‘We need to challenge the expectations of what a woman’s life in Ireland should be’

We continue our series ahead of International Women's Day on Monday, March 8. Elaine Duggan asked more than 65 women what they thought of this year's theme, Choose to Challenge
‘We need to challenge the expectations of what a woman’s life in Ireland should be’

Clodagh Whelan Project Manager west | cork | music raising her hand in support of International Women's Day.

Clodagh Whelan, Project Manager, West | Cork | Music

I #ChooseToChallenge through celebration. By highlighting women’s professional and personal success and speaking of them in a positive way, we can help pave the way for women to feel comfortable to reach for their potential.

Ireland’s track record for women’s rights is not something we can be proud of. Wrongs done to women by our society have been hidden — gone unacknowledged and unpunished by those with power. In some ways, women have been taught to see other’s women’s individuality as a threat. Derogatory terms have settled into our daily language.

It’s not a level playing field.

We need to challenge the expectations of what a woman’s life in Ireland should be. What their pay should be. What their choices should be. What their career goals should be.

Encouragement and respect helps us grow.

My challenge is to use our voices to honour women’s achievements and change the narrative which this country has come to know.

Mags O Sullivan. Community Development Worker and Traveller Cultural Awareness Trainer
Mags O Sullivan. Community Development Worker and Traveller Cultural Awareness Trainer

Mags O’Sullivan, Community Development Worker and Traveller Cultural Awareness Trainer

Being a Traveller activist and community worker has empowered me to seek more opportunities in life and to celebrate our culture and be proud. I am always looking for ways to support other Traveller women to do the same.

My work involves supporting other Traveller women to come out from our homes, to build their confidence and upskill, to see the power of Traveller women coming together, the changes we can make as confident women standing up for our rights.

I also work as a Traveller cultural awareness trainer, where I work with a team of Traveller women who deliver training to agencies. This work is about breaking down stereotypes and changing mindsets.

A lot of people see Travellers in a new light when they understand our history and culture as an ethnic group and learn about the issues we face.

Michelle Dorgan – IGNITE Start-Up Programme Manager – University College Cork.
Michelle Dorgan – IGNITE Start-Up Programme Manager – University College Cork.

Michelle Dorgan, IGNITE Start-Up Programme Manager, UCC.

I challenge that you can do it even when you think that you can’t. My commitment is to continue to support and encourage females that want to create their own path and start a business.

I wish to encourage females that they can do it and have the capabilities to build a successful business regardless of their gender, age, family status or industry.

Individually we have the power to make a change, but collectively we have the power to make an impact. So together let’s help create an inclusive world.

From challenge comes change so let’s all choose to challenge.

Sophie Motley is the recently appointed Artistic Director of the Everyman
Sophie Motley is the recently appointed Artistic Director of the Everyman

Sophie Motley Artistic Director, Everyman

I’m astounded by and would like to fight for women who work outside, women who challenge through their work in a typically male agricultural or construction environment.

Four of my greatest friends are female farmers, quantity surveyors, cattle and equine vets, working in industries that do not have the awakened feminism that creative industries are privileged to have. They just do their jobs, as good as they can, and are judged alongside their male peers by men.

I met an amazing lady farmer last year called Joan Bomford, who told me that as her father didn’t have a son, she just started wearing his shirt and tie one day and eventually she took over the farm. She was at the mart one day and had trouble closing the ramp of her sheep trailer. Nobody helped her, because she was a woman attempting a man’s job. In reality, they wanted her to fail. She took a deep breath, summoned extra strength, hefted up the ramp, straightened her tie, and carried on. Getting her job done.

President of Network Ireland Cork, Barbara Nugent, of Transilient Coaching
President of Network Ireland Cork, Barbara Nugent, of Transilient Coaching

President of Network Cork, Barbara Nugent, Transilient Coaching

The past 12 months have really shone a spotlight on the incredible work being done by influential women around the world. In her barrier-breaking victory speech, Kamala Harris said she may be the first female vice president of the USA, but she will not be the last. She spoke about “possibilities”. Now, everyone at every level in society has the possibility to Choose to Challenge inequality in the world and bring us closer to forging a gender equal world, giving the next generations tremendous hope for the future.

Dr Gabriela Mayer, Head of Keyboard Studies, MTU Cork School of Music
Dr Gabriela Mayer, Head of Keyboard Studies, MTU Cork School of Music

Dr Gabriela Mayer, Head of Keyboard Studies, MTU Cork School of Music

International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements, and to shed light on the artistry of women from the past. It is inspiring to consider the legacy of those who came before us. Of particular meaning to me as a pianist and as the Head of the Keyboard Studies Department at the MTU Cork School of Music have been women like Clara Schumann, my American mentor, Anne Koscielny, and Cork pianists Tilly Fleischmann and Bridget Doolan.

As part of the upcoming “Finding a Voice’ Festival in Clonmel, a festival that focuses exclusively on music by women composers, soprano Kelley Lonergan and I will be performing works by composer Pauline Garcia Viardot (1821-1910) on March 6. This festival was imagined and developed by my colleague, Roisin Maher, who has curated the Festival and worked tirelessly to feature more than 70 women composers from the 12th century to the present See www.findingavoice.ie and on Eventbrite March 5-8).

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