Monday, 8 March 2021
International Women's Day: Statements
On International Women's Day, there tends to be much reflection on the women who have gone before and the firsts. I am grateful to those women who have laid the path for many of us but I find myself thinking of the women who are yet to come and not just those who have been. I ask myself who is not in this room. There are not nearly enough women, even though this is the most women that we have had in a Seanad, and there never have been. This goes for the Dáil too. There has never been a woman of colour in the Seanad or a woman who has lived through direct provision. Senator Eileen Flynn is the only woman from the Traveller community to be a Member and this place is richer and better for Senator Flynn being here. How many more would wish to be here, in the Dáil and on local county councils, who simply cannot get there? No trans woman has ever been elected to the Oireachtas and as long as this House, which is here to represent all the people of Ireland, does not have these women in it, it is incomplete. As Senators, we all have a say on who will be here in the future, in our votes and in our influence in political groupings, and we all have work to do in our own parties.
I also think of the women of Ireland who, in this most unusual and challenging year, have, as always, stepped up to the plate. We have all heard the statistics before about women taking on a far larger share of domestic work, childcare and care for elderly family members than their male counterparts. We have seen that workload skyrocket this year. It includes full-time child carers and teachers. Early indicators suggest that women are, as per usual, being left to carry the burden of this extra work. Women are paid less at work and expected to do more work in the home for no pay.
A tweet by my Labour Party friend, Hannah Deasy, over the weekend really struck a chord with me, stating:
I used to love #InternationalWomensDay but a year into the pandemic I feel hollow looking at many #IWD2021 events. Where is paid sick leave? Where is paid maternity & parental leave? Where is publicly funded childcare? These are the things that create #genderequality
For International Women's Day, I want to remind people not only of the women who are in this room. Electoral politics is only a small part of effecting societal change, and thinking about the women who are in this room is all well and good. It is a little bit lean in feminism for me. We need to reflect on the women who are truly carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders for little or no recognition and even more insultingly, little to no pay. I hope that this time next year, we will have made great strides in addressing some of those issues.