International Women's Day means little or nothing to many


A CLUSTER of teenage girls interviewed on RTE's Morning Ireland yesterday said that, unlike their mums, they intended to have it all.

Life had changed, they said. What was to stop them from being doctors and mechanics as well as wives and mothers? They believed that they could have it all without any change in the traditional structures of work, marriage and motherhood.

If they had been at the Democratic Left party in the Dail bar on Thursday night, the eve of International Women's Day, they would have heard Mr Proinsias De Rossa tell us (mostly working parents) of the long road still ahead for women. Despite recent advances, life for most women is a sorry saga, as he saw it.

Also on the Thursday night, the Tanaiste handed over Iveagh House to Mr Mervyn Taylor and Ms Joan Burton to host a womenfest. The Minister for Equality and Law Reform was generous in his acknowledgement of the "courageous and energetic" action of women, many who were involved in the women's movement of the early 1970s.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of Ireland officially recognising March 8th as International Women's Day but, like the Sweet Valley High generation, interviewed on radio, it meant little or nothing to the majority of women. Nobody got a day off work. As far as could be ascertained there was no champagne cracked either by employers or trade unions.

However, in Dublin and around the country, the day's survival for at least another year was ensured by a number of festivities organised by women.

. In Dublin, the Green Party MEP, Ms Patricia McKenna, launched a fresh broadside against the Social Affairs Commissioner, Mr Padraig Flynn. She acknowledged his "enormous workload" but complained he was "only making limited progress in tackling gender equality".

. The Irish Red Cross Society declared that women are increasingly bearing the brunt of conflicts, with rape being used systematically as a war weapon.

. The President, Mrs Robinson, attended the National Women's Council's reception at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin The NWC's chairwoman, Ms Noreen Byrne, said that Northern women's voices should be listened to.

. In Ballymun, Dublin, a range of services dealing with women's mental and physical health were discussed in a seminar organised by Women in Development and opened by Ms Ann Keating, of the Ballymun Partnership, and Ms Roisin Shortall TD.

. Pupils from Grange Community College staged a play about domestic violence at The Ark in Dublin's Temple Bar.

. In Athlone, Ms Mary O'Rourke, deputy leader of Fianna Fail, opened a women's conference and criticised the "macho, confrontational politics" of "not an inch" and "another 25 years of violence" seen in the North. "Many of us feel that if there were more women in leading positions there might be greater willingness to compromise," she said.

. In Limerick University, Dr Pat O'Connor, of the Women's Studies Department, launched a report on how a group of women became major players in a local tourism project when given the necessary information and skills.

. In Cork, the Federation of Women's Groups had speakers from London, Belfast, Derry and Dublin, at a dinner chaired by Ms Mairin Quill, Progressive Democrat TD.

. In Castlebar, Ms Monica Barnes launched an art exhibition of works done by survivors of sexual violence to mark the opening of the Mayo Rape Crisis Centre. "The Art of Surviving" exhibition runs until March 29th.

. Amnesty International urged governments worldwide to act on commitments made at last year's women's conference in Beijing.