24th May 2019
On May 25, 2018, the people of Ireland voted to repeal the eighth amendment; granting constitutional body autonomy to women across the country. One year on, IMAGE writers Lauren Heskin and Grace McGettigan look at eight ways to channel our energy into continued, positive change
Over the past 12 months, women in Ireland have experienced momentous change. We stood up against sexual assault during a highly publicised rape trial; and exactly one year ago this week, we voted to repeal the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution.
For years, Irish women fought tirelessly for their right to body autonomy. Our voices were strong, our determination stronger and we all refused to be silenced. We rallied together and channelled our energy for positive change.
Sunday marks exactly one year since the result of the referendum was announced, with 66.4% to 33.6% voting to remove the eighth amendment. The referendum paved the way for a rollout of services from January 1; 36 years after the introduction of a constitutional ban on the termination of pregnancies was introduced.
Related: 25 empowering movies that’ll make you proud to be a woman
Now, on the first anniversary of that historic vote, we’re determined to keep that energy going.
There are many ways for Irish women to stay involved in social activism. We’ve already proved we’re strong enough to make a difference – there’s no reason why we can’t do it again. Here we look at eight ways for Irish women to get involved in activism today.
Get out and vote today
Find out who is running in your area and what their policies are (both for the community and more generally). Do they align with your own? What are your priorities for the next five years (that’s how long local and European politicians will hold their seats)? Is having more women in office more important than a Green Party vote? These are questions you need to answer.
Voting is a privilege and one that women have not held for very long. The global political climate of the last three years should prove that there is nothing flippant about having your voice heard.
Photo: Stickers by Una Mulally via Instagram
This year, the issue of climate change is more important than ever. It’s vital we be eco-conscious and make sustainable choices where we can. Not everyone can live a ‘zero waste’ lifestyle (we’re not perfect; nobody is), but we can live by a ‘less waste’ policy.
Small changes add up. Why not swap your plastic-infused sanitary products (tampons and pads) for the 100% organic cotton alternatives. A Mooncup or period pants are better choices still; and beyond period waste, other small changes can make an enormous difference.
Related: ‘Eye-opening and empowering’: a climate change experience at Powerscourt
Commit to recycling one extra piece of plastic per day (that empty shampoo bottle doesn’t have to go to landfill); switch off the tap when brushing your teeth, and allow the natural ecosystem in your back garden to grow.
What’s more, don’t be afraid to question the brands you give your money to. The ‘compostable’ coffee cup from the local shop might not actually be compostable in Ireland. This is your world; don’t be afraid to question things and change it for the better.
Be conscious of your privilege
This is a hard one, and one we all need to work on. Privilege is an absence of obstacles; the advantage is invisible. This makes it incredibly hard to recognise, and even more difficult to imagine the hindrances of someone else’s life.
Know that your life is not someone else’s and working on your empathy should be a lifetime’s work.
Talking to the men in your life
Women tend to be very open with other women. We share our highs and lows and we are excellent at expressing our emotion. Men, not so much. As a result, it can be difficult to have conversations with your male peers about things that matter to you; such as emigration, access to healthcare or your mental state, in anything other than factual statements.
You feel you’re saving yourself (and them) the awkwardness of the exchange. But the more we avoid those conversations, the bigger the emotional intellect gap becomes.
Lean into the awkwardness, talk to male friends about how they’re voting; what they make of the Alabama abortion laws; and tell them about why you decided you needed that social media break. The more often we discuss these things, the stronger the community we build.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for everyone is to put yourself first. If social media is sucking the life out of you but it’s how you communicate with friends, see if you can move all your conversations to one app.
Related: Five easy ways to practice self-love and kindness
Fear and anxiety can be useful emotions sometimes, but it’s important to understand when they’re benefiting you and when they’re becoming detrimental. Worrying about something before it happens means you actually live through the stress of it twice. So, cut yourself some slack sometimes (and know when you’re also cutting yourself too much slack).
We could all do with taking a healthier approach to social media. In some instances, this means switching off from the online world completely. In other instances, it’s about taking social media with a pinch of salt. We all need to remember that Instagram is a ‘highlights’ reel; nobody’s life is that perfect.
While it’s easy to feel low when faced with someone else’s holiday snaps and loved-up selfies, remember they’re hiding the bad bits. They’re not showing pictures of the row they had over breakfast that morning, and they probably won’t mention there’s an illness in the family.
This year, we’re trying to not let other people’s curated lives bring us down. Let’s support one another, champion each other and, most importantly, champion ourselves.
We live in a world where many people are quick to retaliate to anything mildly offensive; whether it was meant to be offensive or not. Be it in person or online, there’s an outrage culture whereby we complain about things before we really think about the other person’s point of view. The ‘angry reaction face’ on Facebook is just one example; bitter comments are another.
Related: This book inspired me to break up with my phone
There’s a lot to be said for letting the little things slide. If someone says something with good intention but doesn’t quite execute it well – try not to take it to heart. There are so many important things going on in your life; how significant is their throwaway comment, really? We like to think of it like this: in a year’s time, will their words have any relevance in your life? What about this time tomorrow? Probably not.
Life is short. Let’s focus on what makes us happy and the issues that truly matter, rather than what makes us mad.
Get out and do it
Last year is proof that actions speak louder than words. Find a cause you believe in and do whatever fits your lifestyle and your schedule to help.
Wear the badge, jumper or sticker. Join the march, make a poster, or raise the issue in a conversation with friends. For some, volunteering at a charity is best. For others, it’s about financially supporting a cause money.
Here is a list of (just some of) the organisations and causes Irish women can get involved in this summer:
20×20 – increasing visibility of women’s sport by 20% by 2020; as well as encouraging both female participation in sports and attendance at women’s games.
Safe Ireland – creating a safer Ireland for women and children who’ve experienced domestic abuse.
BeLonG To – supporting LGBTI+ young people as equals through youth work, changing attitudes and research.
ALONE – providing support and friendship to hundreds of older people every week; including those who are homeless, socially isolated, living in deprivation or in crisis.
Cool Planet Experience – inviting people of all ages to learn about the environment and become active ‘agents of change’.
Flossie and the Beach Cleaners – organising regular community beach clean-ups and working towards a greener, cleaner Ireland.
ENAR Ireland – working collectively to highlight and address the issue of racism in Ireland.
Read more: How one speech by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie brought feminism to the masses
Read more: 10 things we learned from our visit to the recycling centre
Read more: A beginner’s guide to Meals on Wheels volunteering (and why it’s so great)
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