When someone tells you no, you can't do this or this isn't your place... Don't listen. Stand strong with your head held high

Today we continue our series ahead of International Women's Day, on March 8. We asked Cork women what the theme Choose to Challenge means to them
When someone tells you no, you can't do this or this isn't your place... Don't listen. Stand strong with your head held high

Estelle of Ability@Work. 

Deirdre Clune, Ireland South MEP

A lot has changed in the world since we last celebrated International Women’s Day. This year, we are being asked to ‘Choose to Challenge’ which can take many forms. We can challenge ourselves, each other, society.

Deirdre Clune, MEP
Deirdre Clune, MEP

The last year has indeed proved a challenging one for everyone and as we focus now on women’s role in society on International Women’s Day, it is important to challenge ourselves in all that we do.

We must not only challenge, however, but also support each other. The next 12 months will hopefully bring more hope and rebuilding. As women, we must be there for one another as we challenge and support each other. It has not been an easy 12 months, and the next 12 months will bring hard times too, but there is strength within us as women and we will need that even more now.

Estelle, who joined the Ability @Work scheme

I am a 22-year-old woman with an intellectual disability but that’s not how I see myself. I am just a regular girl with family and friends, who enjoys life and loves to try new things.

I have faced so many barriers in my life from living with a disability, but I really feel that I have made something of myself now.

I found school very difficult but I still went on to get more qualifications despite that. I spent three years in Doras Training Centre and received a QQI Level 3 in Employability Skills.

I joined Ability@Work in order to find a job. I just really wanted to be independent. I now work in Roots Coffee House and before Christmas I got a job in the Metropole Hotel, Cork.

I am a true fighter. I have made something great of myself even though some people might have thought I wouldn’t become anything.

In the future I would like to have a nice house of my own. I have confidence in myself and I know I will achieve this.

To all my fellow women out there finding it tough: When someone tells you no, you can’t do this or this isn’t your place …Don’t you listen! Stand strong with your head held high and you tell them the only person who makes decisions about your life is you. Believe in yourself!

Be like me and don’t let anyone get you down. If I can do it, you can. Women can do ANYTHING! #ChooseToChallenge

Fionnuala O'Connell, Youth Project Worker, Cork Migrant Centre,Nano Nagle Place.
Fionnuala O'Connell, Youth Project Worker, Cork Migrant Centre,Nano Nagle Place.

Fionnuala O’Connell, Youth Project Worker,

Cork Migrant Centre, Nano Nagle Place

We live in a world that is unequal in so many ways, a world divided by so many lines, colours, shapes, oceans, mountains, hate, confusion, and misunderstandings.

We live in a world where people are put into boxes and categories based upon stereotypes and false perceptions.

But this is not the way it has to be, those of us who are in positions to challenge must stand up, raise our hands, and challenge inequalities, challenge these structures that perpetuate and undermine the role, position, worth and value of women.

Growing up, I was led to believe by society that feminism was only for women, that women’s issues were for women to deal with, regardless of the unequal power structures that keep women away from positions of power and decision-making spaces. To echo words that should be shouted, no one is truly free and equal until we are all truly free and equal.

Professor Keelin O’Donoghue, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, CUMH and Principal Investigator, INFANT, UCC

I choose to challenge gender inequality in medicine, specifically in academia and in my speciality of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

There is now a body of evidence that women in medicine are not treated equitably compared to male counterparts.

Structural and institutional gender bias, often combined with racial/ethnic or other types of discrimination, also act together to keep qualified women in medicine from being promoted to the highest levels and from achieving equal pay for equal work.

The American Medical Women’s Association launched the Her Time Is Now campaign (which was developed by Julie Silver, MD) in 2020 and reported that the three gatekeepers to gender bias in academic medicine are: (1) medical schools/ healthcare organisations; (2) medical societies; and, (3) medical journals.

I believe medicine, especially academic medicine in relation to Obstetrics and Gynaecology, should lead the way — outpacing every other field — in equitably supporting its trainees and workforce. Obstetrics and Gynaecology can be a leader in these efforts, not only because of the large proportion of women in our field, but also because the men in our speciality should have a vested interest in gender parity.

Likewise, gender and racial diversity are essential modern components of healthcare teams.

All of us can listen to one another, and learn about the root causes of bias and manifestations of inequality. As a leader in the field, I am taking an active public stand to support gender parity in medicine, to engage in further research to stimulate action, and to call out gender bias, discrimination and inequality, in order to build more equitable environments to improve workplace team functioning and patient care.

#WeAreDelivering #HerTimeIsNow #BeEthical #SheLeadsHealthcare

Eimear O'Herlihy is the festival director of West Cork Literary Festival
Eimear O'Herlihy is the festival director of West Cork Literary Festival

Eimear O’Herlihy Festival Director, West Cork Literary Festival, due to take place in Bantry from July 9-16, as well as online events throughout the year.

We’ve been conscious of gender equality at West Cork Literary Festival for quite some time and each year we are proud to celebrate women writers across all genres in our programming. Perhaps this may seem easier in literature than in other artforms and other industries as women writers have been achieving great success for many years.

However, there remains a tendency to consider books by women to be written exclusively for women readers and we seek to challenge that.

As a programmer, I am also embracing the challenge to give voice to all women and to present a more diverse and inclusive programme. This starts with my own reading and I have challenged myself to read more widely and to seek out books by women of colour, women from different socio-economic backgrounds, women of all ages, women with disabilities, trans women, traveller women, neurodiverse women as well as women writing in languages other than English.

Echo columnist and TV producer, Kathriona Devereux.
Echo columnist and TV producer, Kathriona Devereux.

Kathriona Devereux, TV producer, reporter, who writes a weekly column every Tuesday in The Echo

Women belong in all places where decisions are being made,” said the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

You don’t need to be very smart to know that makes sense.

‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’ is the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal No.5. It is one of the most important things humanity must do to build a sustainable future. It’s important because it unlocks the full potential of half of the world’s population. Countries with greater gender equality are safer, healthier and more economically prosperous.

Ireland placed 101st in the latest world ranking for the number of female parliamentarians. Only 23% of TDS are women. There are no women on 40% of Cabinet Sub Committees.

Irish women are simply not at the decision-making table.

Women have borne the brunt of the pandemic. In the EU, 76% of healthcare workers are female yet the decisions affecting their lives are made without them being sufficiently represented. Which is why, on this International Women’s Day, it is more important than ever to #ChooseToChallenge gender inequality and do what you can to help empower all women and girls.

Ladies footballer Doireann O'Sullivan
Ladies footballer Doireann O'Sullivan

Doireann O’Sullivan, Cork senior ladies footballer and

secondary school teacher

I love the theme of ‘choose to challenge’. Too often we accept gender bias and gender inequality. Why not stand beside women and empower each other to be the best we can be in all aspects of life?

We can all choose to celebrate each other’s achievements both at a local, national and international level.

Let’s make a conscious effort to support and share each other’s victories. I think if girls and women supported each other, it would go a long way in closing the gap of gender bias and gender inequality.

I am responsible for my actions and I choose to support girls in my local club and county in their sporting achievements.

More in this section

Sponsored Content


Catch up on the latest episode of Annie May and the Hit Brigade written and read by  Mahito Indi Henderson.

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more