When the guys in Social Entrepreneurs Ireland suggested a blog to us here in ‘Women for Election’, we hopped! “Be careful” we warned, asking women to speak about women, sure they might never stop So, join us as we take you through our journey as a finalist in the incredible Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Social Impact Programme.
Anyway, where to start? Well, when I think of women’s journey in Irish politics I often think back to 1973. Firstly because it’s the year that I was born but more importantly it was also the year that Irish women began to see changes that would significantly alter their life path. In 1973 Ireland joined the then European Economic Community and apart from getting “loadz a dosh” to build roads, schools and such like, the “quid pro quo” was that we had to implement some new legislation that made things well…a bit more equal for the women of the state.
“WE SIMPLY CAN’T AFFORD IT!”
was a common response to Ireland’s new obligation to treat women in the same way as men. “Men have families to feed!” I often wonder about the families that the women had to feed also, but that’s another days’ discussion. Women of the day might have said “Sure it’s fine” but we all know what a women means when she says fine! It most definitely is not fine – at all!
But thank goodness that the EEC did not take no for an answer – “you want the money then you gotta abide by the rules!”. This Marriage Bar (which forced women to leave their jobs in the civil service on getting married) would have to go; the journey towards “Equal pay for equal work” would have to be started; society would be forced to change! We in ‘Women for Election’, and many of the women we have met all over Ireland, believe that this was one of the most positive changes our small state has ever experienced; and it was forced upon us from the outside.
So we sit just 38 years later and yes as women, our lives in Ireland have absolutely improved, and many young women will stare at you in disbelief when you tell them of these ridiculous rules that once existed not long ago. However, a stark and curious gap remains: and that is women’s participation level in politics, the sphere where decisions are taken and our country’s journey is determined.
In 1973 some people claimed that we couldn’t afford equality, well today in 2011, Women for Election believes that we can’t afford not to have equality! In a country that faces difficult decisions and tough choices we need to utilize all our resources – and that also means our women – if we as a country wish to move positively through the coming decades. Political diversity will not only bring us truer democracy but also allow us to avail of the great wealth of untapped talent that exists in our country.
TACKLING THE CAUSE
Women for Election are committed to tackling the causes and not just the symptoms. The symptom is the lack of women within our political structure – 15%. The causes are the 5 C’s that keep coming up in every successive paper analysing the problem.
- Candidate Selection
In recent years we ran Women for Europe, giving women a platform to discuss women’s political participation at EU and national level, encouraging them to raise their questions and concerns and found that empowering women to participate in the discussion (whether they agreed or not with our stance) was something they wanted more of.
It is a marathon and not a sprint and we realise that true gender equality in politics will take a number of years, but we must reinvigorate ourselves, taking the opportunity of new proposed legislation around Quotas for selection of candidates and partner this with innovative solutions.
TRAINING, MENTORING, SUPPORT, RESOURCES
Women for Election will accelerate women’s entry into politics by providing training, mentoring, support and resources to women who wish to enter political life. We will also actively seek out women in the community that are capable and able to make excellent contributions. We are not politically aligned and believe that this is our strength.
We seek to build a community for and of politicized women, utilizing innovative techniques and solutions, a community that will lead and also challenge the status quo. Any solution must equip women for participation in politics. We believe that selection should not be an issue – there are actually tremendous amounts of capable and competent women – it is about giving the women confidence to go forward and commit themselves, giving them the tools they need to win, and the network that can support them through the challenge.
It is about encouraging women themselves to pave the way for real change in the political culture that they are part of, it is about breaking down the obstacles that we all face, together.