#SluggerSoapbox: It’s about time women were celebrated, but we’ll have to do it for ourselves!

The following is from Orlaith Hendron, who is a lobbyist in the Women’s Sector in Northern Ireland.

We all know people are struggling these days; we only have to go outside and take a look at the house next door where our friends used to live, and know that redundancy meant they couldn’t afford rent. We only have to see ads in church bulletins about food banks and know that there won’t be enough there to help everyone who needs it.

We only have to look at our kids who are coming out of university with less job prospects than we did when we left secondary school.

We only have to watch the price of things go up and up so much so that basics are sometimes out of reach. We only have to look at our local women’s centres closing to know that there’s no childcare for the families in the area anymore and that means people can’t go to work.

These are desperate times, but we’ve had desperate times before and we’ve made it through, we’ve come together and made things happen. In Northern Ireland, women have stood up and stood together to build a community in the midst of chaos.

14 women’s centres across Northern Ireland exist, for such a small place that’s a huge number and multitudes of other women’s groups, organisations, co ops, projects and circles all work tirelessly to keep our communities and our society ticking over, to help people grow and learn.

We run education programmes, crèches, counselling services, advice services, and language courses for migrant women and support groups for minority women and their families. We lobby and challenge government, we stand up for our rights, we fight for our freedoms, we take care of children and the elderly, we work for free a lot of the time.

If women didn’t do all the free labour they do today, our whole society would collapse and for all this effort, whether paid on unpaid, we should be celebrated.

The cuts and austerity measures are not the way, we all agree with this, but in the middle of all the protesting and shouting and organising and lobbying, lets not forget we should also be celebrating the massive achievements we’ve made and continue to make as women every day.

We should be proud to be women in Northern Ireland, even if our government ignores us. We’re not saying don’t organise, and don’t protest, the opposite in fact, we have to come together and hold our assembly accountable.

In an effort to support the March Against the Cuts organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on May 2nd and at the same time celebrate women, the Cut It Out campaign is calling for all women to come and march with us, side by side to show our assembly that we are not invisible, we are not to be ignored and we are not to be denied our right to be valued.

We demand to be celebrated and true to form we’re willing to do it for ourselves.

Come to the rally, bring your granny, your mother, sisters, cousins, daughters. Come to the rally on May 2nd and wear something Yellow so that every woman can be visible, so that every woman cannot be ignored.

Come and celebrate yourself and other women. Come and see what it feels like to be valued. Come and dance. Come and sing. Come and stand together against the cuts and in celebration of women and all we do for society.

The Rally will assemble at the art college at 11.30am on Saturday 2nd May – remember to wear YELLOW or make a banner that’s positive and come celebrate!

,

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Excellent piece! Thanks for the reminder of the unsung heroism of many women both here and worldwide. I’ve always been intrigued by the (albeit generalised) contrast between the male search for glory and the female quietly making positive changes out of the spotlight. This seems to me particularly relevant in NI. A positive value needs to be attached to this so award it to yourselves.
    N.B. are men welcome?

  • chrisjones2

    Oh dear oh dear, This is truly desperate stuff Mick! I haven’t read anything like this since the demise of the Dave Spart column in Private Eye.

    “a lobbyist in the Women’s Sector”

    What pray is the “Women’s Sector”? Is there a Men’s Sector? What is the underpinning assumption that women’s sex makes them gel politically around a common agenda? Is this all women? Or Working women?

    “We all know people are struggling these days; we only have to go outside and take a look at the house next door where our friends used to live, and know that redundancy meant they couldn’t afford rent. ”

    Takes out violin. Where is the evidence for this as a widespread issue in NI where employment has been increasing and unemployment rolls falling. Exactly how many families were turfed out of their houses because the couldn’t afford rent?

    “We only have to see ads in church bulletins about food banks and know that there won’t be enough there to help everyone who needs it.”

    Again utter tripe. The evidence is that, if anything, there is an over provision of food banks

    “We only have to look at our kids who are coming out of university with less job prospects than we did when we left secondary school.”

    Again where is the evidence? The fact is that they are now going to university where a generation or two ago they might never have had that chance. Some are still unemployable but most are not and if they choose to get our there and look – and not just in NI – their prospects may be infinitely greater. But they have to make their future not winge and wait for someone to do it for them

    “We only have to watch the price of things go up and up so much so that basics are sometimes out of reach.”

