We’re Making Progress: Hope in the Face of Climate Catastrophe

We’re Making Progress: Hope in the Face of Climate Catastrophe

We’re Making Progress: Hope in the Face of Climate Catastrophe

Person holding globe at sunset
Emily Murphy

25th of July 2022

Climate catastrophes, extreme and expanding poverty, and war are regular features in both national and international news in recent years. One could be forgiven for the belief that the planet and its inhabitants are doomed. While we are by no means out of danger, there are enormous victories which should be acknowledged and celebrated.

For most of my life, and for the entirety of others, global warming has been a semi-regular topic in conversations at home, at school, and in general. Despite expert warnings from as early as the 1970s, few were aware of the drastic impact we are having on our world, and the implications both for the climate and for us. Since the mid 00s, there has been a growing movement working towards reducing and reversing climate damage. We have made extraordinary advances in solar and wind technology, and have improved building regulations to be less energy demanding. However, these are not nearly where they need to be yet; Germanys ‘Energiewende’ is a prime example. Germany had impressive plans to entirely phase out fossil fuels; and then they backtracked. Essentially, renewable technology was not advanced enough to replace fossil fuels. The government later announced plans to uplift a forest to access its coal reserves, out of sheer necessity. Energiewende costs €32 billion annually, and unfortunately it did not progress as the German government had hoped. However as an increased number of nuclear reactors across the country are being retired, it seems the nation is getting back on track once again. The potential for sole renewable power is impressive, although we should ensure its reliability before whole transitions, and allow Energiewende to inspire and educate.

The measures we have implemented to reduce our climate impact have not been in vain … we have the potential to heal the damage we have caused.

Ireland is falling short of our climate targets in most categories, and it is very disheartening for those who strive for change. It is important to note that while we should endeavour to meet all agreed-upon measures, governments often make promises to achieve these incredibly impressive targets knowing they will not. The reason for this is rather simple: the higher your target, the harder you push. If we only set our ambitions at what we knew we would achieve, and fell short the outcome would be much worse. By overestimating ourselves we still fall short, but do so having achieved more than we otherwise would. This is nonetheless frustrating for citizens. However, humanity has made enormous strides and should not allow our annoyance to distract from these.

Remember acid rain? It is an umbrella term for precipitation that contains an acidic component, typically sulfuric or nitric. In the 1989s, 1990s and early 2000s it was a commonly discussed issue, and regularly featured in academic text books for all ages. We never hear about acid rain anymore, why? In a nutshell, we fixed it. Before interventions, it was estimated that 4000 lakes in Sweden were acidified (and therefore unable to support life), water systems globally were likewise affected, and the problems were blamed for weakening buildings and support structures. So how did we solve it? We stopped burning coal (for the most part) and installed ’scrubbers’ to clean factory emissions. Additionally, we installed catalyst converters in cars to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. While there are some more recent instances of this occurring, it is under control in Europe and America, and very much a problem of the past. 

Remember that big hole in the ozone layer that was ‘giving everyone cancer’? It’s fixing itself. The ozone layer is a layer of earth’s stratosphere consisting of gases that absorb most of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Ozone holes are formed when heat and sunlight cause a reaction between hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. In 1974 a paper showed that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in spray bottles were depleting the ozone layer. The paper earned Paul Crutzen, Mario Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland a Nobel Prize and led to questions about fixing the invisible hole in the sky. So how did we fix it? As previously mentioned, we reduced nitrogen oxide emissions and drastically reduced our output of CFCs. The ozone hole discovered over Antarctica has almost completely fixed itself. This does not mean that the ozone layer is out of danger, on the contrary there are still ‘mini-holes’ being discovered. It does however mean that the measures we have implemented to reduce our climate impact have not been in vain, and that we have the potential to heal the damage we have caused. It’s clear we can do it.

While we are by no means out of danger, there are enormous victories which should be acknowledged and celebrated.

I am by no means suggesting that we put down our tools and let the planet do the rest from here. The changes mentioned above and a multitude of others required a lot of time and effort, and have received quite a bit of push back from the opposition. But they were achieved. We have a long way to go if we are to see the changes we wish to in the near future, but the next time you get disheartened or wonder “what’s the point?”, think of the good that people like you have done so far, and remember we have not yet done anything to the planet that we cannot help undo.

Featured photo by Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND News & Comms Intern Criomhthann Morrison.

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Travellers and Access to Education

Travellers and Access to Education

Travellers and Access to Education

Traveller Women Graduating from UCC
Louie Lyons
15th of July 2022

Travellers, recognised by the Irish government as an indigenous ethnic group in 2017, have been victims of systemic and structural barriers to education that have seen them experience some of the lowest rates of participation in third level education of any demographic in Ireland. In December 2018, The Irish Times reported that only 1% of Traveller children go on to third level education. By comparison, in the same year, The Irish Times published an article entitled, “Are we sending too many young people to third level?” in which the education editor, Carl O’Brien, opined that there may be too many students (over 60%) from the settled population of school-leavers attending university. This dichotomy was how things stood back in 2018 and, perhaps not unsurprisingly, this disparity between settled and Traveller students has been exacerbated by the recent Covid-19 pandemic. An entire ethnic group left out of the Irish education system begs the questions, why and what needs to be done to tackle this inequality?

The lack of access to third level education arises from historical discriminatory processes of educational segregation of Travellers from their settled counterparts at the primary and post-primary level. Throughout the 1960s, and right up to the 2000s, Traveller-only schools were an accepted norm. A common belief throughout this time, and one that prevails to this day according to Bernard Joyce, Director of the Irish Traveller Movement (ITM), is that Travellers had no interest in education. The reality, as Mr Joyce points out, is that this is a harmful stereotype, externally imposed upon them, and that attitudes towards education are overwhelmingly positive, with all levels of education being valued within their community.

Government-sponsored and independent research into segregated educational institutions have repeatedly stated that it would be beneficial to integrate Traveller students into mainstream schools. Some progress was made towards this goal in the 2000s, which saw efforts to integrate and desegregate education with the introduction of resource teachers and visiting teachers into mainstream schools. Resource teachers assisted schools in meeting the needs of Traveller students and visiting teachers advocated on behalf of Traveller students and aided parents and communities with enrolments and entitlements. However, progress ground to a halt when funding for these positions was decimated during the post-2008 recession and the ensuing austerity, with spending on specific Traveller educational needs cut by 86.6% between 2008 and 2013, as outlined by Pavee Point in their report, Travelling with Austerity.  

An entire ethnic group left out of the Irish education system begs the questions, why and what needs to be done to tackle this inequality?

More recently, there has been financial support for Traveller progression to higher education. In 2021, €300,000 was provided by the government through the Dormant Account Fund to Higher Education Institutions for “Traveller progression to and retention in higher education”. Further financial support is on the horizon in 2022, specifically €450,000 is being allocated to HEIs for similar purposes of transfer to and retention in higher education. Now that it appears funding is returning to the project of Traveller integration, it is appropriate to discuss with experts in the field such as Mr Joyce, as well as Ms Grimson, coordinator of the Trinity Access Programme (TCD), both of whom agreed to be interviewed, what the best use of this money will be.

On the face of it, it may seem that a return of financial investment ought to lead to considerable improvements in the welfare of Traveller students and result in growing numbers making the progression to third level. However, both my interviewees agreedwere in agreement that the amount of investment is still not sufficient to current needs and as Mr Joyce made clear, it is not enough to target third level institutions as by that time many Traveller students have already left the education system.

The stated goal of the funding for HEIs reflects an inclusive agenda but by the time Traveller students have reached third level they have already endured years of social exclusion and torment from their peers, teachers, and schools at both the personal and structural levels. Tackling the apathy of the education system towards Travellers must begin at a younger age and must involve a greater amount of cultural and social investment in Traveller students, not just the economic. “From the leaves and branches to the grassroots, Traveller children don’t feel comfortable or welcomed [in schools] as not only have they to contend with the schoolwork but they also have to contend with not being happy” Mr Joyce said.

For many Traveller students it may seem that they are actively being pushed out of the educational system by having low expectations imposed on them by their teachers and schools, leading to an insecurity on their part in relation to their abilities. Mr Joyce pointed to instances where Traveller students were given textbooks of lower academic levels and were not expected to keep up with the same standard as their peers. This is further rendered problematic for the students in question as they fail to see their culture reflected amongst their peers, or within the school curriculum. Traveller students note that there is even a lack of Traveller-focused representation on the school’s cultural walls (which are a feature of most primary and many secondary schools in the country), further compounding the sentiment that they are not in an institution which is welcoming to either them or their culture. These exclusionary elements have a negative impact on school performance and attendance. And all of this assumes that Traveller students are being encouraged by the school itself to attend, even when enrolled. Mr Joyce highlighted that in 2021 it was discovered that many Traveller students were being targeted for reduced-hour timetables, a practice that ITM argues must be eradicated since it is an overt example of structural discrimination.

