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Sophie Kane: In 2016, Ireland can no longer ignore us

Published: Sunday, April 24, 2016

100 years after 1916, what do we have to celebrate? This is one of a number of blogs by young women, celebrating the women of 1916, and exploring what needs to happen to achieve that feminist future…

NWCI’s 1916 Feminist Reflections Blogs are part of the State’s official programme to commemorate the events of 1916 – the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme.

Looking back over the past 100 years we have, as a nation, a lot to celebrate and be proud of. However I cannot help but feel in terms of equality there is still so much to be done and an overwhelming sense of urgency to it. I have many feminist visions for the future. There are numerous wants, needs and demands that still have to be met. We will no longer be ignored and the time for change is now.

For the first time in a long time when we are having conversations about 1916, we are hearing the names of the women revolutionaries more and more. These conversations are imperative to understanding our history- the real version of events and not those in which women were famously overlooked and ignored.

Women have been written out of history, constrained and criminalised by our constitution. We are under-payed as well as underrepresented and enough is enough. I want a better Ireland not only for our daughters, but our sons, an island where our gender does not and will not define us or impact our opportunities. For me it starts with women in leadership roles - positive, female role models with whom girls can identify with. I want to see the day in which we no longer have to threaten to cut political parties funding in order to see them nominate women candidates. We know looking back and at the current day that these wonderful, talented leaders exist in women, so why do we not already have equal representation in all sectors of society?

We live in a country that doesn’t give women, 50% of the population, full reproductive rights so how can we expect them to feel equal? Everyday at least 12 women are forced to leave the country to avail of safe abortions. What about the ones who can’t leave, those who are forced to stay pregnant whatever the circumstances, against their will? These women aren’t celebrating their rights. What about the women who die as a result of unsafe abortions, who won’t access health services because according to our State they are criminals? Our constitution vowed to cherish all the children of the nation equally, somewhere along the way this got lost within the structures of patriarchy. I strongly believe that if women had more of a say in the running of our state since its foundation we wouldn’t be facing these difficulties. Let’s learn from the mistakes and the victories of the past 100 years and move forward together.

I strive for equality across all sectors of society. I demand an end to sexism, racism, ableism, classism, ageism, homophobia and transphobia. For me the future of equality begins with the equality of the sexes. Ireland can no longer ignore 50% of its population. We must teach our young girls that they are worth the same as their brothers, and teach our sons to respect their sisters. Feminism can no longer be a bad word, with negative associations. The revolutionaries of 1916 fought for independence for all citizens, they wanted to throw off the shackles placed upon our country, but a different constraint took over. With freedom came patriarchy and a constitution that states a women’s place is in the home. A constitution that the women of Ireland are still paying for today. Going forward we need equal representation in all sector of society, beginning with our government.

I want to see a female Taoiseach. I want women to make up 50% of the Dáil. When our children hear the words gender quotas I want it to be met with disbelief that there was ever a need for them. I want full reproductive rights for all women. The next 100 years are crucial for the feminist movement, I am hopeful that in this time we can and will achieve gender equality. Ireland is for all of us, let’s start writing our feminist future today.

Sophie Kane is one of the young women who work with NWCI on our Looking Glass project on leadership. For more information on this project, please contact Louise, louiseg@nwci.ie. For media queries, please contact Silke, silkep@nwci.ie.