Feminist ‘fire and passion’ on show at GPO soapbox

Burden of austerity on families and reproductive rights among issues highlighted


Reproductive rights, the burden of austerity on families and the role of women in justice struggles were among the themes raised by speakers at a soapbox event in Dublin to mark International Women’s Day.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland said they wanted to replicate the “fire and passion” of early feminists and their political campaigning for equality by organising the event at the GPO on Dublin’s O’Connell Street.

Sabina Higgins, wife of President Michael D Higgins, spoke of the “great role” women played in the 1913 lockout. “Rosie Hackett, Dr Kathleen Lynn, Countess Markievicz – they would be so proud of us here today,” said Ms Higgins.

Janice Boylan, who will run as a Sinn Féin candidate in the local elections, encouraged women not to let their backgrounds hold them back.

“If you want something you go get it and you don’t let anybody stop you – I became the woman I am today from my experience growing up in Dublin’s north-west inner city,” she said. “It shouldn’t be frowned upon that I’m a single mother working full-time and running a home; it should be admired because like any woman here I can truly say it’s as tough a job as any.”

Salome Mbugua, chief executive of the African and Migrant Women’s Network in Ireland, told the audience there were about 3,800 women in Ireland who had undergone genital mutilation procedures. Ashe Conrad Jones spoke of her experiences as a woman who underwent a necessary hysterectomy*.

Swept aside

“Too often women are treated as small, insignificant participants in their own health. They are swept aside with indifference and impatience or dismissed as hysterical or ignorant,” she said.

Labour MEP Emer Costello spoke of the role the European Union has played in advancing equality for women through the removal of the marriage bar, employment law and social protection.

“Last week the European Parliament voted on legislation regarding women on boards; 40 per cent of all corporate boards will have to comprise women,” said Ms Costello.

Jennifer Dalton, of abortion rights campaign group Free Safe and Legal, called on the Government to repeal the 8th amendment and ensure every woman had the right to reproductive freedom

“It is said that hard cases make bad law; the reverse is true. Bad law leads to hard cases. A law that governs anyone’s bodily integrity and ability to make decisions on what is right for them is a bad law,” she said.

*This article was edited on March 13th, 2014.