The stated goal of the funding for HEIs reflects an inclusive agenda but by the time Traveller students have reached third level they have already endured years of social exclusion and torment from their peers, teachers, and schools at both the personal and structural levels.

Another aspect of this debate that Mr Joyce outlined was the difficulty for Traveller students in separating the struggle in school with the struggle they face at home. “Traveller accommodation is often isolated from schools and may lack working showers, etc, so children are having to contend with school with fewer resources at home than their settled counterparts.” In 2019, the Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance condemned Ireland for the amount of funding being provided for Traveller accommodation. This disparity between at-home resources has become more apparent with the onset of the 2020 pandemic and at-home schooling where access to wifi and technology was of paramount importance, as Mr Joyce observed “many Traveller students have not returned to school since the reopening of schools.”

Returning to the question of the number of Travellers making it to third level, what can be done to tackle this culture of discriminatory disinterest in Traveller students? It is evident that the core issue is the necessity to increase the numbers of those completing second level education and all solutions must occur in tandem with primary, post-primary, and third level institutions.

The lack of representation at the primary and post-primary level was presented in the Government’s National Traveller Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017/2021 (NTRIS). This report acknowledged the lack of Traveller and Roma history and culture being discussed at the primary and post-primary level which contributes to a poor school retention rate on the part of students from both communities. Despite this explicit acknowledgement, implementation of the Traveller Culture and History in Education Bill 2018, has been unbearably slow. Representation, is a vital tool in combating racism and discrimination but, as Deputy Thomas Pringle pointed out in a Dáil debate on the 2018 Education Bill, “only if it is taught by teachers who are trained and culturally competent.”

This raises a point regarding the necessity for an increase in anti-racism education, workshops, and talks for teachers and students at all levels of education. Organisations such as ITM and each equity, diversity and inclusion office within the nation’s HEIs must ensure that environments of bullying or alienation are eradicated in lecture theatres and classrooms through anti-racism and cultural awareness teaching, echoing the calls of many student unions around Ireland. Speaking with Christine O’Mahony, DCU’s Diversity and Inclusion Officer who has long campaigned for anti-racism training in universities, she said “Anti-racism training is essential for universities. It should be aimed at the staff that don’t fully understand racism and microaggression… and help them realise that things that they are doing could be offensive to minority groups. Anti-racism training assists in making universities a safe space for minority students.”

Once the environment is comfortable enough only then can programmes such as the Trinity Access Programme look to increase capacity building in schools and allow for a return of the resource and visiting teachers, bolstering mentorship programs to handle the logistics of third level for students who may have no prior information about how to navigate registration, module enrolment, joint honour systems, etc as Ms Grimson said TAP wished to do.

The €750,000 made available by the government in recent years is merely the right amount to tinker around the edges of the educational system but is not the overhaul of a pervasive dismissive culture that leaves Traveller children behind from the youngest age, with long-term negative repercussions not only for the individual and community alike, but also for the nation as a whole.

Featured Image by Virgin Media News

This article was supported by: News & Communications Intern Penelope

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Global Citizenship in a Changing World – Reflections from the 2022 IDEA Conference

Global Citizenship in a Changing World – Reflections from the 2022 IDEA Conference

Global Citizenship in a Changing World – Reflections from the 2022 IDEA Conference
Protesters Attend March for Refugee Rights
Criomhthann Morrison
8th of July 2022

970 Years and 1 Month

Graduating mid-2020 and working amidst spikes and lockdowns, I have been fortunate to find opportunities to connect with people from across Ireland and the world through various online programmes and groups. While Ireland-based activities have gradually introduced in-person components, it’s no surprise that the annual IDEA Conference in June 2022 was the first in-person conference since the pandemic outbreak for many, including myself. Titled “The Future of Global Citizenship – educating for a changing world,” those attending were invited to look ahead to what global citizenship could look like across every facet of life for all.

The conference opened with the usual ‘long time, no see’ natter, and the facilitator Charo Lanao brought everyone together with groups physically crafting ‘‘living sculptures” of their visions for the present and future, as well as reflections on people’s experiences and backgrounds. A tally counted 970 years and 1 month of collective ‘global citizenship education’ (GCE) knowledge in the room on that one day. So I expected to pick up a thing or two.

Panel Exploring Polarisation and Systems Change

 

 

Biographies for each speaker can be found here on the IDEA website.

 

The opening panel dealt with the structural and systemic problems in our societies, workplaces and governments and how individual actions and lived experiences fit within solutions to address these. Dr Peter T. Coleman, Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University, highlighted how GCE practitioners can consider the polarisations around them and their participants, and the pursuit of ‘positive’ peace and ‘negative’ peace (“the promotion of peacefulness through positive interactions like civility, cooperation and care” peace” versus “the absence of violence, destructive conflict, and war,” bold added).

I found this distinction a helpful example of how even the most seemingly straightforward ideas can contain quite diverse and even incompatible assumptions and expectations, depending on the people ‘in the room’. This awareness of what we bring to the conversations and groups we find ourselves in is always worthwhile, helping us identity and talk through sometimes subtle yet substantial differences in how we understand the problems and worlds around us.

Dr Ebun Joseph, Director of the Institute of Antiracism and Black Studies (IABS), amongst many other qualifications and roles, also emphasised the importance of ‘healthy conversations’ for addressing the sticky behaviours and systems of oppression we haven’t fully shaked off yet (a purposeful choice of words, as opposed to ‘difficult’ conversations, which can prime people to resist, defend, or fight). Using an instance of racist descrimination between colleagues in a workplace as an example, Dr Joseph advises that the whole workplace should be involved in the resolution, not just the people directly involved. When discrimination happens within any context, whether at work, in education, or in public, we need to explore how and why it was enabled in the first place, and then actively change the structures and behaviours which allowed discrimination to happen. 

Most of us can name a dozen angles from which we do not face barriers and discriminatoin in everyday life like other people do, and we all have a responsibility to be part of the movements to rid of prejudice and abuse. Demanding healthy and meaningful conversations from ourselves and the spaces we’re in is one vital step in being part of an equitable, just and sustainable present and future for all.

 

Director of IDEA Frank Geary and Irish Sign Language Interpreter during the Opening Remarks.

 

Panel Exploring Challenges in the GCE Sector

 

 

The second panel gave space for 4 speakers to share their insights on key issues in the GCE sphere and the directions the space is moving in, followed by some questions from attendees. To briefly summarise some really rich sharing:

Ikal Ang’elei, an environmental activist, spoke about the importance for practitioners and activists to always work with and alongside affected communities, citing her experience as Co-Founder and Director of Friends of Lake Turkana, which works for social, economic and environmental justice for the lands and people in the area. It is an easy though grave error for genuinely enthusiastic and well-meaning individuals and groups to get caught up in their visions for their solutions instead of constructing these in partnership with the people impacted. The phrase “Nothing about us without us” springs to mind.

Mamobo Ogoro, an award winning scholar, social entrepreneur, activist and artist, followed by emphasising inclusion and belonging as key elements to reaching these visions GCE practitioners often strive for, naming dialogue as fundamental to her work with her digital media start-up GORM Media and her PhD research with minorities in Ireland. This calls for practitioners to challenge box-ticking exercises of simply getting certain people are ‘in the room’, asking if everyone in the room is fully able participate in conversations and decision-making, and what we need to do on the individual- and system-level to promote this ‘belonging’ for all. 

Dr Audrey Bryan, Associate Professor of Sociology in DCU, then raised critical questions about the individualisation and prescription of GCE in Ireland. She also cautioned the increasing focus on measurable technical skills to the detriment of considering holistically the relationships between individuals, their communities, and the challenges faced across society. Dr Bryan spoke to these ideas and more at the recorded webinar Future Trends in Development Education hosted by IDEA in Dec 2021.

Bobby McCormack, Co-Founder and Director of Development Perspectives, talked about developing the ‘innovation ecosystems’ within the sector and emphasised the opportunities for partnership especially with less obvious colleagues, sharing the example of Development Perspectives working with EirGrid to host community forums to include their voice in several energy projects. This suggests interesting opportunities outside the normal bounds of what organisations consider GCE and their roles in a changing world, offering bridges between areas of life not typically linked, from the energy system to community health to agriculture to far more.

During the Q&A, I found one moment worth noting: one attendee asked for suggestions for teaching useful and abstract tools like systems thinking to children, and another attendee quickly took the microphone to share resources produced by their own organisation for exactly this purpose. While a small interaction, it was hardly minor, and just one reminder from the day of the value of sharing these open spaces with our peers. Someone sitting behind you often has something that will help you, even before you realise you need help.

 

Conference Facilitator Charo Lanao speaking to the 70+ in-person attendees.

