Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government
Custom House Quay
Dear Minister Hogan,
The Donegal Democrat has had a very good working relationship with Donegal Women’s Network (DWN) for the past fifteen years. A weekly feature entitled ‘Women’s Lives’ has been submitted
by the Editorial Group of DWN during this time.
The women in Donegal place great trust in this women community- led organisation and often share
very personal stories. ‘Women’s Lives’ provides a voice for women from diverse backgrounds and cultures in Donegal. It highlights the reality of their lives that enables the reader to gain a better understanding of the many challenges that women face as well as raising awareness on the issues and concerns for women and their families in Donegal.
I have attended a number of their AGM.s and had the opportunity to meet and hear first -hand how DWN has supported and engaged with women from throughout the county. We will never know the true impact that ‘Women’s Lives’ has had on the readers and the women whose lives have been highlighted however from feedback it has enriched, informed and challenged many.
As Editor of the Donegal Democrat I believe that DWN has played an absolutely vital role in the Donegal community. It is crucial that their work on behalf of women is allowed to continue.
Editor in Chief
Cross Party support for NCCWN Women’s Networks
Last week, the National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks (NCCWN) made a presentation Cross Party Briefing to members of the Oireachtas.
The presentation was to inform members of the Oireachtas of the valuable work of NCCWN which is focused on women experiencing disadvantage and to seek cross party support to continue to have funding ring fenced to ensure its work can continue into 2015 and beyond.
Forty one T.Ds and Senators attended or were represented. The briefing was arranged by Padraig MacLochlainn, TD, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Defence why not try these out.
Miriam Holt, NCCWN National Coordinator led out by giving an overview of the national organisation and its’ local networks, emphasising the voluntary nature of its management structures and the real impact NCCWN had on the lives of disadvantaged women throughout Ireland. This fact was supported by the many TDs and Senators who praised highly the work of their local women’s network.
Miriam Holt also explained the uniqueness of NCCWN: “What is particularly unique to this national organisation is that it works specifically with disadvantaged women. The work of the 17 NCCWN Projects and its 44 staff is and always has been managed by volunteers, locally and nationally.”
Last year NCCWN engaged with 36,589 women. The depth and breadth of the work of NCCWN was very well outlined by inputs from NCCWN women networks based in Dublin, Donegal and Limerick. The presentations and personal stories shared by women who had benefited from their local network clearly demonstrated that no other organisation fulfils a similar role and thousands of women would be silenced if funding is not continued. In support of having the work of NCCWN funded in 2015 and beyond over 2, 000 letters were sent by women from the 17 NCCWN local women’s projects to Minister Hogan.
One NCCWN project Ronanstown CDP outlined on the day that: they are funded with 3 NCCWN staff; this allows the project to employ 14 additional staff in the project either through Community Employment, Childcare and Department of Education funding. Projects also leverage additional finance to run educational programmes for the community. NCCWN Ronanstown CDP branch reiterated that they have 175 participants using their service on a weekly basis and they care for 26 children in their crèche per day. Economically this highlights how funding NCCWN is excellent value for money.
Many of the issues raised and identified were the same for women regardless of their geographical location. Through involvement with their local women’s network the individual woman’s voice, needs and concerns are articulated at national level. All 17 women’s projects work together to influence policy and decision making at a local and national level.
During the presentation NCCWN highlighted the International, EU and National legal obligations and commitments made by the Irish Government to Women’s Equality. The work of NCCWN was seen as a way of supporting the Governments commitments to these obligations and as a way of addressing the inequality experienced by women in Ireland.
There was representation from all the political parties and a good cross section of Independents. Senator Susan O’ Keefe, Lab, offered her support and Senator John Kelly organised a meeting, prior to the briefing, between Jim McGrath, Political & Policy Advisor to Alan Kelly, Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government and NCCWN.
The political representatives present fully supported the need to have funding for NCCWN continue. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald, SF said “On behalf of myself and Sinn Fein I acknowledge the urgent need for a network such as NCCWN. I pledge my support and that of my party for the retention of NCCWN. The budget for NCCWN in fact needs to be expanded.” Deputy McDonald concluded “I know the huge beneficial effect that work such as yours has.”
Deputy Eamon O Cuiv FF remarked that “There are two issues as I see it. Funding for NCCWN and for the Traveller projects nationally“. Deputy O Cuiv went on to say he would support both NCCWN and the National Traveller Partnership (NTP) to remain as alternative stand- alone entities.
TD Joe Carey FG stated, “I admire greatly the work of the Clare Women’s Network. He thanked and congratulated the presenters and expressed a special thanks and appreciation for the women who told their own personal stories. “The women’s networks around the country are strong and vibrant, I will commit to organising a meeting with the Minister as soon as possible to help NCCWN broker a deal”.
Miriam Holt, National Coordinator concluded the meeting by thanking deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn T.D. and Danielle Martin, his political advisor, for their support and stated “We were truly delighted with the number of T.Ds and Senators who attended or were represented, forty one in total. It is very heartening and affirming to have our public representatives acknowledge and value the work of the NCCWN and to know that we have such extensive cross party support.
<img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-520" src="http://nccwn.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/20140717_152249-1.jpg" alt="20140717_152249 (1)" width="1536" height="2560" srcset="http://nccwn.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/20140717_152249-1 more info here.jpg 1536w, http://nccwn.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/20140717_152249-1-180×300.jpg 180w, http://nccwn.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/20140717_152249-1-614×1024.jpg 614w” sizes=”(max-width: 1536px) 100vw, 1536px” />
Limerick Women’s Network lobbies Alan Kelly over the future of the service
Members of the Limerick Women’s Network with some of the many letters they are posting to Alan Kelly
- Limerick Leader 17/7/2014
- by Nick Rabbitts
SUPPORTERS of the Limerick Women’s Network have sent over 300 letters to Environment Minister Alan Kelly in a bid to save the service.
