As the May 23 local and European elections draw nearer, the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI) has formulated six key questions to tease out the ways in which potential candidates are committed to promoting gender equality in political arenas and across all aspects of Irish life.
Louise Glennon of NWCI said that “for far too long Ireland has been known for the lack of gender equality in its political decision making...there is no time for lengthy solutions. We need change now.”
The manifesto is called Women Rising and is designed to put issues of gender equality at the centre of the conversation in the upcoming elections, according to Orla O'Connor, head of the NWCI.
Fine Gael local candidate for Rathgar-Rathmines Samantha Long said that the six areas of concern were being raised by voters in her constituencies.
The questions devised by the NWCI address an intersecting range of issues that affect women in both the political and personal arenas.
1. Will you bring women and gender into decision making?
Are candidates willing to actively support a 40% gender quota on locally selected committees? Gender balance is proven to have a positive impact on decision making. Presently just 18.5% of members of the Oireachtas are female.
2. Will you take a stand on violence against women?
Every year 40,000 calls are made to helplines for women experiencing violence. The NWCI proposes that all candidates should press for Ireland to sign the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.
3. Will you invest in well-planned quality public services?
The NWCI recommends a reversal of the dramatic reduction in funding for many public services and encourage candidates to press for a workable model of childcare and flexible work practises.
4. Will you support women's health and reproductive rights?
The NWCI is continuing to push for Improved maternal care, the repeal of the 8th amendment and a gender main-streaming approach to improving HSE services for both men and women. Public representatives are called to focus on these issues also.
5. Will you promote economic independence for women?
Women experience a very different economic reality today. Ireland still has a pay-gap of 13.9% and men are leaving the live register four times faster than women. There are a number of measures candidates can champion to ensure that economic freedom is a more tangible prospect for women. One such measure is to ensure that local councils only tender contracts to companies with good employment standards.
6. Will you help build equal and inclusive communities?
Public representatives must commit to supporting community development, challenging racism and promoting equality.
The NWCI will be hosting two upcoming café events offering voters a chance to meet with candidates and talk about the issues raised in the Women Rising Manifesto.
Follow Laura on Twitter: @lauralarkin_.