This International Women's Day: Let’s empower and uplift

We continue our celebration of International Women’s Day with further musings on the theme, Break the Bias
This International Women's Day: Let’s empower and uplift

Samantha Meyer, Millstreet, who has written a poem, see below.

FIONA BUCKLEY

A lecturer in the Department of Government and Politics, University College Cork (UCC)

specialising in gender politics.

“Covid-19 exposed, yet again, male-dominated decision-making structures. According to a UN Report authored by academics Jennifer Piscopo and Malliga Och, throughout the world, men outnumbered women, 3:1, on Covid taskforces.

In the emergency response, gender and equality-proofing measures were often side-lined. Researchers point to a worsening of gender and intersectional inequalities as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns.

As the world looks on at the unfolding and escalating crisis in Ukraine, the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) reminds us that conflict exacerbates “pre-existing patterns of discrimination against women and girls, exposing them to heightened risks of violations of their human rights”.

Research institutes, such as the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, have called for “gender to be mainstreamed into all internationally-supported programmes” and responses in Ukraine.

Gender biases are related to what the authors Georgia Duerst-Lahti and Rita-Mae Kelly describe as gender power. They argue that gender is an attribute of power and in many settings, masculinity is dominant and privileged. Gender power arrangements and intersectional inequalities must be recognised and addressed. Gender mainstreaming and affirmative action have a role to play to #breakthebias.”

SAMANTHA Meyer

Lives in Millstreet

The world sees us as monochromatic

Yes, made of one colour

Yet they call us dramatic

When we stand up for one another

Let’s empower and uplift

So fly your flag’s colours

To be seen for who we are

Not looked at like any other

We need the perspective to shift

We’re not just sisters, daughters and mothers

Bound with talent, magic and power

The world is our stage, this is the hour

Sing it, shout it, let’s shatter this silence

Together we will #BreakTheBias

OLAJUMOKE IGUN

PhD Student at University College Cork

“What a man can do, a woman can do and do it even better. Women are part of the society, women are equally capable, women are intelligent and strong.

Women do not belong to just one part of the society and women can definitely function in more than one part of the society. Women belong to every part of the society.

It is not just a man’s world, so why act like it is the world for just one gender?

Everyone deserves to be part of anything they wish to be part of, and believe that they could be part of, including WOMEN.

I personally believe that with what women go through in life just because of how they have been created is more than enough reason to realise that women are stronger, and not to be seen as the weaker vessels.

Enough of the discrimination, enough of the bias. For me I would like to #Breakthebias.”

Sian Horn.
Sian Horn.

SIAN HORN

Founder of The Club Women’s Network

“Isn’t it sad that in 2022 we are still talking about imagining a world that is gender equal? We get together yearly and talk about how we can help make change and each year I feel a sense of disappointment.

I want to stop imaging the outcome and I want to start talking about taking action. Taking action starts with our selves.

We can only respect others’ differences if we start respecting our own. We can only stop discriminating against others when we stop discriminating against ourselves.

We can only celebrate other differences if we can celebrate our own. It has taken me a long time to be comfortable with my imperfections, to respect my differences and celebrate when I stand up to discrimination.

I was told recently, I shouldn’t worry about International Women’s day? As no-one really knows the date? I called that out.

I was at a meeting and when it finished all the men invited each other for drinks? I called them out.

I was in a room recently and someone said my business was a hobby! I called it out. It’s time to stop imaging a world and start making it happen.”

Fiona Barry, Founder The Menopause Mentors
Fiona Barry, Founder The Menopause Mentors

DR FIONA BARRY

Founder of The Menopause

Mentors

“While there are a lot of different biases that I could discuss, the one that I am most passionate about changing is the gender bias that exists in medicine.

From the teenage girl that’s inappropriately prescribed the pill to ‘regulate’ her periods, to the menopausal woman that’s prescribed an antidepressant for her depleted hormone-induced anxiety. Medicine is still falling far short when it comes to serving women.

It is not helped by the fact that as women we are taught to distrust our bodies and go to war with them from at a very early age. 

The language around our emotional, hormonal and sexual health is couched in negativity, which feeds into the substandard care that many women are experiencing and have come to expect.

