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General election to feature in upcoming debates of the Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality

The assembly is meeting this weekend to begin a structured examination of gender and gender stereotyping in Ireland.

Image: Sam Boal

LAST WEEKEND’S General Election will be a feature of upcoming discussions among members of the public taking part in the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality. 

Some 99 citizens along with chair of the assembly, Catherine Day, will meet both today and tomorrow to begin the first structured weekend of discussions about how gender inequality can be addressed in Ireland. 

Day framed the agenda for the coming months at a briefing in Dublin yesterday and said the recent election will be a backdrop against which some of the discussions on women in politics will be set. 

The election on 8 February put 160 TDs into Dáil Éireann but of that just 36 were women – more three times less than the 124 men who were elected. 

“I think everyone, most people, will have the election in mind because it’s recent and it’s not concluded yet in the sense that coalition talks will probably go on for a while,” Day said. 

“So when we come to talk about women in politics because that is explicitly part of the resolution, I guess everybody will have something in mind. 

Some people will be very aware of how many women are in the 33rd Dáil, how many were in the 32nd, some will be surprised to hear the numbers of how many or how few, so it will be in the background like everything else.

A number of advocates and activists will speak at the assembly meetings being held in the Grand Hotel in Malahide, Dublin this weekend.  

There will be additional meetings held in March, April, and May, with a concluding session held in July. A number of recommendations will then be made to tackle gender inequality in Irish society.

Inaugural meeting 

The assembly held its inaugural meeting on the 25 January at Dublin Castle, where the 99 citizens taking part were introduced to the concepts around exploring gender and gender stereotypes in Ireland. 

At that meeting, Day said the assembly meetings will be “inclusive” of all genders and the ways in which people “want to define themselves”.

Inequality among the LGBT community is one of the issues that will be discussed at various sessions over the course of the assembly, including one session today when Paula Fagan of LGBT Ireland will discuss the personal experiences of gender in Ireland from an LGBT perspective. 

In the same session, a presentation on the mother’s experience, and one on the father’s experience will also be discussed. 

Academics from Maynooth University, NUI Galway and Trinity College Dublin will all give addresses on various topics including recent developments and the evolution of the Irish family, across the weekend. 

Lived experience

This afternoon, a female quantity surveyor and a male nurse, will discuss being “a woman in a man’s world” and a “man in a typically female” job as part of a lived experience panel. 

Lisa O’Brien, who appeared on RTÉ show Room to Improve will recount her experience as a quantity surveyor, a profession that is predominately staffed by men. 

Day said this type of discussion is significant for “opening windows” and looking into the challenges faced as a result of gender stereotypes. 

“It’s getting people to think how much gender stereotyping is inside all of us, or not, so it’s about opening windows and that’s why we were looking for the atypical [professions]. 

Ahead of the Citizens’ Assembly on the 8th Amendment in 2017, more than 1,000 submission were made from organisations and members of the public during a public consultation.

So far, around 20 submissions have been made ahead of this assembly with three weeks to go before the 6 March closing date. 

“I think there is probably around 20 submissions or along those lines from a mixture but I think a lot of groups are tending to meet collectively and get together and decide what their position is, so I suspect they might come in a little later on,” the assembly secretariat, Mary Clare O’Sullivan said. 

“I know the Women’s Council of Ireland had a session with all their constituent members to kind of come up with a submission so there’s a lot of that going on as well,” she added.  

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