Seanad debates

Wednesday, 6 March 2024

International Women's Day: Statements


10:30 am

Photo of Eileen FlynnEileen Flynn (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I thank Senator Moynihan for sharing her time with me. I very much appreciate it.

As a member of the Traveller community and probably one of the only women in both Houses from an ethnic minority, I am sick to the pit of my stomach of the do-gooders in the absence of the inclusion of Muslim women and Black women and of our voices being heard equally around the table.

The Minister spoke about the gender equality committee. While I welcome its action plan, very little has been done for minority women in this country under the current Government and previous Governments. We have a women's movement in this country that is for white middle-class women. Too often, it leaves behind the women from ethnic minority groups. I might not look like I am from an ethnic minority group; unfortunately, however, I have to bat my way in for my voice to be truly heard in these Houses and at committee meetings.

Today, I was at a brilliant event celebrating women MPs in Europe. It was absolutely fantastic. There were Muslim women and Black women present but there was not one mention of diversity in the context of women in politics. A participation rate of 40% was mentioned. Gender equality includes background, race and every gender. It should include women from the Traveller community, Black women, Muslim women and disabled women. It is meant to be for all of us. In this House, all the women are white. Not one woman apart from me is from an ethnic minority group. We must not sit here every single year on International Women's Day making the same speeches.

Today, I am as hurt as I was the very first time I came in here to make a speech on this subject because little or nothing has changed for women on the ground. Women from my community are suffering addiction and domestic violence. Young children of 15 years can be married in this State by the Church, although not by the State. Why is that not monitored? Why are young children from my community – 15 year-old-girls – not looked after? Why do those young children not have the same opportunity as white middle-class children? I am standing here genuinely feeling as false as false can be, and to a certain extent I feel many of the people around me are the do-gooders. We must not have any more do-gooders; we can do things for ourselves. Give us space at the table. When the Minister talks about 40% participation in politics by women, he should please include all women. Organisations such as the National Traveller Women's Forum, the Irish Refugee Council, the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland and Disabled Women Ireland should include us.

As a mother, I do not want my two little girls, Billie and Lacey, to experience any of the inequality I have had to experience in this country. I will be voting "Yes" with regard to the definition of "family". I was reared by my father. My mother passed away when I was ten years of age and it took all my mother's family and my father to rear me. I was in an accident and was practically reared by nurses in Our Lady's Hospital as well. The definition of "family" can include absolutely anything and I will be voting "Yes". As a mother, I do not believe Senator Keogan is speaking on behalf of all of us.

I do not want to be standing here next year giving the same old meaningless speech. When we talk about equality for women, we cannot just put sanitary towels and tampons into toilets and say, "There you go now" in the belief that addresses inequality related to poverty. While I welcome this, we need good, meaningful health services that we can trust for all women in this country, including those from minority groups. We have been left too far behind.

I ask the Minister to be a Minister for change. When he talks about 40% representation in politics, he should include all women, especially those on the margins of society. It is not just a matter of gender because, along with that, there are racial and cultural differences. All these need to be celebrated. In the other House, you will not see any diversity. Until diversity is visible in spaces and we create spaces for women from my community, Black women, Muslim women and transwomen, we will not have made progress. I am all for transwomen's rights and do not want to exclude them in my speech today. We need a parliament that is more inclusive and we do not need any more do-gooders in our women's movement. Let us in and we can do it for ourselves.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.