Nollaig na mBan celebrations planned around country
Traditional day honouring women will be marked by events such as exhibitions and concerts
Lucia Shelly and Dr Terri McVeigh at a Nollaig na mBan fundraising event in Dalkey, Co Dublin, in aid of the breast cancer research programme in NUI Galway. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Simone George, Clara Rose Thornton, Roisín Ingle and Olivia O’Leary in front of a small audience at The Irish Times Women’s Podcast Nollaig na mBan event. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Sinéad Gleeson, Joanna Walsh, Amy Herron and Valerie Bistany at the Writers Museum in Dublin for Nollaig na mBan. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Organisations around the country will celebrate Nollaig na mBan on Friday as part of HerStory, a four-day festival which aims to “bring women’s stories from the shadows into the light”.
The festival began at dusk on Thursday with the illumination of the Palace Street Offices on Dame Street in Dublin with projected images of six famous Irish women. Aviatrix Lady Mary Heath, astronomer Agnes Clerke, one-time Queen of Paraguay Eliza Lynch, St Brigid, High Queen of Ireland Gormlaith, and mathematician and computer programmer Kay McNulty were the women featured.
January 6th, Nollaig na mBan, is the day when men traditionally took over care duties, and women celebrated their Christmas.
From Cork to Omagh, county and city councils have commissioned light installations, exhibitions, concerts and talks aiming to share “lost tales of national heroines, women from our own towns, cities and families, and women admired across the world”.
“Nollaig na mBan is a treasured Irish tradition, especially in rural Ireland,” said Melanie Lynch, founder and director of HerStory.
Ms Lynch is asking people to get involved by hosting their own Illuminate Herstory event to celebrate the women they love. “In the dark month of January we chose the theme of light,” she said.
“We want to start the year with optimism and hope, as we strive for equality for all. The Irish are known as the best storytellers in the world, but until now we have only told half the story. Illuminate Herstory is an event for the people, and it’s really easy to get involved and pay tribute to the women you love.”
For Nollaig na mBan, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) has issued a call for engagement with the new National Women’s Strategy 2016-2020. It is is asking women to engage with the Department of Justice and Equality consultations around the country, and to make submissions.
“Issues such as abortion, violence against women and the gender pay gap dominated the news in 2016. It is clear that we are a long way off achieving our vision for women’s equality,” said NWCI director Orla O’Connor.
“The new National Women’s Strategy 2016-2020 represents a real opportunity to reflect on the diversity of women’s experiences. It is an important moment for women to have their voices heard, and to an ambitious strategy which sees us achieve a feminist future by 2020.
Ms O’Connor said that one in five women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime and 4,000 women travel every year to access abortion services that are not available in the State.
“Austerity budgets created such a divide between women and men’s earnings that the gender pay gap is 14.4 per cent and the gender pensions gap is 37 per cent,” she said.
“The new National Women’s Strategy will be a big opportunity this year to really grapple with the underlying causes and consequences of women’s inequality. The plan must be concrete and measurable, so that in 2020, we can look back from a very different Ireland.”
More information at www.herstory.ie