NEXT Monday, March 8, marks International Women’s Day. This year, organisers of the global event are asking people to ‘put their hands up’ if they agree to this year’s theme, which is #ChooseToChallenge.
So for our WoW! special edition, out in print tomorrow, March 3, I asked Cork women, or those living and working in the Rebel County, to send us a picture of themselves with their hands up — in support of the theme.
And I asked them what the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day means to them.
So, what does the theme #ChooseToChallenge actually mean?
The theme focuses on the fact that we are all responsible for our own thoughts and actions — all day, every day.
“We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge,” according to the IWD website.
To say I was overwhelmed by the volume of responses to my call- out is an understatement — from women across the political, business, educational, arts and sporting sectors.
Each and every woman who responded gave a unique, interesting, educational viewpoint which we have shared here in our special edition - more than 10 pages. We will also be pushing these out, and any additional messages received in the coming days, over EchoLive.ie
It’s more important than ever now, in 2021, to mark International Women’s Day — given the pandemic has thrown a spotlight on ongoing inequalities — across all sectors here in Ireland, but even more so abroad in developing countries.
Cork youth activist Alicia Joy O’Sullivan summed it up when she said: “On this International Women’s Day, we find ourselves in a world more divided than previous years but more connected than ever. If Covid has taught us anything, it is that the world is not as equal or fair as we like to think it is, particularly for women and girls.”
Covid has thrown up challenges for women working in business, in politics, in education, in healthcare, those working at home, and more. But maybe the pandemic has also thrown up opportunities — which will be tackled and addressed when we return to the ‘norm’.
Theresa Reidy, a Political Scientist at UCC added: “The pandemic has highlighted once more the entrenched gender equality faced by women across the globe.
“Here in Ireland, we have seen so many decisions about the management of the pandemic made by committees and groups that had no women members. It is hard to fathom how this can still be happening in 2021.
“We have to call out inequality when we see it, but much more important, we must use every opportunity to advance women, ensuring that they get a much stronger voice in policy, politics and academia.”
But there may be positives as well as negatives to be taken from Covid too, as Cork Chamber President Paula Cogan pointed out. She said: “Calling out bias is not easy, but it is the small steps that make a difference.
"Covid-19 will have a much larger economic impact on women in the workplace, but it has also forced us to look at flexible ways of working from home, shared responsibility for childcare and co parenting as a normal fact of life.”
Gillian McGrath, Founder of www.changegrowsucceed.com, believes the message of inclusivity is more important now than ever before.
“With the Covid-19 pandemic set to put women back by almost a decade in the workplace, never has the world needed to embrace and lean in to the powerful moral message of inclusivity, as well as belief and hope as we navigate our changing world.”
Bernadette Connolly, Cork Environmental Forum Coordinator, said much has been done, but there’s much more to do.
“The glass ceiling may be shattering here but it certainly has not been broken down in all areas of life, we just have to look at some professional sectors.
“The prism of Covid has highlighted particular issues such as domestic violence, which women experience to a greater degree, and the fact that globally women represent 70% of the health and social sector workforce. We need to deliver on the goals of SDG5, Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”
To all the women who took part in the WoW! special, thank you! To all of our readers — enjoy delving into their insights.