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International Women’s Day Take Ten at Eleven to honour women volunteers

Published: Wednesday, March 07, 2001

'2001 is the UN Year of the Volunteer' declared Ms. Gráinne Healy, Chairwoman of the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI). 'Volunteer service has been a part of virtually every civilization and society as a non-profit, non-wage and non-career action carried out by individuals for the well being of their neighbours or their community' she continued. 'Today I am pleased to celebrate and honour all women who have worked in this way as part of our community of women, locally, regionally, nationally and globally' added Ms. Healy.

She went on to say that in Ireland 33% of Irish people are engaged in some form of voluntary activity1. 'Women make up the majority of volunteers in the community and voluntary sector. It is vital that funding is available to community women's groups and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and that women are involved in decisions about resolving local problems' she said. 'As a representative NGO at national level as a social partner, the NWCI plays a key role in lobbying for the inclusion of NGOs in consultation with local and national government' added Ms. Healy.

Ms. Healy outlined some facts about women in a European context:

  • Women still earn only 83% of male earnings (EU average)
  • Women still perform more than 80% of household tasks
  • (80%+ of Irish men stated they do not do domestic work!)
  • Women represent only 18% of decision makers in the EU institutions
  • Women represent only 26.8% of members of EU parliament
  • Women make up only 35% of the staff of the European Commission

[All facts from the European Women's Lobby (EWL)]

'Why don't women have equal power to make decisions about the issues that affect our lives?' asked Ms. Healy. 'We believe that this democratic deficit is an issue for serious discussion as we face a referendum on whether or not to ratify the Treaty of Nice' she stated.

She introduced three women volunteers, Mary Donohoe, Ruhama - Support Services to Prostitutes; Helen Murray, An Cosán - Women's Community Education Centre Tallaght and Mary O'Connell, Mná Feasa - Women's Domestic Violence Project and Support Group Cork who spoke about their work. Ms. Healy stressed the importance of their voluntary contribution. 'The work of each of these women and their organisations must be honoured. The Government can best support and validate their work, in this year of the volunteer, through adequate funding for their organisations' she continued.

'There are five women here today to whom I want to pay special tribute and make a presentation - for their years of service to the women's community. These women have played a significant role over many years as volunteers and activists in the women's movement in general and in the NWCI in particular' said Ms. Healy. 'These women are Hilda Tweedy, Margaret Erraught, Kathleen Delap, Sheila Conroy and Edith Loane, who are all honorary member of the NWCI.

'It is heartening that today women all over Ireland are marking International Women's Day' concluded Ms. Healy.