    Again tripe. CPI last month was zero and is forecast to fall below zero and stay there on a 12 month time horizon. Food deflation is driving part of this. NI benefits have been shielded from the cuts in other areas

    “We only have to look at our local women’s centres closing to know that there’s no childcare for the families in the area anymore and that means people can’t go to work.”

    Again – where is the evidence for this? All the parties just announced major expansions of child care post election. Perhaps some of those unemployed graduates might take advantage and set up their own businesses to service this?

    “These are desperate times , but we’ve had desperate times before and we’ve made it through, we’ve come together and made things happen.

    Yeah …I am sorry that I have to agree this is all desperate stuff

    “In Northern Ireland, women have stood up and stood together to build a community in the midst of chaos.”

    What community? Where is the evidence for this? Where is this community? And why just women? What about the men who have done so too

    “14 women’s centres across Northern Ireland exist, for such a small place that’s a huge number

    All in the past heavily funded by grants. Why do we nee so many? Can they not co-ordinate better?

    “and multitudes of other women’s groups, organisations, co ops, projects and circles all work tirelessly to keep our communities and our society ticking over, to help people grow and learn”

    and the point is …………

    “We run education programmes, crèches, counselling services, advice services, and language courses for migrant women and support groups for minority women and their families.”

    Great to see such volunteers and altruism …I would really support that but have to ask how do you fund this?

    Whoops …silly question ……. see below

    “We lobby and challenge government, we stand up for our rights, we fight for our freedoms, we take care of children and the elderly, we work for free a lot of the time.”

    Very laudable but don’t you think that if men are doing the same sort of things separately you might actually be more effective together?

    “If women didn’t do all the free labour they do today, our whole society would collapse and for all this effort, whether paid on unpaid, we should be celebrated.”

    Again, the same can be said of men. Perhaps we should all just sit back and wait for the state to do it all for us. Mind you they tried that in a number of states in eastern Europe and Asia and it did not work out very well

    “The cuts and austerity measures are not the way, we all agree with this,”

    No we don’t all agree. They are the only way to help the economy recover from decades of waste and mismanagement and re-balance the NI economy into a sustainable future

    “but in the middle of all the protesting and shouting and organising and lobbying, lets not forget we should also be celebrating the massive achievements we’ve made and continue to make as women every day.”

    celebrate away …. but again men are excluded and I suspect many women may feel excluded by the whole political tone of this. Is there one sisterhood or many?

    “We should be proud to be women in Northern Ireland, even if our government ignores us.”

    Wheres the evidence that you are ignored? They certainly haven’t ignored you financially – see below

    “We’re not saying don’t organise, and don’t protest, the opposite in fact, we have to come together and hold our assembly accountable.”

    Getting involved in real party politics might help

    “In an effort to support the March Against the Cuts organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on May 2nd ”

    ie organised by those who have a strong and vested interest in continuing the waste

    “and at the same time celebrate women”

    Why is that all synonymous with celebrating women. What does ‘celebrate women” actually mean. Its a meaningless sloganising phrase.

    “the Cut It Out campaign is calling for all women to come and march with us, side by side to show our assembly that we are not invisible, we are not to be ignored and we are not to be denied our right to be valued.”

    and not because we are desperate to get the numbers up

    “We demand to be celebrated ”

    See above

    “and true to form we’re willing to do it for ourselves.”

    If this is all you have to collectively contribute I fear you will have to

    “Come to the rally, bring your granny, your mother, sisters, cousins, daughters. Come to the rally on May 2nd and wear something Yellow so that every woman can be visible, so that every woman cannot be ignored.”

    So even the male childer are to be excluded. Very caring but will this not drive more women away?

    “Come and celebrate yourself and other women. Come and see what it feels like to be valued. Come and dance. Come and sing. Come and stand together against the cuts and in celebration of women and all we do for society.”

    Good luck!

    I am sorry to be so acerbic but this post really helps illustrate one of the things wrong with NI . The sad thing is that, as their website shows, this is all funded by

    DSD NI
    Dept of Agriculture
    DEL
    DHSSPSS
    EU – two different programmes
    Community Foundation
    Public Health Agency

    I make that 7 separate Government Grant streams going into one organisation in part to campaign against the Government’s own polices. If ever there was an example of why public spending needs reform, is this not it?