The Limerick Women’s Network, which is based in Sarsfield Gardens, Moyross, exists to help women find work, or return to education.
Among other things, it aims to develop the confidence of women.
However, the service is now under threat of closure, with funding due to be pulled from December 31.
A new system is being set up, but it is subject to complex tendering processes.
As part of a co-ordinated effort nationally, women’s networks have posted thousands of letters to the newly appointed Mr Kelly asking that he find the €1.3m needed to keep the services on the road.
Limerick Women’s Network coordinator Liz Price said the letters – sent at the Watch House Cross post office – come from individual women who have used the service,
Catherine McNamara, a former director of the network, says if it is wound up, it would be a major loss for the women of Limerick.
“I have seen how successful it is towards women at a very local level. I have seen women who have left school early, offered confidence in themselves. What we do different is that we build up their confidence by doing different courses. We make them aware of equality legislation. I’ve seen women come through, go on and get certificate and diploma courses at UL,” she said.
The Greenfields woman has warned jobs are on the line if the service closes.
“We would lose our coordinator and development worker. Two jobs would be gone, but the women themselves would lose all the connections they have access to, just for a small bit of funding,” she said.
Cllr Maurice Quinlivan also lent his support to the letter campaign.
The Sinn Fein councillor’s mother used the network, and he described it as “one of the best projects we have had in the city.”
8 July 2014
The new Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) has failed to name disadvantaged women as a target group, whereas they were a target group in the current programme, the Local Community Development Programme (LCDP).
Women are understood these days to have equality of opportunity, yet the feature of disadvantage is either not being economically able to access services, supports and jobs, or not feeling entitled to or know how to access these. Women especially experience multiple forms of disadvantage. Forms of disadvantage can overlap, especially the features of class, gender and race. Disadvantaged women have a particular type of disadvantage because they are women, and another because they are living in a disadvantaged area or experience other forms of disadvantage.
SICAP fails to recognise the need to target directly women experiencing disadvantage as opposed to families. Women’s needs are subsumed or conflated with those of families and their children – by the state and by themselves. This is a failure to recognise the gender inequality that runs within families and society. The various forms of inequality are gendered and it does no service at all to disadvantaged women to be omitted in this way. It reflects, rather, the EU identification of priority groups for education and training supports that are those closer to the labour market and ignores the needs that women experience as they age and as their family forms change. Research shows when women are supported it spreads into the family and community and impacts not only on the individual women but also on their communities.
Equality of opportunity requires supports or bridges, ie, the removal of barriers. These barriers can be psychological, cultural, and/or structural. Each woman must have a space to identify what type of barrier is isolating them from participation in society, including the workforce, and how to overcome these barriers by accessing the necessary supports. The White Paper, Adult Education in an Era of Lifelong Learning (2000), for example, recognised the role that women’s community development plays in this consciousness-raising approach. Recognition, however, does not imply the granting of resources. Many women have been able to avail of development opportunities because they have had the resources and a sense of entitlement that it was right and proper for them to do this. What happens the women who do not feel entitled, who carry a larger set of risks in making any change? Steps forward have to be very carefully negotiated.
Women’s community development recognises the need for safety. The first contact is made through outreach approaches, when a woman is encouraged to come to a centre or activity that will be safe, relaxed and non-judgemental. The Matthew effect (that adult development opportunities are availed of the most by those who need it the least) requires skilful and knowledgeable handling, and outreach involves first engaging and developing relationships that respect the woman’s own context, experience, and wishes. Needs can then be identified, and provision organised to meet those needs. This bottom-up approach ensures that, for example, childcare is available if required. It was the women’s development movement of the 1980s that had the motto ‘no crèche, no class’. The NCCWN member projects recognise this crucial support as only one of many that are needed to overcome barriers.
Why look to maintain a national organisation for women experiencing disadvantage rather than look for local programmes only? The NCCWN maintains a focus on the most disadvantaged women rather than those who have knowledge and the means to access services and supports as they require. It is the only women’s organisation in Ireland working on the ground with a direct feed from the local to the national giving women experiencing disadvantage a voice at local and national level. This brings women’s needs into civil society and the public sphere rather than keeping women marginalised and disadvantaged in the private sphere. Silence maintains the structures that marginalise such women. A key goal in SICAP is to build the capacity of people to represent their needs: political and public structures are characterised by an under-representation of women as it is: imagine how much more difficult it is for disadvantaged women to represent themselves. Retaining the current NCCWN structures would also help to strengthen local democracy in relation to women from disadvantaged communities and support “their right to influence the decisions that affect their lives and communities” (Putting People First). In 2013, NCCWN engaged with over 36,000 women. The NCCWN member projects are the only ones the many of these women have contacted or engaged with where they are able to find and use their voice.
The projects, as assisted by the NCCWN, address issues relating to mental health, domestic violence, childcare, etc because they can address the local-level gaps and link in with local services. The local projects identify issues for national action, as well as share best practice in engaging and meeting the needs of disadvantaged women.
Feminism, while recognised for its consciousness-raising practices, has failed to engage all women, particularly working-class women and women experiencing disadvantage. It cannot be presumed that the gains of feminism have ensured equality of opportunity for all women. This is where the NCCWN comes in: a feminist organisation with a class analysis.
Dr Maeve O’Grady