 

Panel Exploring Challenges in the GCE Sector

 

 

The second day of the conference ran online with two sets of workshops running parallel, which posed me the challenge of which to sign up for! The first I chose was Ecosystem Restoration and Development Education: Regenerating people and wider nature with Gareth Conlon and Karen Jeffares. I managed to catch the latter half which explored the lands, organisms and food around us, and how as GCE practitioners, mindsets should focus on bringing about positive transformation within communities, not particular solutions per se. Group discussions included reflections on how workshops with schools often implicitly task children with convincing the adults in their lives to make changes and the challenges this entails regarding justice and responsibility. Topics also arising included ‘pedagogy of hope’ and potential routes for collaboration across sectors, for example GCE and farmers.

This session posed important questions about our responsibilities as practitioners to the people and groups we work with, who we engage with in the first place, and why. Our answers can inform how we approach our work and help us to see the groups we work with (and don’t work with) as multifaceted and feeling pressures from various directions. What does this mean for fostering space to communicate, build skills, and perhaps sow seeds for peace – and which kind?

The second workshop I attended was Global Business and Human Rights with Mark Cumming. Business is an area many in GCE spaces are averse to, so the workshop sought to highlight the importance of working for human rights in the business realm, and to equip attendees to do so. We explored power of and accountability within business spaces, the state of affairs in Ireland, and what practitioners and the sector can do now and moving forward to better engage with the private sector. One key point made is the importance of building communities and movements for change, including encouraging people to join communities for their passions, and even trade unions, which the large majority of attendees reported not being part of. 

Early in the final workshop, Cumming referenced the Audre Lorde quote “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” This is a challenge for all GCE practitioners in their work: to what degree does the work we do uphold existing structures and systems despite best intentions, and to what degree does our work truly enable communities to achieve their visions within – dare I say – a changing world? Don’t worry, I don’t have a clean answer either.

 

 Lizzy Noone from WorldWise Global Schools speaking during a Q&A.

 

The Value in Sharing Space

 

 

I didn’t get the chance to attend the other two workshops, Transformative Education in Times of Crises with Tereza Čajková and Aurèle Destrée or War, Peace and the Future of Development Education with Zelalem Sibhat, Dr Gerard McCann, and Dr Gertrude Cotter, though from the titles alone, it’s clear GCE practitioners are working hard to locate their work across the different aspects of global and local challenges communities are facing around the world. That said, judging from my conversations with several speakers and attendees, perhaps people were most excited to simply share space with each other and feel more connected with and part of a larger whole.

What I am most excited about are the coming weeks and months, when the conversations and ideas shared will percolate in my mind and influence my work in obvious and subtle ways, some examples of which already spring to mind. And so what are the next steps for global citizenship and educating in a changing world? Healthy conversations, critical reflection, and collaboration across sectors may not be novel suggestions to some or most, but are nonetheless vital to achieving a present we can stand over.

Feature photo caption: From the left: unnamed, Susie Spratt from An Gáisce, Tahla from Amnesty, unnamed. Contact criomhthann@stand.ie if you feature in this photo and would like to be named.

Featured photos by Méabh Hennelly with permission from IDEA.

Connect with Criomhthann over LinkedIn or Twitter.

This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin and STAND News & Comms Intern Penelope Norman.

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Meet Treasa Cadogan, United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland

Meet Treasa Cadogan, United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland

Meet Treasa Cadogan, United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland

Protesters Attend March for Refugee Rights
N K Initials for Niamh Kelly

6th of July 2022

Treasa Cadogan is a United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland for 2021-22, and “a very proud Cork person” from Cape Clear Island (with a population of less than 200 people, according to the 2016 Census). The United Nations Youth Delegate Program began in Ireland in 2015 with support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and National Youth Council of Ireland. The goal of the program is to empower young people “to be active global citizens contributing to building a world of justice, equity, and dignity.”

 

Treasa’s Journey to the Role 

Treasa’s journey to becoming a Youth Delegate was an accumulation of previous experiences and undertakings. “Nothing stands alone, nothing stands by itself”, according to Treasa, whose first involvement in community work began at a young age when helping her mother with local family fun days to raise money for charity. Later on, Treasa engaged with more local issues and joined the board of the Cape Clear Island Development Co-Operative. Alongside her growing interest in community work, Treasa became more involved in advocacy when completing a Bachelor’s degree in International Development and Food Policy in University College Cork. Her studies helped to lay the “foundations for becoming a youth delegate” which combined with her local community involvement and learning more about global issues.

A rural upbringing on a small island has surely influenced Treasa’s areas of interest including “rural development, youth participation and getting young people involved”. The limited number of people on Cape Clear impacts on who interacts with who, what everyone talks about, and how often these interactions occur. Treasa notes that intergenerational learning is a huge part of her rural community, and that the benefits of sharing different perspectives (particularly across generations) and learning from each other are integral to local, as well as international, development.

Treasa also has “an interest in food systems and sustainable farming, which, obviously coming from rural area and from a farm, it kind of goes nicely into that kind of climate action that [she] feel[s] like our whole generation is really interested in”. Treasa was awarded the Climate Ambassador Outstanding Achievement Award in 2020 for her work on local climate action in Ireland, and becoming a Youth Delegate has given Treasa the opportunity to see how these local issues are a microcosm of global problems such as climate change.

Since becoming Youth Delegate, Treasa has become more aware of issues beyond Ireland and what is reported in the Irish media. For example, a few weeks after the beginning of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Treasa attended the United Nations Security Council and heard about conflicts in other countries she had not been aware of. Learning about other issues does not subtract from what someone already knows, but as Treasa explains, there is “so much going on and you’re forever learning. I think that’s one thing that I enjoy after leaving college, that I still am continually learning”. The willingness to investigate topics for yourself and openness to gaining new knowledge and understanding are essential to move beyond preconceived ideas about global issues.

Treasa has utilised her role as a United Nation Youth Delegate for Ireland to showcase to others the UN’s impact on their own lives, from the  local to the national level. She highlights “how the UN-level policies influence Irish policy, which I don’t think many people know. They just see it as this big kind of institution that kind of talks every so often” and her role as a Youth Delegate entails “bringing other people along on the journey and hopefully informing other people of what we’re getting up to”. During her time in UCC, Treasa co-founded the UCC Fighting World Hunger branch and she is now involved in the Sustainable Development Goals including Zero Hunger. These initiatives have similar aims but are happening on different levels. Similar to the top-down influence of international organisations and governments on policies, local movements also influence from the bottom-up.

 

Policymakers do notice things like that. The government, TDs and MEPs. They will notice these grassroots initiatives which will hopefully create movement in government level policies and local policies.”

 

For example,the formation of the UCC Fighting Hunger branch by Treasa and other students prompted the UCC Student Union into action. UCC Fighting Hunger highlighted the struggles for some students to access affordable food and in response, the UCC Student Union started a food bank to support students in this situation. Grassroot initiatives can draw the attention of larger organisations and leaders to issues that would benefit from their involvement. Local movements can bring about change to government policy, just as governments decisions have local effects, by emphasising issues that impact both levels. As Treasa phrased it, “it’s kind of that bottom-up or top-down. They have to meet eventually in the middle”.

Treasa has also enjoyed meeting Youth Delegates from other countries and expanding her network far beyond Cape Clear and Ireland. A standout moment for Treasa as a Youth Delegate has been attending the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, during which she also attended the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly. Treasa has also given speeches to the European Parliament about youth participation in rural development. She has organised UN Food Systems Summit Independent Dialogues and spoken at events such as Oxford Real Farming Conference and Girl Up India.

 

“The best thing is to just take the first step…”

 

If Treasa’s work as a Youth Delegate and beyond has inspired any young people to become involved in foreign policy and diplomacy, her advice is that “the best thing is to just take the first step” and to join youth organisations such as Comhairle na nÓg or Foróige (if under eighteen), or college societies. Treasa acknowledges that “it’s always so intimidating”, but “these organisations only want to see you improve and thrive”. The smaller steps will build up over time and individuals can learn from their experiences, so “Take the leap!”

The next steps for Treasa include another few months as a Youth Delegate and contributing to another event in New York. In the longer term, Treasa hopes to go into more humanitarian work. Two previous plans to do this were halted because of Covid-19, but Treasa is adamant about going “out in the field, out on the ground”  as “I never want to be the person who speaks about a development issue, but I’ve never actually experienced it in the country it’s happening”. Whether it is a community project on Cape Clear or international work as a United Nations Youth Delegate, Treasa continues to work to bring about positive changes on the local, national and international levels.