    Do these Minsters and Departments realize this? is there any co-ordination on the use of this money?

    Is this money allowed to be used for political lobbying in this way? Should it be?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Your post exemplifies why there is a need for this. The point is recognition.

  • Korhomme

    “Too many foodbanks”?

    Why are there any foodbanks?

  • Séamus

    Why yellow, is this a sly push for Alliance right before the election?

  • chrisjones2

    “the male search for glory and the female quietly making positive changes out of the spotlight.”

    …by roaming through the city centre dressed in yellow and dancing

    You do realise though that you are guilty of the heinous crime of gender stereotyping. A wimmins lobbyist may now chain herself to your desktop in protest

  • chrisjones2

    Recognition of what? That’s the issue!!!!

  • chrisjones2

    I doubt Alliance will complain. They need all the help they can get

    But you raise an interesting point. What colour will be adopted by the next party to crawl out of the NI primeval political mud? Puce? The Puce party does have a ring to it

  • chrisjones2

    “are men welcome” …clearly not old chap!!!

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Find out! That’s your challenge.

  • chrisjones2

    I cant be bothered. The twaddle has demotivated me

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Ah, go on! You know you want to.

  • chrisjones2
  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    I’m sure you’ll find something to say. And if you’re struggling then make something up.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Will there be dancing?

  • Dan

    Christ, what a load of oul guff.

  • Orlaith Hendron

    It’s so interesting that all these comments are from men. This post was simply meant to be a reminder that whilst there is chaos good work is being done in keeping communities together and much of it is done by women. The idea of yellow is to raise visibility, yellow is the most visible colour, even on rainy days, and whilst is may be guff to some, that’s your right, it’s women who are facing the worst of the cuts…so at a trade union rally we’re trying to celebrate the value of women, rather than complain about the impact of the cuts. It’s really that simple.

    It’s definitely nothing to do with ALLIANCE.

    I wrote it, i’m the lobbyist for the women’s sector which means i engage with grassroots women and feed their issues back to politicians, I can’t actually believe someone didn’t know what a lobbyist did!

    As for the women’s sector, that’s all the women’s organisations across northern ireland.

    You really ought to think more before writing, it’s not that hard to get.

    MEN ARE DEFINITELY WELCOME – it’s not a crusade it’s just raising visibility of women who are consistently and traditionally ignored in NI politics!

  • Granni Trixie

    I am all for celebrating womens contribution but I think you have made a mistake by conflating that with trade union activities – hardly inclusive,is it?

  • Orlaith Hendron

    EXACTLY

  • Orlaith Hendron

    You’re absolutely entitled to this ramble, and of course i can’t be bothered to go through everything you’ve said, needless to say, you’re terribly misinformed of the world around you, you must be middle class and not really effected…or else just totally blind to what’s happening.

    Either way, good luck and don’t forget to WEAR YELLOW on Saturday to celebrate the women in your life, you know, mother, granny, sisters if you have any and all they do around you!

    PS. My post is funded by a charitable trust, not the depts you mention. The funding from them is actually used to pay the women’s sector organisations to do the work the government should be doing, and on a shoe string mind you.

  • Orlaith Hendron

    lol what’s the issue? REALLY?

    You are the issue!

  • chrisjones2

    Most people posting on Slugger are Male so perhaps thats why but it could benefit from a lot more female input so fair dos to you for posting and then coming back as well

    “it’s women who are facing the worst of the cuts.”

    Sorry I disagree. And just what ‘cuts’ do you mean

  • chrisjones2

    “you must be middle class”

    That would be shocking and obviously immediate negates my arguments

    As for your post being funded by a Charity that perhaps is fair
    enough but where do the boundaries lie between the grant permitted work and the lobbying? The organization you work in has 7 Government funding streams – that is stunning

  • Artemis13

    I’ll be there, in yellow! Women are disproportionately impacted by the cuts. Due to the gendered division of labour childcare and early years funding cuts mean women (mothers) are less likely to be able to sustain employment. More women work in the public sector, which will be hit with lots of ‘early retirement’. Women are hugely underrepresented in decision making in NI, not only in formal politics but also public appointments and leadership of community/voluntary sector. I recommend checking out the women’s manifesto, which sets out the key issues affecting women generally in a succinct manner. The Empty Purse campaign also has interesting information on how welfare reform will impact women. http://www.wrda.net/Documents/womens_manifesto.pdf

  • Barneyt

    Its a conflict between the need to achieve sexual equality and persisting a cause that in today world can be seen as anti-male and in itself sexist. Sadly I think I lot of damage has been done for the women’s cause, at the hands of many women.

