’s Network and funded by the EU LADDER Project.

The seminar opened with nine Transition Year students from Loreto Letterkenny and Danielle Bonner, equality aware consultant, modelling 10 shirts under the banner, ‘Everyone needs a Gender Lens.’

It proved a very successful way to engage discussion between Transition Year students from Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana and Loreto Letterkenny, and women who had participated in the project and members of the public as they examined the many inequalities experienced by women.

One of the t-shirts, ‘Show me the Money’, highlighted the fact that globally only 56 per cent of women have bank accounts, while ‘A Lost World’ brought people’s awareness to the fact that globally more than 63 per cent of illiterate people are women.

Speaking with the women who had participated in the WEAR project's workshops in health, education, poverty, gender-based violence, decision making and creativity, it had been an extremely positive experience.

“Having a women’s space, sharing our lived experiences, feeling part of a collective action calling for social justice and women’s equality both locally and globally created a great sense of solidarity amongst us,” Louise Chirwa said.

Áine Friel, with the Loreto Transition Year students in their message t-shirts.

'Eye Opener'

Other comments included, "It has been a real eye opener for me learning about local and global gender inequalities; I loved that ‘women’s space’ where everyone felt able to speak, in a non-judgemental way that built trust and solidarity; through the various workshops I have learnt so much about how systems and structures hold women in poverty and seriously underpin women’s inequality both here and abroad; a woman’s space is needed now more than ever; it has expanded my awareness and brings me back to the fact that health and self-care is a still a core issue for women."

Aine Friel, a 27-year-old WEAR participant, shared her experience of living with a disability in rural Ireland.

Aine, who was born with brittle bone disease and lives in the beautiful peninsula of Fanad, said sometimes feels "it’s the furthest corner of the earth!" Aine, whose parents are dead, feels possibilities and opportunities for people with disabilities in rural areas are very limited.

Aine said, "From a social point of view, it was fantastic for me to get out of the house for those few hours each week and just to feel a part of something. It has been the first time since leaving college, back in 2012, that I actually feel like I am contributing."

"The women who participated in WEAR are wonderful, powerful, strong and intelligent women. We gained such important knowledge about so many issues, topics and problems women face and these were delivered by the wonderful Danielle (Bonner) in such an informative, fun and relaxed way. I definitely feel empowered and know being a part of WEAR will help sustain me and gives me hope."

Grace Adeogun and Kathryn Daily.

Community Art Workshops

Kathryn Daily spoke about the community art workshops facilitated by Julie Griffiths, which really allowed participants to speak to the heart of their own lived experiences.

"The piece created from hard wire mesh is not a material often associated with women’s creativity. It was chosen to reflect the harshness of the difficulties and challenges some women experience on a daily basis. Trying to actually shape and work this hard material mirrors women’s experiences in trying to shape and influence the world in which we live."

An interview via Skype with Ala Oueslati from Tunisia, who works with the international organisation ‘Women Deliver’ and who is a leading male advocate for women’s equality as a core value to social justice, addressed the importance of engaging men to address gender equality and social justice.

Through the WEAR project, 120 Transition Year students from Moville Community College and Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana participated in an ‘Introduction to Gender Equality and Development’ workshop. The young people loved the discussions and the challenges this topic raised for them. "We certainly would like more time to look at gender and to continue the lively debates that we were only getting into."

The WEAR project engaged with people allowing discussion, analysis and reflection through fun and creative participation. It created a safe space for girls, boys and women from diverse backgrounds and cultures across Donegal to recognise local action can assist and sustain global development and help create a just and more equal world.

Pupils from Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana.

Mary Bridget Sharkey and Claire Woods.

Áine Friel and Caoimhe Lafferty.