 

If you enjoyed this article, you can also read about STAND Contributor Patricia Gonzáles’ Instagram Live Chat with Diandra Ní Bhuachalla, the other UN Youth Delegate for 2021-22, by following the link. You can also watch the full Live Chat with her on our Instagram page @stand.ie, or directly reach it with this link

This article was supported by: STAND News and Comms Intern Criomhthann Morrison

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Meet Diandra Ní Bhuachalla, United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland

Meet Diandra Ní Bhuachalla, United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland

Meet Diandra Ní Bhuachalla, United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland
Protesters Attend March for Refugee Rights
N K Initials for Niamh Kelly
6th of July 2022

Since 2015, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and NYCI have partnered to provide the opportunity for young Irish people to participate in the UN Youth Delegate Programme. Each year, two UN Youth Delegates are chosen to form part of Ireland’s official delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. The aim of this public diplomacy initiative is to provide a platform for young people from Ireland to be represented at the United Nations, and to facilitate greater engagement with Irish youth on national and foreign policy issues. This is a unique opportunity for those wishing to get involved in developing policies that affect young people. 

We got to speak to one of the UN Youth Delegates currently in this role, Diandra Ní Bhuachalla. Diandra has an open mind towards possibilities and willing attitude to try, which has led her to opportunities such as this position. She decided not to pursue a career in law after graduating with an LLB degree, and rather use her experience with advocacy and lobbying to develop a perfect mix for the position she is in today. In our Activists and Innovators Live Chat series, Diandra shared what she does and how other young people can get involved.

 

Diandra Growing Up

From a young age, Diandra has been interested in global issues and injustice. She first became involved in student activism at age 14, when she joined her secondary school’s student council:

 

“The student council gave me an opportunity to be involved with the organisational process of campaigns such as anti-bullying and recycling. I really enjoyed being involved in the student council which led me to apply for Comhairle na nÓg.”

 

Diandra’s time on the Cork County Comhairle na nÓg was particularly characterized by her lobbying on transport for young people, eventually leading to the introduction of the Leap Card in Cork, with reduced fares for young passengers under the age of 19.  

Her volunteering experience with Comhairle shaped her and sparked an interest in politics. As a matter of fact, Diandra holds a Bachelors of Science in Government. During her college years, she did an internship in the New York State Assembly, which resulted in her becoming more interested in policy-making and the legislative system. Diandra believes she is “bringing political science and law together by studying a masters degree in MSC International Public Policy and Diplomacy.”

Her path to becoming a UN Youth Delegate started in 2015 when she first learned about it, though it was not until last year that she decided to go for it: “I waited until I really felt and believed I was the best person for it” (bold added).

Representing 1.3 Million Young People

For Diandra, being a UN Youth Delegate is a huge responsibility: 

 

“It’s an incredible programme, you need to realise its value before putting yourself forward. There are an estimated 1.3 million young people in Ireland, which seems virtually impossible to be able to represent each and everyone of them but it’s my job to be able to represent as many as possible. As a UN Youth Delegate, you’ve been chosen to represent them locally, nationally and internationally. You have to find a balance between both forms of representation; representing your country, and representing the young people of your country.”

 

Being a UN Youth Delegate is a voluntary role and varies widely day-to-day, from taking calls in different time zones to late nights with stakeholders in another country. Diandra has managed to balance her duties as a UN Youth Delegate with being a full-time masters student through her incredible organizational skills. Additionally, she has been able to focus her career path by making academics her top priority: “I have now realised that to make the biggest impact and to truly help people, I need to specialise.” 

Diandra sits in the centre of the photo with a sign on a table in front of her which reads "Ireland". Behind is a large conference room with rows of tables and desks with other representatives at the 66th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women..
Diandra at the 66th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York in March 2022.

“My main hope for the future is to have a future.” 

As a young activist, one of Diandra’s main concerns is climate change: “My main hope for the future is to have a future.” As overwhelming as climate change is, she believes that we still have potential to take collective, empathetic action:

 

“Everyday that we allow species to become extinct, have the worst weather recorded, we allow governments to give the fossil fuel companies a free pass, the longer we are putting the future generations in danger. The WE is collective – fast fashion, big contributors, governments and fossil fuel industry. We’re not feeling it like the Global South is; the impact is felt much deeper there, where the greatest proportion of the global youth population resides. We are furthering the divide in gender, education, and inequalities by ignoring climate change.”

By being a UN Youth Delegate, Diandra represents the power of young people, and hopes to be an encouraging figure for people to follow their dreams. In closing our Live Chat, she reminded us that if young people are experiencing problems, or want to take social or political action, she can be contacted through the UN Youth Delegate @unyouthirl social media channels.

 

 

If you want to learn more about Diandra, you can check out our STAND News Live Chat on our Instagram Page @stand.ie linked here, or watch the Live Chat linked here. You can also follow her journey on LinkedIn here.

If you enjoyed this article, you can also read about STAND Contributor Niamh Kelly’s chat with Treasa Cadogan, the other UN Youth Delegate for 2021-22, by following this link.

You can find author Patricia Gonzáles on LinkedIn by following the link.

 

 

Featured image provided by Diandra Ní Bhuachalla.

This article was supported by: STAND News and Comms Intern Criomhthann Morrison

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Real People, Tangible Action: a Chat with Climate Love Ireland

Real People, Tangible Action: a Chat with Climate Love Ireland

Real People, Tangible Action: a Chat with Climate Love Ireland

Criomhthann Morrison talks with Laragh McCann
Criomhthann Morrison

4th of May 2022

Laragh McCann is co-founder of Climate Love Ireland, a grassroots, community-led group that started out as a response to the global climate strikes in 2019.

The global strike was a ‘game-changer day’ for Laragh at a time when she was finding it hard to find deeper purpose in her work. The strikes and rising climate justice movement reminded of her younger years “getting so much solace” from connecting with nature, climbing trees and swimming in the sea. 

 

“There was so much momentum in general for the climate at the time, and I had it in me for sure”

 

A day before the strikes, Laragh pulled together a small crew to film the day and make a short video, then Laragh made a new Instagram profile where she posted the video and then started sharing pictures, quotes, and facts about climate change.

The page and team grew organically over time. The graphic designer Emma Conway helped design the logo, and then Laragh met Cormac Nugent at a demonstration outside the Dáil, who helped with the Instagram page. Caoimhe (a former STAND Contributor!) also got involved after reaching out for climate strike footage, and started sharing local businesses on the Instagram page..

Laragh eventually felt the page was becoming repetitive and wasn’t sure they were making much impact. Laragh also knew that she herself needed more time in nature, which ended up setting the tone and pace of Climate Love Ireland going forward.

 

“I felt like connecting with nature kind of embodies the solution in a lot of ways”

 

Nature Connection, Community Action, and System Revolution are the three pillars CLI has focused on over the pandemic, which Laragh feels covers the range of aspects and dimensions to climate change and what people can do about it.

And since restrictions have been easing, the CLI community has grown with in-person events like clean-ups and hikes.

 

“You can’t underestimate meeting people in real life and how much that actually leads to tangible action”

 

Laragh highlighted Rob Coleman as one example of this. She met him at a clean-up, connected him with many people who helped him grow his own project, and now has received funding from Creative Ireland for a tree-planting project with primary schools.

Climate Love Ireland also has a WhatsApp group of 80 people where they share shoutouts and resources and give general support. Even as we spoke during the Live Chat, someone asked in the comments to join it!

I reflected with Laragh on how hard it can be to find where you ‘fit’ in what’s going on, and how there are so many different ways to connect with solutions and movements and make an impact at the individual-level or higher. The most helpful thing to do can be taking time to just find what works for your situation and where you can be proactive. Linking in with a community can be really helpful for doing this.

 

“There’s such a sense of urgency with the climate crisis that […] instinctively one feels you have to be up 24 hours a day doing a mending session, swapping, eating nothing […]. It’s not really like that. It’s more about picking the things you know you’re good at and synchronising it with a wider group so that everybody is ticking lots of boxes and taking the slack off yourself.”

 

Laragh then shared one of her favourite phrases, but with a caveat.

 

“‘Less is more’ is one of my favourite mottos, but skillfully so. Not just saying ‘less is more’ and that’s it, but attaching it more to a wider movement, picking one or two things, not trying to do everything, allowing other people to do their bits”

 

Laragh then talked about promoting the many links across social movements, including examples like groups working towards climate justice, promoting feminism, fighting homelessness, and protection for migrants.

 

“Coming back to our shared humanity is the most important thing”

 

Laragh related this to the story of David and Goliath, emphasising that focusing his aim on the most important point is how David took down Goliath.

Laragh continued thinking about the opportunities and challenges in shifting the public consciousness and engaging political power and decision-makers.

 

“The climate crisis is happening. It’s a present-day thing for people”

 

To people who suggest “it’s going to happen anyway, there’s no point in doing anything”, Laragh highlighted that someone in the middle of the drought wouldn’t accept that, rather they’d be shouting out “Do something now”. And even if someone believes there is no way to hold or slow down climate change, there are still all sorts of issues we need to deal with “to make sure people are okay.”

For anyone looking to connect with Climate Love Ireland and get involved, Laragh recommended following the Instagram page for updates on events and activities to meet other people interested in climate justice. Reaching out to join the WhatsApp group is the next thing someone could do.