As women, we are biologically and psychologically complex, we need to be, we are the givers of life, and this should be celebrated, not held against us. Instead, we are encouraged to ‘manage’ our hormones and our emotions. Our fertile years can be managed by the aforementioned pill or other such hormonal contraceptives, without a by-your-leave for any unattended consequences. There is little to no discussion about the effects of stopping a normal physiological process indefinitely or, in the case of teenagers, stopping the maturation of this physiological process.

It is taken as a given that once you stop the pill, your body will automatically resume normal function, sadly that is often not the case.

There’s no doubt that women’s reproductive health is dealt with in disdain in general. 

It takes an average of eight years from when a woman first presents to her doctor with symptoms to being diagnosed with endometriosis. Imagine, EIGHT years! Considering approximately 1 in 10 women suffer with this painful, inflammatory condition that is nothing short of disgraceful.

But the bias begins before we even enter the doctor’s office. Between 2008 and 2018, a total of 8880 scientific papers were published on erectile dysfunction, while a mere handful were published on vulvodynia (vulval pain that causes sex to be extremely painful for women). Once again, up to 20% of women are thought to experience this condition at some point in their life. Men’s pleasure, it seems, is more important than women’s pain.

Every day, I meet women that are being let down by the medical system.

I am meeting younger women that are going through fertility treatment and despite the fact 50% of fertility problems are being caused by male factor infertility, it is almost exclusively women I see in my clinics! Once again the onus is placed firmly on the women’s shoulders by the medical profession.

Terms like ‘primary ovarian FAILURE’, ‘ovarian INSUFFICIENCY, ‘FAILED cycle’ and ‘DIMINISHED egg reserve’, to name but a few, are bandied about with regards to women, while if a man provides a semen sample that is less than optimal, it is wrapped in medicalised terms, like teratospermia or asthenospermia, and he is reassured that there are ways around it.

The fact that the WHO guidelines for what is now considered ‘normal’ for a semen analysis has drastically reduced in accordance with our declining fertility is never mentioned or discussed.

I do not blame the men, by the way, I blame the profession that is still protecting their ego over the health of women.

Even as we get older we are not immune to the gender bias that exists in this arena, if anything, we are possibly more vulnerable than before. 

Despite the fact every woman on the planet will eventually go through menopause, and spend almost a third of her life there, little to no training is given to doctors on the subject. Am I alone in thinking this is incomprehensible?

The result is a large number of women being misdiagnosed, mismanaged, ignored and, worst of all, medicated inappropriately. Anti-depressants are not the answer to menopause any more than the pill is the answer to irregular periods.

Recent years have seen women stepping up and speaking out about the gender bias in medicine and healthcare, but we still have a long way to go. Otherwise we will continue to see our fertility and health decline and that has consequences for everyone.”

Margaret Creedon O Shea

POET

This poem was the winner of the O Bheal International Women’s Day 5 Word Challenge, back in March, 2021.

The 5 words were - 1. Goddess. 2. Sanity. 3. Cynical. 4. Birthday. 5. Woman.

All Hail.

On this day

To the warriors, the ladies, All Hail.

The suffragettes. The Amazons

The gladiators .The trail blazers.

The enclosed. The cloistered

Who offer it all up - Sip by sacrificial sup.

To the goddess Venus

In her birthday shyness

Arcing from her shell

Forever frozen alabaster … Like a pearl.

The Botticellis , the Toulouse Lautrecs, The Gustav Klimts

In Brocades, In jewelled colours , In cloaks of mosaic

In stucco light relief. In Gold leaf.

To the social activist reformers, cynical of the suits.

Who maintain their sanity, Challenge complacency , in pursuit of ubiquitous sloths.

Enduring puerperium. The vessels of the seed.

The silent in their waiting chamber, parking their own need

To the vocal - tough when they need to be.

All mothers are amazing?

Some struggle to stay sane.

To those with discipline – Fair play.

To those who fight their trials, every single day.

Who stay to battle in their painful corner – Come what may.

To Goddess Danu

To The deity of the Paps

The woman of New Grange

Who welcomes sun at solstice, Some at Equinox.

To Brigid of the cross St Gobnait of the albino deer, of bees.

To that domestic goddess on a budget

While himself slinks off for beer.

Well done to all the woman.

Who made me what I am.

To my beautiful daughter Miriam… An example . An inspiration.

To judge Judy, Kamela. To Oprah To every trafficked woman.

Every prisoner of conscience, forced below.

Every brave campaigner

Persecuted … to the Row.

All Hail.

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