8th March, we celebrate International Women’s Day, recognising the innumerable achievements of women politically, socially, culturally, and economically in Ireland and around the world. This year’s theme, #BalanceForBetter, is a call to action for increasing equity and equality for women in both the workplace and the home.
As we celebrate the centenary of the first Dáil Éireann, it is important for us all to reflect on the remarkable women who were integral to the founding of our independent state and securing rights for women. Today we commemorate women such as Countess Constance Markievicz, the famed republican revolutionary and suffragette and founding member of Cumann na mBan and Fianna Fáil. As one of the first women in the world to hold a cabinet position as Minister for Labour, she paved the way for women in Government around the world. Lesser known to us, yet important nevertheless, are women like Monaghan-born Mary Lee, a fellow suffragette who played a vital role in Australia for women in obtaining the right to vote and run for parliament, and a strong literary presence of Cavan women in history, from Charlotte Brooke to Marianne Gunn O’Connor.
Today, we have more women in Parliament and decision-making roles than ever before, yet there is much room for improvement. Ireland is not excluded from a long global history of discrimination against women, but great and necessary progress has been made in recent decades. We must stand as advocates for women around the world, from those facing horrific and widespread violence in developing nations to activists fighting for women’s rights.