Laragh also shared two upcoming events: first the event ‘Swim for Bay’ (costumes optional!) for promoting the conservation and celebration of the Irish Sea. Laragh was going to share some words at the event alongside a speaker from Save Our Seas – Dublin Bay. That happened on the 23rd April.

Second was the ‘Eco-Film Night’ in collaboration with Act Now Collective, Ecohun, and Climate Alarm Clock happening on 13th May in Dublin (details on Instagram!).

Prompted for a final comment for the call, Laragh replied:

 

“Just get involved. There are loads and loads of people out there who genuinely care and are interested.”

 

Laragh shared how she has a pattern of presuming people don’t care, and then shutting down, not engaging, and feeling hopeless. But Laragh finds it helpful to practice being more open and having lower expectations of others.

 

“When that happens, you realise there is loads of people who are mentioning climate and things that are related. Just be more optimistic about people, because people do care. But also surround yourself with people who are on the same page.”

 

I had a really nice time chatting with Laragh and definitely recommend checking out Climate Love Ireland’s Instagram page and website at https://www.climateloveireland.com/.

I’m allergic to the extreme cold of the Irish waters, so you wouldn’t have caught me there. So as long as the place is dry, you’ll see me at the film night!

 

IG Live Chat link: https://www.instagram.com/p/Ccp1JEnFhL3/ or watch the video below

 

Climate Love Ireland Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/climateloveireland-419849408774988 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/climateloveireland/ 

Website: https://www.climateloveireland.com/ 

 

Other links:

Caoimhe/Kiva’s film and photography website: https://www.kivadurkan.com/

 

 

All images provided by Recrowned Ireland

This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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Recrowned Ireland: How Women are Looking Out for Each Other Amidst Inequality

Recrowned Ireland: How Women are Looking Out for Each Other Amidst Inequality

Recrowned Ireland: How Women are Looking Out for Each Other Amidst Inequality

Recrowned Ireland logo
Loretta Awiapo

28th of April 2022

“Gender inequality remains one of the most substantial human rights challenges of our time”. Although a significant amount of progress has been made, women still face barriers to becoming leaders and decision-makers on a global stage. Women are still dealing with various forms of gender-based violence. Their confidence and progress are still threatened, and the world is impeding their right to safety and equitable access to fundamental needs. Achieving gender equality is critical to achieving the other sustainable development goals, hence the need for more timely, sustainable, and collaborative local and international efforts for the attainment of SDG5.

 

In Ireland, a group of passionate young black women is addressing SDG5 creatively and holistically by “elevating, empowering, and escalating” the lives of women both locally and internationally. Together, these women make up an organization known as Recrowned Ireland. Recrowned Ireland was founded in April 2019 to give women a safe space to be expressive, confident, aware, and empowered. These women are working to bridge gaps in access to basic needs through mentorship, fundraisers, and advocacy campaigns so that women and girls can live up to their full potential.

 

Recrowned Ireland started as an opportunity for girls to experience support in the form of a big sister role, especially for girls within the community who do not have moms or female figures in their lives. “Empathy is integral to the work that Recrowned Ireland does. It is somewhere a lot of girls can feel safe with being able to come to us, chat with us, and confide in us” says Benita Murinda, Creative Director. Vivian Birungi, the Editor in Chief, narrated a daunting experience as a woman in STEM where upon walking into one of her classes made up of 90% men, she immediately felt like she had to hide and make herself small: “I feel like a lot of women in this day and age of all ages, all backgrounds and whatever jobs and schools they are in, feel like they have to make themselves small and not be outspoken in certain spaces and I think it is important to have Recrowned Ireland where we can give women that voice and let them know that it is okay to be heard, it is okay to stand up for what you believe in, it is okay to promote your business, it is okay to be yourself and to confide in someone.”

 

 “Empathy is integral to the work that Recrowned Ireland does. It is somewhere a lot of girls can feel safe with being able to come to us, chat with us, and confide in us” 

 

 

In addition to running a blog that ensures that women are informed about global events and have a platform to express their thoughts and advertise their businesses, Recrowned Ireland has launched various campaigns to advocate for women. Their “sorry is not enough” campaign raised about 6000 euros to help black women who have been abused access counseling. They also raised 700 euros and sent it to One in Four, a charity in Ireland that offers support and counseling for victims of childhood sexual abuse. Additionally, their menstrual poverty campaign, a result of STAND’s Ideas Collective, is providing sustainable and long-term solutions to menstrual poverty for girls in Ireland, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria. 

 

Recrowned Ireland Team Members

 

The Recrowned Ireland Team expressed how much the support from participating in STAND’s Ideas Collective helped them successfully launch their menstrual poverty campaign. They emphasized how helpful the Ideas collective workshops were in guiding them to develop their menstrual poverty campaign idea. The seed funding they were awarded by the judges and the audience respectively, helped them kickstart their campaign where they collaborated with NICKEZE, an Irish sustainable period underwear brand, to distribute period underwear to women across Ireland who need them. According to them, STAND’s Ideas collective has played a significant role not only in the menstrual poverty campaign but has also helped them grow as an organization: “Leaving that pitch event, not just with the judges’ prize of 1000 euros, but also with the audience prize of 500 euros was a huge win for us because it made us realize that people see what we are doing, and people think that what we are doing is important, and that was very inspiring and uplifting for us” said Maryam Yabo, Sustainability Specialist.

 

Recrowned Ireland is a sisterhood united by the same goals, vision, and commitment to supporting women through sustainable, innovative solutions to ensure that women have an equal chance at realizing their full potential. These women are finding their voices by helping others find theirs and empowering themselves by uplifting others. These women are teaching both men and women that supporting women holistically is everyone’s business. People everywhere must be involved in ensuring that women have safe spaces to show up as they are, regardless of who they are or where they are from.

 

 

 

All images provided by Recrowned Ireland

This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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Meet Stecia, 16 Year Old Ugandan Gender Equality Activist

Meet Stecia, 16 Year Old Ugandan Gender Equality Activist

Meet Stecia, Uganda’s 16 Year Old Gender Equality Activist

Stencia holding a globe
Sarah Kennelly

28th of March 2022

When you ask teenagers what they do in their spare time, you expect them to say soccer, painting, maybe even playing the guitar. What you never expect them to respond with is “gender activism”, which is just what Stecia, a 16 year old Plan International advocate told STAND. 

 

Stand Contributors in conversation with Stencia online

 

Plan International is a humanitarian organization that was founded to advance children’s rights and advocate for gender equality across the globe. Their vision is to strive for a world where “girls can be free to learn, lead, decide, survive, and thrive in all aspects of their lives” (Plan International Ireland, 2022). Currently, they are the leading international development organization in Ireland (Plan international Ireland, 2022). The impact they have on the lives of vulnerable people is astounding. Over 50 million children have benefitted from their work, with 5.5 million girls receiving improved sexual health, and 6.1 million girls gaining better access to education. They help to bring attention to the struggles of both women in Ireland and abroad who are faced with adversity because of their gender.

Uganda is one of the many countries where Plan International is working hard to make a difference. Here, they support the empowerment of children who are exploited because of their gender. Stecia, a Ugandan gender activist, is one of the many young girls they work with. During the interview, she details her journey as a young girl growing up in Uganda and the issues her and her peers face as a result of their gender.

 

Stencia holds a sign which says, 'I imagine a world where all children can access education'

 

Stecia describes herself as a person who “is very passionate about girls’ education […] and active in advocating for girls’ rights”. Her activism was born out of necessity due to the lack of equal opportunity in her community. She describes this inequality as particularly visible in education. Educating young women is seen as a much less important task than teaching them how to be good wives and mothers. These inequalities were exacerbated by Covid-19 which inspired Stecia to take a stand, despite her young age. The economic strain of the pandemic has been felt by families across the globe but can often result in very different consequences. For some, it might mean receiving fewer hours at work, but for girls in Uganda it could mean being sold to men and forced to bear their children. For Stecia, her classrooms were emptied of many girls whose families could not afford to provide education for their daughters. She laments the fact that “so many girls had been left at home but they have taken the boys back to school”.

Stecia has a strong vision for the future and her dreams of a gender equal world spurs her activism onwards. When STAND asked her what a gender equal world looked like to her, she replied “I imagine this being a world where all girls and boys rights are respected and are not violated. A world where all women are given higher political offices. Where all young women are enrolled in school”. She believes that if we were to one day achieve this then it would “impact these young girls and women could be shining stars”.

 

“I imagine… a world where all girls and boys rights are respected and are not violated. A world where all women are given higher political offices. Where all young women are enrolled in school”.

 

However, in order for us to create a world like this and #ImagineEquality we must first unlearn the biased beliefs we have been brought up with. Stecia asserts that we must leave behind the sexist beliefs we hold which leave women marginalized in her community. She asserts that we should “unlearn the belief that women are made to participate in reproductive activities”. She believes that we should, instead, “empower women to become people who can economically develop the world” so that they can support themselves and the world independently.

