International Women’s Day is this Friday, 8 March. The theme chosen for this year is to inspire inclusion – working towards gender parity, equal rights and opportunities across the globe for all women.

The day is an opportunity to celebrate the women who have done extraordinary things down through history, to bring about positive change in society. Increased participation of women is important. We need women to be involved in politics and management at all levels, to have their voice heard. There are areas where special consideration might be needed to include women in planning, executing and organising our society.

Climb the ladder

Huge strides have been made down through the years and women in Ireland can climb the ladder in the workplace. Political participation continues to be a problem. Despite the use of gender quotas, we still do not have nearly enough female TD’s in Dáil Eireann. The sheer nature and demands of the job make it difficult for women to make it all work. It is no easier for the men. They too make huge family sacrifices. It is quite obvious that the structure and workings of the Dáil need to be reformed to allow for greater participation.

International Women’s Day affords an opportunity for dialogue on how inclusion of women can be improved. What Irish women and girls need is very different from what women and girls need in war-torn Gaza or in a poor African country. Hence, the focus of this year’s event is quite different across the world.

Equal footing

Women are highly regarded in Ireland and we can take our place in most areas of society on an equal footing with men. Yet, there are areas where change is needed. Pay parity is still an issue in some sections of our society.

Unfortunately, domestic violence is a very real problem for some women. Being safe and secure is not always possible and that is sad.

Apart from striving for change, International Women’s Day affords an opportunity for women to come together to celebrate the day. Many will mark it with a lunch or a meeting. During those celebrations, it is a golden opportunity to decide to work towards a particular goal for women. Examine how inclusive you are in your own group. Are there ways that your group might be more inclusive? Do you think about accessibility when organising a meeting or function? Is there a woman or girl who might participate if she was facilitated to do so? Often times, we are just busy and don’t stop to think about the possibility of reaching out to others. If you are going to a function, make sure you bring someone along with you.

On the farm

The role of women on farms is widely discussed and continues to improve. The focus on young women farming such as in Dairy Women Ireland has a positive effect on the inclusion of women. The grant aid targeted towards women by the Department of Agriculture is a great incentive for women and girls to upskill and focus on farming as a career.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to look at your own farm critically and assess where improvements might be made to facilitate a young girl or aging mother to work on the farm. The “aged mother” is a running joke between myself and Colm, but in a good way. The aged mother is forbidden from climbing ladders – obviously, that includes gates. It is a constant necessary job to make gates functional where they can be opened and closed with ease. In fencing terms, there is nothing worse than a loose wire. Yet, how many women go to open a wire to find it practically impossible to open and if you manage to get it open, closing it again is too difficult. Just a little looser lads.

Lifting heavy weights such as bags of ration and milk replacer is a particular bugbear of mine. Have a think about how to make it easier. In these situations, we need to speak up and let people know that we need a better way.

Use International Women’s Day to do something positive for you and use your group to support women who need an advocate.

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