— Houses of the Oireachtas – Tithe an Oireachtais (@OireachtasNews) March 8, 2023
“We filled the Dáil Chamber with women to show Ireland what Irish politics could and should look like. With #MoreWomen, our democracy will be stronger and more effective.” ~ Women for Election, International Women’s Day 2023
To mark #IWD23, women from diverse, disability and minority backgrounds were invited to the Houses of the Oireachtas by Women for Election to engage with the Women’s Caucus on the theme ‘Gender equality in politics’.
On behalf of the women of the EPIC Youth Council, Andrea Reilly delivered an address to the packed Dáil chamber (of women!) alongside incredible representatives from AkiDwA, the Irish Traveller Movement, TENI and the Irish Second-Level Student’s Union.
I am delighted to be here today amongst women from all backgrounds, standing side by side to show that together, we are powerful.
My name is Andrea Reilly, and I am a member of the EPIC, Empowering People in Care, Youth Council.
EPIC works with children in state care, and young people leaving care up to the age of 26. I am joined today by a group of care-experienced women and staff from EPIC, and we are here to show that despite the stigma and prejudice that exists in society about the care system, we are part of the future of this country.
Currently in Ireland and around the world, women are significantly outnumbered by men in politics. We know that 25% of TDs are women and just 25% of councillors are women. These numbers make very little room for women of different backgrounds, cultures and walks of life. Currently, we have no female representatives in government that speak up on the need for inclusion of care-experienced women in decision making, or represent our views in government.
The theme of International Women’s Day, ‘Embrace Equity’ resonates well with us as female care-leavers, as many of us may have been stereotyped or faced bias because of our time in the care system. There are approximately 6,000 children in state care, and around 500 young people leave care each year in Ireland, many of those being young women. These young women have had such unique and often challenging experiences growing up and have such impactful voices which can change the way we view politics today. Female care-leavers from 18-26 are in such a vulnerable stage of life, and many do not have the family ties or resources to link us to political spaces. If given the opportunity, care-leavers can offer such insightful knowledge in sectors such as education, homelessness and housing, disability, and justice, as well as in the child and youth sector, and can make a massive difference to how the polices in these sectors are made going forward using our own experience.
I believe women bring such a different perspective to politics. They can often be more empathetic and understanding to the social and economic issues women, children and families face. Women of different backgrounds, including care-leavers, have demonstrated they are strong, resilient, and capable, and having us in politics would send an important message to future generations that our voices and contributions are necessary.
So, let’s embrace women, embrace equity, and embrace our stories, to work towards creating a more diverse and inclusive political landscape. You are all EPIC!