The power and wisdom of Stecia’s words remind us that age is not always a good indicator of a person’s abilities. When asked about how she has grown to become such a strong activist, she praises the influence of Nabukenya Sophie. Plan International appointed Sophie as a Global Youth Mentor to Stecia where she shared invaluable advice and guidance to her. Stecia describes her as an “iron lady” who acted as a role model to her and continues to inspire her throughout her activism. This showcases how important the work that Plan International is doing by providing children with the support they need to flourish within their communities.

Stecia’s activism is inspiring and encourages us to look at how we can fight for equality in our own communities. We must take a deeper look at what gender equality means to us and work to ensure that women and young girls everywhere enjoy equal opportunities. Although Uganda is a long way away from home, we can still work together to help children like Stecia fight for justice. We can donate to organizations like Plan International, volunteer for developmental charities, and spread the message of young activists. However, our activism shouldn’t stop here when there is also work to do in our own country. We can fight to protect Irish women from the sexual violence and poverty that threatens our livelihoods. If we fight against the misogynistic beliefs and policies within our communities we could create the gender equal world Stecia dreams of. 

 

For more information about PLAN International and their work on gender equality, visit https://www.plan.ie/

 

 

Featured Photo from PLAN International

This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

Imagine Equality Campaign Link

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Finishing College, Among Other Things

Finishing College, Among Other Things

Finishing College, Among Other Things

DCU Campus entrance
Sean Creagh

7th of March 2022

The writing of this article stems from a moment I had last week driving home from college. Sometimes if I am tight for time, I skip plugging the aux cable into my phone and tune straight into the radio. It’s a lottery, really – sometimes you can find an absolute belter; other times, it’s just the nails-on-a-chalkboard screeching of Shivers by Ed Sheeran.

Regardless, on this day, FM104 played the iconic King Kunta by Kendrick Lamar across its airwaves. Turning the volume up, the bass of the car speakers bounced to the ebbs and flows of the melody, transporting me back to a time that no longer existed.

That time was 2018, the year I started college in DCU – a period when I listened to this song a lot. And I mean a lot, a lot. I played the song so much I think my heartbeat manually adjusted itself to the pentameter of the beat after a certain point. Simply hearing it again had unlocked a whole host of memories and people I had not thought about for a long time – and this made me somewhat nostalgic for an era that was not even that far behind me.

That feeling was bizarre. It is almost as if the world before Covid-19 and the one I now occupied existed in entirely different dimensions, totally disconnected. Today, with most of my college degree now behind me, my distanced perspective has made me revise events that happened long ago with a new kind of maturity – and this made me recoil slightly. With today’s knowledge, the thought of having to relive yesterday’s comings and goings can often be a wincing and painful experience.

But the truth is unflinching for all its beauties and flaws. Maybe there are subconscious barriers to why we are not always totally honest with ourselves. There is the danger of being left feeling exposed, or even ashamed, at how imperfect we have acted in the past and how that may come across. There is also the temptation to be disingenuous and colour events in ways favourable to us – overestimating the interest one’s experiences holds for others with selective lapses of memory.

But honesty is crucial when examining the past. If you wish to establish the truth about yourself, you should be willing to take accountability for your actions. In saying that, contemplating on the last four years, I wouldn’t change much. For all the highs I chased that no longer mattered, or lows of not getting it quite right, there is a certain level of comfort in accepting that life is messy, and no perfect time will ever truly exist.

If I were to advise my previous self, or some other person just starting college, I would probably remind them of what is and isn’t essential. While I have not fully finished processing the last number of years (and likely won’t for some time yet), I can tell them with a certain degree of confidence that sweating the small stuff is almost always a waste of your finite energy. If it doesn’t matter in five years, then you shouldn’t worry about it for more than five minutes.

I’d also remind them to take risks out of their comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to sign-up for an unusual society, start a social media profile, or ask the girl out. You’ll thank yourself for it and better understand your strengths and limitations. Your college experience should be about getting an academic degree, as it is learning to grow as a person and redefining who you once were to be a better-crafted version.

Finally, I think kindness goes a long way. From the frequent nod of acknowledgement to your passer-by to holding the door open for someone, these small acts of generosity tend to have a boomerang effect – where it spins back and returns to you when you least expect it, helping during those moments when you need it. Strong relationships will be the key to your happiness and why you return to campus every day; the laughs you have are much more memorable than any lecture content.

Reflecting on all those years gone by now, I know one of these days will be my last walk down the excessively long avenue from the Ballymun entrance. Staring up at the tall elder trees whose long branches hang overhead, having watched their leaves turn from green to yellow to bald, to green again – I know this place belongs to somebody else now.

But that’s okay. Turning the dial once more, a new song comes on the radio.

 

 

Featured Photo from https://www.d11dental.ie/

This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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Gender-Based Violence: Starting, Supporting and Sustaining the Conversation

Gender-Based Violence: Starting, Supporting and Sustaining the Conversation

Gender-Based Violence: Starting, Supporting and Sustaining the Conversation
Woman with tape over her mouth making a silence gesture
Brianna Walsh
11th of March 2022

Some names have been changed to respect respondents’ requests for anonymity.

 

“I think Ashling Murphy has brought out the best and worst in people.” (Sophie, 25)

The month’s mind of Ashling’s tragic death has passed, however, the emotional fallout from the murder of the 23 year old primary school teacher will likely stay with us a lot longer. Since her death, there have been two more notable instances of assault by men against women across public spaces in Ireland. All the while, new developments emerge in the policy arena around how to prevent gender-based violence (GBV) and support victims. Now more than ever, it feels apt to consider the fraught response to this case and the lasting impression it may leave.  As our landscape for change becomes more and more influenced by the media, and in particular, social media, the impact for conversation is significant. While the wave of advocacy in response to this case is welcome, when the issue is as sensitive as GBV, how we talk to each other matters even more. Important questions arise, questions that have an array of potential answers. Each has the power to inspire or isolate, engage or exclude. The legacy of Ashling Murphy’s murder lies not only in its grievous circumstances, but in the context of her death and the discussion it must spark and sustain. Fixed in an Irish and global history of gender inequality, whether this case proves pivotal for progress may depend on how consciously we choose to respond in the modern age.  To capture the ongoing conversation, I attempted to engage, speak and most importantly, listen to young men and women in Ireland, advocates and organisations working in this field. The goal was to explore the consequences of how we communicate in 2022, and how this dialogue can be mobilised to ensure inclusive, effective change going forward. In doing so, a door has been opened into the minds of young people and experts. Behind this door lies a range of thoughts and feelings, beliefs and insights into a perennially controversial issue; men’s violence against women. 

You are invited to step in. 

 

“My initial reaction was kind of like, oh no, not again” (Serena, 22)

 

“[there was] disbelief in the beginning… then I kinda caught myself and said, why don’t I believe this? This isn’t new?” (Deirdre, 24)

 

“We’ve heard this so much over the last two years” (Matthew, 22)

 

These initial impressions of Ashling’s death are chilling. As respondents attempted to encapsulate something “so, so tragic and so, so sad”, there was an underlying current of grim tolerance throughout these interviews. A sense that while shocking, there is little reason to be surprised. 

 

“244 women since 1996. We’ll see another Ashling Murphy, Sarah Everard… the problem isn’t going to go away.” (Deirdre, 24)

 

Each reaction, though striking, was immediate. As interviewees increasingly began to echo each other, one simple question remained: why? Why did this case make such an impact if this happens so frequently? Why, without knowledge of motive nor means, were we so quick to link a stranger assault to the wider issue of GBV? Why, and why now?  Everyone interviewed acknowledged this case as a tragedy and several drew reference to previous tragedies, such as the murder of Urantsetseg Tserendorj last January in the IFSC. However, the impact Ashling Murphy has had is marked, spurring unusually charged sentiment throughout Irish media and society.  Ashling was painted the perfect victim. Young, Irish, innocent, out for a run in broad daylight. “I think the reaction from everyone has been very emotional, which is understandable… we’re 23, we’re students, we graduated as a student last year, I have a friend who’s a teacher… everyone knows an Ashling Murphy, even if you didn’t know her” (Sarah, 23). Serena emphasised the way Ashling was depicted in the media, along with the uniqueness of her death; “I think the way Ashling Murphy’s case was worded definitely had an impact on the way people view it and I know this is terrible to say, but you hear about domestic violence cases more so than murders in Ireland so it’s going to catch people’s attention because it’s quite an extreme case.” Emotions were high and a surge of activism ensued. Social media was alight with six poignant words: She Was Going For A Run. Women shared their own stories of safety, their experiences of assault. Keys between fingers and catcalls on streets. Organisations continued to campaign for change. We were igniting a long-overdue, wider dialogue around gender-based violence. Yet, there were early indications that this advocacy could divide us further.  Making the links between everyday acts of misogyny and an isolated, acute incident like this one is a difficult task. In a media landscape that is increasingly polarised, nuance can get lost in the pressure to take a stance, defend an opinion, and allocate blame for such an incomprehensible crime. This impact is observed most fervently in the #NotAllMen rhetoric that rears its head regularly during these discussions:

