Michael D Higgins: Men’s action and assistance needed for women to achieve full rights

This week on the Women’s Podcast: Waking The Feminists, a visit to the Áras and a song from Hozier

This week The Women’s Podcast paid a visit to Áras An Uachtaráin to talk to President Michael D Higgins about the UN’s He for She movement, which highlights the role of men in supporting women’s equality.

President Higgins is one of the Champion World Leaders of the He for She campaign. He and his wife Sabina are also supporters of Safe Ireland’s Man Up movement, which promotes the role men can play in ending domestic violence. He hosted an event at Áras An Uachtaráin, where Hozier sang Cherry Wine, the proceeds of which will be donated to domestic abuse charities.

The President said the event, which was attended by senior members of organisations with a significant male membership such as IBEC, the FAI, the Irish Army and ICTU, was an appeal to men to say “your assistance, your new thinking, your action, your willingness to speak out is necessary if we are to join with the 50 per cent who are not achieving their full rights”.

“None of the rights that women enjoy fell from the sky . . . it took brave women to achieve them supported by men, going back as far as Francis Sheehy Skeffington.”

President Higgins also talked to the podcast about gender-based violence and online bullying, while also addressing the issue of reproductive rights.

He said: “I can’t speak about what might become a matter for a referendum . . . but always I think the fundamental is health and discretion in relation to what is the right thing to do.”

President Higgins said he was concerned about poverty and “different measures across Europe in relation to cutbacks in services”. He said women are affected by this more than men and that, in relation to women’s health, “the voice of women, the voice of those who care for women’s health is surely important”.

“No cultural institution or traditional argument should ever be put in the way as a barrier between a woman’s full access to rights,” he added.

Waking The Feminists On International Women's Day, the Waking The Feminists movement held its second open meeting on at Liberty Hall in Dublin. The Women's Podcast was there to record the rousing event, and this week's episode features some of the highlights.

The movement exploded last year in response to the Abbey Theatre’s Waking the Nation 1916 programme, which featured the work of only one woman. Highlighting the gender inequality in Irish theatre the #WTF hashtag quickly took off around the world with support from major industry figures such as Meryl Streep and Fiona Shaw.

The event featured spokespeople from all seven major theatre companies, including Abbey Theatre board member Loretta Dignam. The Abbey now has a gender equality subcommittee, which is developing a comprehensive gender equality policy and action plan.

The movement’s originator Lian Bell said: “The issue of inequality for women working in theatre is being taken seriously, it’s being listened to. And action is happening, even if it will take a little bit of time . . . the momentum is going forward and all those companies are going forward with it.”

Question of the week Next week's podcast features a wide-ranging interview with British journalist and celebrated feminist Caitlin Moran, whose new book is called Moranifesto. She thinks everyone should have a manifesto, so this week's Question of the Week is: What would you put in your personal manifesto?

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