Disadvantaged women ‘excluded from feminist discourse’

Zappone tells ‘Fempower’ conference just 16% of full contributory pensions go to women

Working-class women, women with disabilities and women from the Traveller community are being excluded from feminist discourse, a conference on feminism in Dublin was told on Saturday.

Fempower, a conference and activist fair organised by Independent Senator Katherine Zappone, also heard calls for greater gender balance in certain fields, including in the media.

Highlighting areas where women are disadvantaged in society, Ms Zappone noted that just 16 per cent of those who receive a full contributory pension were women.

Just one in 10 of those on the boards of listed companies in Ireland were women and the gender pay gap had widened.


Ms Zappone said the average life expectancy for Traveller women, at 70 years, was 11.5 per cent lower than that of women in the wider population.

Some 46,137 calls were made last year to helplines providing support to women who had suffered violence.

In addition, migrant women faced additional barriers in access to health services, she said.


Ms Zappone said the the legal status of prescribing contraception to young women under the age of sexual consent (17) was “extremely unclear” and could result in unplanned pregnancies.

Women had the power, ability and capacity to effect change and to influence the behaviour of others or the course of events, she said.

“After almost 15 years of agitation and advocacy I can say that I live in ‘yes’ country – and that the Republic of Ireland recognises me as a married woman – married to another woman. And I do not think that it is an exaggeration to say that all of us here helped to make this change possible.”

Lynn Ruane, the president of Trinity College Dublin Students' Union, told the event at Tallaght Stadium that working class and disadvantaged women were excluded from the feminist debate.

She said she was tired of going to such events and being the only working class person there.

Other speakers included former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh and journalist Una Mullally.

Ms Mullally called for an audit of media organisations to address gender inequality in the industry.