 

“Why is it that when a woman is attacked, all men are implicated in somehow being responsible for the crime, but when a woman attacks a man, no such thing happens to women… when men are attacked by men, we only implicate the individual in this case. Men as a whole aren’t implicated. Why the double standard?” (Miguel, 27)

“There are certain words that trigger men and kind of the general population, like feminism, misogyny, patriarchy, you know, toxic masculinity… I also think there’s a huge amount of really complex language being used which completely alienates a very big proportion of society who maybe aren’t as articulate or don’t want to read several paragraphs on ‘why men are bad’”

“There’s a responsibility that does need to be taken by men – that is a huge burden on someone, a huge thing to take on, to say, well my gender keeps killing people, my gender keeps catcalling people in the street, but I’ve never done it – what can I do about it?” (Sophie, 25)

 

Noeline Blackwell, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, assessed the connection between the two. While this “stands alone as a tragedy, there is a parallel…” The response to this case was less about the detailed circumstances of this murder, and more to do with the memories it aroused. 

 

“My sense is it’s not that Ashling Murphy’s death has caused women to be afraid, it has reminded them to be afraid… more and more people started to realise this was the ultimate nightmare but it wasn’t the only nightmare…a lot of people know that abuse doesn’t normally start with murder, it starts with something [small], the abuser gets away with that and so on and so forth until they hit the boundaries…”

“This is a remembrance by women that they are right to be afraid.”

 

Merely by nature of Ashling being a woman, and her perpetrator a man, this case forced us to think about what can happen to women, what does happen to women, at a disproportionate rate in our society. We were forced to consider the fact that she was “doing all the right things”, and still fell victim to an attack. This consideration alone is indicative of injustice. We rarely apply these expectations to male victims in similar circumstances, which in itself tells us that while we don’t know exactly what happened, we make assumptions based on a history of entrenched gender inequality. 

 

“I suppose because we hear about [misogyny] so much, we immediately assume certain kind of factors, when obviously as the story unfolds we get more details” (Matthew, 22)

 

Deirdre reminds us that in trying to assess how and why Ashling died,“you can’t draw a straight line from one to the other, it’s a spider’s web.” It could have been random, psychotic, as likely to happen if it had been a man going for a run. But it also could have happened because Ashling was physically weaker, because there are patriarchal, implicit biases that rendered her an easy target, microaggressions that have an array of consequences; whether that’s upholding traditional, religious values, perpetuating stereotypes, normalising violent behaviours, or making it harder for men to access mental health support. We “jump to the conclusion that this [happened] because she was a woman” because we have no choice but to consider the likelihood that that could be true. We don’t have the privilege of ignoring gender-based factors that could have contributed to this case, like we do with other murders. We don’t know why this happened, which means we can’t really rule any motive or influence out. 

 

“It’s not a nice outcome that her death has sparked this kind of conflict between people.” (Serena, 22)

 

That being said, cultivating constructive conversation around these complex ideas is easier said than done, especially through media platforms. The way we talk about this specific case in the wider context of GBV can still have adverse impacts. Even seemingly positive campaigning can swiftly turn sour. Respondents highlighted how our reaction could affect other victims of GBV, victims who aren’t in as ‘worthy positions’. Those who are wearing the wrong thing, who are out at the wrong time, who are sex workers or domestically abused. The way Ashling’s death was sketched implied “that she didn’t deserve this to happen”, as though others conceivably do. 

 

“Sometimes with domestic assault or cases of rape… they might say [the victim] was walking down a dark alleyway or you know, a young girl had sexual intercourse with her uncle instead of saying, you know, an uncle raped his niece.” (Serena, 22)

 

Sarah regarded our quick reactions as dangerous in this context; “maybe there’s merit in attention being drawn to [gender based violence] here, but I think it hurts those conversations more.”

 

“Saying there’s a continuum of male behaviour that leads to murder, I think that pushes men away from wanting to talk about misogyny, because you’re basically saying I could end up there… and if I’m not addressing that I’m okay with murder, which is not the case… I don’t think that’s a good tactic.”

 

She hoped for more practical discussions around the prevention of stranger assaults specifically and making space for these strategies to be heard. She admitted that voicing this opinion was daunting for her, especially online; “if it is a conversation, don’t use her death to have it – then I can’t disagree with you.” It’s true that at times like this, inaccuracies can be perpetuated by the media that spark temporary fear rather than long term reform. Ryan Hart, an advocate against domestic violence whose father abused and eventually killed Ryan’s mother and sister in a murder-suicide, informed me that 11% of women are killed by strangers in the UK, while 89% are killed by someone they know.  “One thing that really annoyed us about our [case] is that we didn’t know we were victims… domestic violence and homicide was portrayed as one off – out of nowhere.” “That’s why we didn’t know what was going on… [nobody thinks their] father is someone who is going to hurt them…very little attention is paid to true risk areas for women. If the media is not doing a good job at portraying the truth about what is going on, you have a distorted viewpoint [about the] red flags of domestic homicide… I’d like to see the same amount of attention when people are killed by people they know at home.” Noeline explained how the privacy and complicated nature of domestic violence cases mean they’re less likely to be reported on, despite being more prevalent; “one of the attributes of this [case] is its absolute simplicity.” Matthew echoed her thoughts;

 

“there’s a [need] for the media to start [making this issue] omnipresent until a point that it is eradicated… There are so many issues in Ireland in the last few years that become like Ashling Murphy, like ok, it’s really sad, next problem… [there are others] not given enough attention at all…”

“It shouldn’t be as quick. I know, obviously, there’s an issue of trying to sell news, [but] there should be that moral question of there’s a general problem here, what are we, as a media outlet, as the framers of all these stories, what are we going to say about it?”

 

In considering the impact of what we say and how we say it, it’s easy to see how this conversation can become overwhelming, fast. We recognise how complicated it can be to speak up, to engage, or simply to listen and learn what to do next.  Staying silent isn’t an option either. In fact, many of us can’t afford not to have this conversation. This leads us to the ‘how’? How should we talk to each other in a way that is open, conscious and inclusive? How can this discussion best be mobilised to effect positive change for gender equality in Ireland and elsewhere?  One thing we’re lacking is adequate data to help us understand the “web” of causes underlying gender-based violence. Participants struggled to grasp the roots of this issue, theorising patterns of misogyny, suppression of men’s emotions, and a patriarchal “sense of entitlement” as possible reasons for why this keeps happening. An issue described by our government as an “epidemic” and which Noeline observes is relatively class-less compared to other crimes, efforts to “understand what’s driven someone to do this and how we can stop it” appear futile if we are not collecting enough evidence around cause and effect.  Practical and policy responses were suggested, with UCD Student Union’s Darryl Horan citing the need for increased refuge accommodation across the country and SAFE Ireland’s Miriam Kivlehan welcoming the announcement of a single ministry to tackle women’s safety. This is something that the organisation has advocated for years, to address GBV holistically across areas including justice, health, housing and social protection.  Preventative approaches included earlier interventions in education systems to ensure everybody understands the intricate, historical depth of gender inequality, in Ireland and internationally. Within politics, there could be greater female representation and within the media, better portrayals of gender-based violence, domestic abuse and potential innovative solutions. Within the justice system, greater accountability for crimes may be necessary.  Most evidently, we need to re-assess how we speak to each other. When asked about these barriers to communication, Ryan Hart contends that it’s “not helpful to tell people what they can’t do.” It’s actually more effective to tell people what they can gain. 

 

“Any abusive man is miserable… [our father was filled with] resentment, paranoia, he was jealous and bitter, never proud of us or himself… he missed out on a huge amount because of the way he chose to behave.”

“Life without responsibility is dull… without it, you will never [achieve] meaningful happiness. It’s not entirely selfless – men have a lot to gain from understanding gender-based violence.”

 

The way we behave affects everyone. It can benefit everyone, or it can harm everyone. There’s no way to avoid having this conversation, so we’re going to have to try our best to manage it. To take our time, to take away the blame and the boundaries. To accept that we may say the wrong thing. To include and at the same time, hold each other to account. Ultimately, to respect each other. In every domain, every relationship, every way.

At UCD’s vigil in remembrance of Ashling Murphy, Darryl Horan paid heed to the amount of people who approached him and “asked frankly, what’s next?” Men and women alike. Despite divergence, heartache, anger and frustration, there is also hope. There is a bigger picture, within which we are all integral. There is a call to action, if only we choose to listen.