    It’s 2015, and I would hope that many of the impediments that women have faced over the years have been removed. I believe most have and that in many areas its an even playing field, but I accept that work remains.

    If you look at support workers in the NHS. How many of them are female. Then you have to ask the question why?

    Is it because women are more caring?

    It is because women are by default channelled into these professions?

    Do their circumstances (perhaps career deprivation due to child bearing) lessen their opportunities.

    All issues in society and the workplace need to be examined so that all “isms” can be removed and dealt with. We must be as prepared to identify that there are no impediments as much as we are prepared to identify a problem and deal with it.

    It should all be case by case in my view and dealt with as a potential discriminatory act against a person first and foremost.

    The problem with crusades and initiatives that are deemed to be women centric, is that they immediately become attached to men haters and others that are radicalised towards the woman’s only cause. These are the unfortunates in society and no matter how you believe they have been created, they are by nature sexist and part of another problem. I believe these folks are rare however, but they to generate the headlines.

    There is a school of thought that suggests that men are highly discriminated, against particularly by the legal system (with regards to family matters) and the female dominated social caring professions. That is an interesting conflict. On one hand the carer assumption shackles the woman, but on the other it offers gain and benefit, in the fight for custody for example. Women’s needs under these circumstances are deemed a higher priority.

    There is a strong emphasis on the mother being the only parent who is capable of providing care (regardless of her treatment of the child), and the system is shaped this way. Men have dug a hole for themselves with respect to the abuse within marriages and families, but there are plenty of male victims out there, who are more likely have been subject to a high level of female perpetrated emotional abuse (which sadly seems to be accepted as normal) and in some rarer cases, physical. As a man we are supposed to take it, which is wrong.

    Emotional abuse is harder to quantify, but I would hope that any woman orientated groups would work in this area to ensure protection for women AND open up to the notion that women are perhaps more inclined to deliver a different and more manipulative brand of abuse towards their male partners (where abuse occurs).

    The stereo-typing needs to stop in both directions.

    Due to circumstances or lack of opportunity, women do tend to be channelled towards roles that offer limited career growth and reward. During periods of austerity, these roles tend to get chopped first, so there is a correlation between austerity and opportunities for women (down to the unnecessary alignment between some professions and the female sex)

    Many roles are women dominated and that needs to be examined. However, there are roles, particularly those in the caring and education industry, from children to vulnerable adults, where a man would not stand a chance and they would be at grave risk, whereas a women would perhaps remain immune (based on societal driven assumptions). Because of this, men tend to steer clear (for example, primary school teaching).

    That’s another problem with society that needs to be addressed as much as anything that negatively impacts or discriminates against women.

    You stated, “If women didn’t do all the free labour they do today, our whole society would collapse and for all this effort, whether paid on unpaid, we should be celebrated”.

    I agree you are probably right here. However, its a silver lining on a dark cloud. Why is it that women are available more than men to carry out these tasks and is that right? I would identify this as more of a problem, rather then something to be celebrated. On a wider scale, we do rely on contributions of this nature to make society work, but this is a precarious existence.

  • Reader

    OK, I’m depressed. I would sort of like to have a go at the woolly sentimentality and sloganeering of the original article, but that would appear to put me in league with the torrent of vicious misogyny that greets every single article here that is written by a woman. And I don’t want to go there.
    So how about not poisoning the environment, guys?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    My friends from California who visit the wee six always comment on how misogynistic a situation still continues here. “How can you put up with it, more importantly how can you expect your wife to put up with it?” and I try and tell them that if we don’t try and confront it as a man and a woman trying to make the men we know aware of just how seriously difficult it is for women to live here, nothing will ever change. Thank you for the piece Orlaith, and as a habitual wearer of black (1960s, 1970s…) I’ll try and look out some yellow somewhere in the wardrobe, for those women living (and dead) whom have made me who I am.