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What Irish women want: 'We must demand what is right and challenge what is frightening'

What does it mean to be a woman in 2017 and what are women’s hopes for equality and fairness?

Various

ONCE A YEAR a single day marks International Women’s Day. It’s a day intended to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. 

Across the world there are around 3.52 billion women, all striving for different things and coming up against different barriers. 

We asked six women from different backgrounds and of different ages what they want for Irish women in 2017. Here’s what they had to say.  

I have a long wish list for women in Ireland, but if I had to narrow it down to one thing, it would be that the work of caring be universally recognised and valued. Caring is an essential part of life and is work that women have been doing invisibly and silently for centuries. I wish that caring was put front and centre in our society, and not abandoned to the fringes as we (both men and women) are encouraged to participate fully in a paid working life. This would improve the quality of life for families, for children, for our older people, and for those with disabilities.

Barbara Scully is a journalist, broadcaster, mammy, wife and cat slave. She is presenter of The Hen House – a programme giving voice to women – on Dublin South FM. Follow her on twitter @barbarascully or @henhouseradio.

My wish for women is to be more self-aware. I wish women spent more time investing in themselves by becoming more self-aware. This forms the solid foundation of an authentic life that is independent and separate from cultural norms, traditions and dogmas. If we really know ourselves and what we want out of life, then we can set about building our individual lives to suit ourselves and not the environment we live in. Once you become self-aware, you learn to trust your instincts. Don’t let the pressure to conform rob you of your own experiences. You are your own expert, no one knows you better than yourself.

Dil Wickremasinghe is the presenter of Global Village on Newstalk 106-108fm and co-founder of Insight Matters mental health support services.

My wish is for girls and women to look at their bodies and know that they are beautiful. My wish is for women to have strong minds and brave hearts. I wish we would support each other and protect each other. I wish we would engage in civil disobedience in pursuit of rights for ourselves and for other women. We must demand what is right and challenge what is frightening. My wish is that we recognise our power and own the magic of being women.

Vicky Kavanagh is a freelance producer and writer. She’s also a mental health ambassador for ReachOut.com. @VickyWrites

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I’ve many wishes for Irish women. I wish for full reproductive choices for Irish women. I hope that the remnants of the theocratic society, which created a culture that marginalised and institutionalised poor women and children, will be finally eradicated. I wish that Irish society would accept that a rape culture exists and works to eliminate that. I hope the gender pay gap and gendered obstacles to promotion are dealt with properly. As an historian, I wish that the voices and experiences of women in history, and the voices of female historians are given parity with male histories and male academics. I wish for an end to all male panels (“manels”) in academia, the media, politics and culture. Finally, I wish that all young women and men find, as I did, in feminism, an ideology by which to live a caring, egalitarian and inclusive life.

Dr Mary McAuliffe is an assistant professor in Gender Studies at UCD. @MaryMcAuliffe4

It is important that 2017 sees Ireland finally name a date to repeal the Eighth Amendment, so that we can legislate to provide women with access to high-quality healthcare that prioritises their wellbeing. In Budget 2018, we must tackle the gender inequality in our pension system which results in many women having insufficient PRSI contributions, due to taking time out of work to care for children and family members. The best way to do this is to introduce a Universal Pensions Model. 2017 must also be the year that Ireland provides the necessary resources and investment so that we can make Ireland a safe place for women. The government must ensure a combination of stronger legislation, increased effectiveness of state frontline services and significant investment of resources. To reduce violence against women, we need to understand the scale of the problem, and for that we need quality data.

Orla O’Connor is director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland. @NWCI

As a matter of urgency, I would like to see access to free, legal and safe abortion for all women. I would like to see more plays written by women. I’d like to see equal numbers of men and women on all state boards. I would like religion to be removed from education, so that girls do not grow up with the example of men taking a leading role in life, from such an early age. I would like women’s magazine covers to focus on the achievements of women rather than their appearance. I would like men to stand up for their sisters, wives, mothers and nieces, and demand equal rights for the benefit of all.

Liz Nugent is the writer of two award-winning and bestselling novels: Unravelling Oliver and Lying in Wait. www.liznugent.ie @lizzienugent

What do you think? What are the issues facing women today? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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