Student Outreach Group Marks International Women’s Day

March 21, 2014

Every year on March 8th, individuals from around the world celebrate the achievements and contributions of women everywhere.

People have been making tributes to women for centuries, dating back to the women’s suffrage movement in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, which was spurred by some of the political campaigns and social reforms of the time; demanding equal rights for women, including the right to education, work, recognised citizenship and hold a vote.  Notwithstanding the numerous gains that have been made towards the realisation of gender equality since, it is still disheartening to think of all the forms of injustice, violence and oppression which still exist for many women today.

In recognition of what still needs to be done, this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, was ‘Inspiring Change’.  Despite having evolved over the years to incorporate new traditions, the motivations and the underlying ethos remain the same.

In Dublin, many actors throughout the week leading up to March 8th hosted events to honour and celebrate women. Members of the Irish Forum for Global Health’s Student Outreach Group took part in various events around the city and here reflect on some their experiences.

 

International Women’s Week at TCD

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Launched by Senator Ivana Bacik and Sheelan Yousefizadeh on Monday March 3rd, Trinity College Dublin hosted an array of events to mark its annual International Women’s Week celebrations. Spearheaded by TCD’s Equality Office and run with support from a magnitude of college societies and departments, there were over 15 events held  throughout the 5 days leading up to International Women’s Day. From film screenings to debates and research presentations, the week commemorated  women within Trinity, Ireland and around the globe.

A full list of events held by TCD can be found on the TCD Equality Office’s page.

 

Facing Mirrors Film Screening and Discussion
Throughout TCD’s International Women’s Week, the Equality Office and the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Studies organised a series of film screenings, highlighting the contributions of female directors and producers from Afghanistan and Iran. The first of these films, Facing Mirrors (youtube link), was screened on Thursday March 6th, and was followed by a discussion with Masserat Amir-Ebrahimi, a visiting fellow in Trinity College, Dublin.

Based in Iran, Facing Mirrors is a film about two characters with very different stories that come find they have more in common than initially thought, helping to form a previously unexpected friendship. With one of the characters being transgender and escaping an arranged marriage, the film touches on themes that cause the audience to examine women’s rights from a variety of perspectives and contexts – highlighting that though the specific pressures and oppressions women face may be different, all women can relate to being limited by gender inequalities.

The film series will be shown for three weeks in March. More information on the upcoming films can be found here.

 

Photo Exhibition – Putting Women’s and Girls’ Reproductive Health at the Heart of Development Policy
On Wednesday March 5th in the Mansion House, the All Party Interest Group on Reproductive Health and Rights in Development launched an exhibition of photographs highlighting the centrality of reproductive health in development. TDs and Senators from the All Party Group chose a selection of photos provided by the UN population fund, UNFPA, many from the annual UNFPA State of the World Population Reports. With support from the Irish Family Planning Association, the exhibit showcased selected photos that addressed multiple topics in relation to women’s reproductive health, including reflective captions written by members of the All Party Group.  With a key note address given by Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, TD, the photos depicted a range of pertinent issues; from school attendance rates, to family planning education, child marriage, and obstetric fistulas. These photos represented the many achievements in women’s reproductive health while also reminding the audience that there is still so much more to be done for women and girls worldwide.

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As stated by Minister Costello during his address, Ireland is “seek[ing] to have gender equality as a stand alone goal in the post-2015 [development] agenda”, with gender mainstreaming throughout all of the projected targets. In reflection of all of the posters around the room, and expressions of reproductive health, or the lack thereof around the globe, the audience was reminded of how important the goal for gender equality remains. Whether it is in support of reproductive, economic, educational or political rights, true progress in any context, cannot be made until women and men are treated as equals and inequalities in access and choice are obsolete.

The exhibition continues throughout the month of March at The Irish Aid Volunteering and Information Centre.

 

The new abortion legislation: a doctor’s or a woman’s right to choose?
As part of the TCD International Women’s Week, this event took place on Wednesday March 5th and was co-organized by Medical Students for Choice and Doctors for Choice. Professor Veronica O’Keane, a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer, discussed the history of abortion legislation in Ireland and the new legal landscape resulting from the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.

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Despite The Act being an advancement in reproductive health for women in Ireland, it was discussed how the law still limits women from comprehensive and appropriate access to reproductive health services.  As Prof. O’Keane stated, “the bill is the best thing that has happed in this country for women wanting abortions”, yet there is still much to be done in favour of abortion rights. Though The Act is a step in the right direction, women’s choice can nonetheless be undermined by the medical professional – as they are the deciders in whether or not an abortion can occur. Under the law, the only choice a woman really has is weather or not she applies to obtain an abortion. That being said, the event did showcase the many groups and supporters in Ireland that are continuing to advocate for improved abortion services and empowered choice. The event highlighted the demand for greater autonomy over one’s reproductive health choices – and the question of whether or not current laws are sufficient to support this.

 

Overall, it was a wonderful week of events in Dublin, celebrating women in Ireland and around the globe. As important as days like International Women’s Day are for celebrating the successes of women, it is even more important to remember that there is still more to be done in the way of gender equality, and this can only be achieved through collective efforts put forth each and every day.

 

Brynne Gilmore and Bianca van Bavel

– Additional photography by Chiedza McClean

 

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