 

Continue the conversation:

Write for STAND News here

Read more articles for International Women’s Day here

Talk to us on: Twitter @stand_ie

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If you are affected by the issues raised in this article, reach out to:

Women’s Aid here 

SAFE Ireland here 

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre here 

Men’s Aid Ireland here 

UCDSU Welfare Officer here 

 

 

Imagine Equality Campaign Link

Featured Photo from Pexels .

This article was supported by: STAND News Editor Conor Courtney and Engagement Coordinator Aislin

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IGHN Student Outreach Podcast With Shubhangi Karmakar

IGHN Student Outreach Podcast With Shubhangi Karmakar

IGHN Student Outreach Podcast with Shubhangi Karmakar

8th of March 2022

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This podcast episode is brought to you by a syndication partnership between STAND News and the Irish Global Health Network.

 

In this episode, we speak to Shubhangi Karmakar! Shubhangi (she/they) holds a medical degree and a MSc in Molecular Medicine from Trinity College Dublin. She has particular interests in psychiatry, science communication, and advocacy for underrepresented groups, such as disabled persons and those in the LGBTQ+ community. She is currently working as an academic intern at St. James’ Hospital.

 

 

Imagine Equality Campaign Link

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The Ubiquity of Violence: Our Cultural Blindspots are Costing Us Lives

The Ubiquity of Violence: Our Cultural Blindspots are Costing Us Lives

The Ubiquity of Violence: Our Cultural Blind-Spots are Costing Lives

Hand with 'Stop GBV' written on it
Sibéal Devilly initials

7th of March 2022

 

I cannot imagine the lived experiences of those who belong to marginalised communities. In a systemically racist and xenophobic culture, the fear I feel as a white, abled cisgender woman is minimal relative to the experiences of those who live in bodies even less respected in Ireland. I do not have the layers of fear many do, and I do not wish to speak on the experiences of others but on the systemic problems of gender-based violence (GBV).

The refusal to recognise the relevance of microaggressions in the culture of this country contributes to our inability to properly address gender-based violence. The idea that there is a relationship between cat-calling or rape jokes, and physical GBV, is one that the boys’ club of Ireland refuses to accept. The fact that 97 per cent of UK students surveyed reported experiencing sexual harassment seems to escape men who regard rape as appropriate material for a joke. That this actually may have happened to women appears irrelevant – as though the pain of others should not prevent men from doing and saying as they please. The reality is that these jokes normalise the compartmentalisation of violent rhetoric and the real-world treatment of women. Globally, one in three women have been subjected to violence in their lifetime, 65 per cent of women have experienced GBV either directly or indirectly, and 40 per cent of women surveyed reported feeling less safe in public spaces since the COVID-19 Pandemic began.

Again and again, as these stories of women being brutally and often fatally attacked come to the forefront in the media, sympathisers recite the same list of facts; those same lists we were taught as children would protect us. It was bright. She was dressed correctly. She texted a friend. She had headphones in. She was polite but not too polite. On and on it goes as though we must preempt reactions to assault with justifications of the victims’ own actions. As though it is the victims of assault who are responsible. As though women walking or jogging or running must qualify the living of their lives as well as doing the right things, following the right rules, doing what they were told was right. The truth is, women can and often do move through life doing what they are taught is right to protect themselves and still, those carrying out the violence are not centred in the conversations. Those attackers, those assaulters, those murderers: they are in the wrong. The reactions rarely highlight the wrongs carried out at the level of specificity that the victims’ actions are defended. Let’s be clear. Men shout at, grope, grab, assault and murder women. Men dismiss fears as silly, men use and abuse positions of societal and physical dominance to enact violence on women that keep us suppressed. And rather than justify their complicity in systems that uphold this power, they say, again and again, that it’s ‘not all men’ and perpetuate the need for sympathisers to justify the actions of a victim.

The truth is, as we have seen, heard, said, and screamed that the rules we were taught about staying safe are simply not working. They’re not working because victims aren’t the ones at fault. I’ll repeat that: women aren’t the ones at fault. Regardless of what they are wearing, where they’re going, who they tell, and whether it’s a scorching summer’s day or a dead winter’s night, nobody should fear for their lives in modern Ireland. No one should have to rethink exercising, socialising, grocery shopping, or anything else women already limit themselves to daylight hours to do. And where do these rules lead us? Don’t get the bus, get a taxi. And then you hear stories about rogue taxi drivers, so you should book a taxi, not hail one off the street. And even then, I have had countless moments of sheer panic when a taxi driver takes a different route than I expected. In the same way that you can dress modestly and be shouted at in the street, you can do all the right things and still end up dead. The actual problem is the inability of those who the system suits to see the connection between micro-aggressions and murder when it comes to women’s safety. The problem is the people enacting the violence.

The solution to this is not to bash men as a group. The solution is to tear down the systems which lead not only to male violence against women but also lead men to have so little space to express themselves and their vulnerabilities that they become violent and harmful to themselves and others. On the subject of solutions, however, neither does the answer constitute the asking of men how they would feel if it was their sister or girlfriend or anyone else in their lives experiencing such violence. We are not just sisters or wives or daughters or mothers. We are not our relationships to men. It’s time our society reflected on the idea that women are people regardless of how they relate to men and that nobody ever gets a free pass to act violently towards others. It’s not that you can’t be violent because you see your sister reflected in another person. It’s because it’s not okay to carry out violence on a person, whether you relate to them or not.

Often when issues in society are highlighted, people immediately demand solutions to problems. I would first like to say that we can point out societal issues without being experts on the answers. That being said, when I lived in Canada, I had a few experiences surrounding how we might address some of the routine micro-aggressions carried out by men. In one instance, a builder working in a different part of the building passed remarks about a young woman who was behind the counter of a cafe I worked in. A few of us as staff of the cafe put in a complaint with the construction company carrying out the work, and within a week we received confirmation that he had been terminated from the project due to the complaint. When I recounted this story to Irish friends, it was met with surprise. Somehow, the prevailing opinion was that because it was non-physical meant that he should not have been reprimanded. However, taking these incidents seriously is A) clearly possible through employment law or harassment clauses in contracts and B) the first step in addressing GBV in adults who are otherwise unlikely to engage with education measures proposed to address it.

Along with the need for changes in how we permit citizens and working professionals to behave towards women, we need a change in state systems that uphold violence against women and marginalised groups. An Garda Síochána was established upon the foundation of the state under the premise of Irish people policing Irish people. Since then, Ireland has changed. It has become a more diverse, more secular, and more accepting place. The Gardaí have not kept up with this development. The behaviour we have seen from Gardaí in recent years, from Dara Quigley’s treatment to cancelled domestic abuse call-outs, to a garda responsible for a rape inquiry receiving 15 reminders without taking action. These actions by Gardaí reinforce to women that our safety is not a priority and that our concerns are not taken seriously until it is too late. It is increasingly clear that the culture of Ireland needs to change, and the systems which currently exist are simply not working. They must be torn down and rebuilt.

The barriers to accessing domestic violence assistance are too high for all women in Ireland but are especially high for those migrant women who live in the country. Language barriers, immigrant status, and not having family support all contribute to difficulties in accessing these services. In 2020, 22% of women who used Women’s Aid’s One-to-One Support service were from migrant communities. 27% of women who contacted their Domestic Abuse Information and Support were from migrant communities. These figures are particularly stark when one considers that migrant women in 2019 made up approximately 6.3% of the population of Ireland. It is necessary to bear in mind that while women are all affected by gender-based violence in this country on some level, for some, it is far harder to get help than others. And in a country that is slow to recognise the experiences of those it doesn’t see reflected in the mirror, it is the hardest.

It is time for us to recognise the disregard not only for women’s safety but for the safety of those who do not fit the paper chain cutouts we made in school. It is time to recognise that the underbelly of aggression in this country extends far beyond the microaggressions we brush off daily. This ripples through to many groups who don’t see themselves represented in state or cultural systems in this country. They are not considered by those in positions of decision-making or power, much less included by them. It’s time to recognise that the culture of Ireland has changed since the foundation of the free state and that the systems that uphold the old Ireland must be changed if not torn down and started anew.

 

Further Resources:

Hush Dialogues: @hushdialogues on Instagram (and their team members’ Instagrams)

Gorm Media: @gormmedia on Instagram and Twitter

The Liminal: a book which ‘challenges all who read it to reassess privileges and socially ingrained biases that have allowed institutionalisation to repeatedly happen in Ireland’ Available at: https://www.tallav.com/products/the-liminal-notes-in-life-race-and-direct-provision-in-ireland

Women’s Aid Ireland

UN Women: https://interactive.unwomen.org/multimedia/infographic/violenceagainstwomen/en/index.html#home

 

 

Imagine Equality Campaign Link

Featured Photo by Byron Sullivan from Pexels .

This article was supported by: STAND News Editor Olivia Moore and Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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