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The Ripple Effect: Making Change in a Changing World

In this ‘Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature Gortahork local Joanne Butler shares her journey of becoming an environment educator and setting up the social enterprise OURganic Gardens an outdoor green space focused on food, sustainability, and horticulture. While also reflecting on her learning experience and the importance of embracing sustainable living and making small changes to support the environment.

 


16 Years ago I moved to Donegal, coming for the big smoke of Derry to a relatively rural area and never having grown a vegetable in my life. The following year in 2004 having tasted my first cabbage straight from the field, I asked my landlord at the time for a drill and bought my first seeds. In 2008 my husband and I bought an old cottage with a wonderful view in Gort a’ Choirce. We carefully restored the house for myself, my husband and my (then only) daughter to live in.

Three years later now with 3 children we started to slowly work on our 4 acre garden at this stage I was already growing some of our own food  for a number years but,  I still  was not really aware of where our food comes, thinking back on it now, I was living in a bubble, a nice cosy ‘good life’ bubble as we had observed the land for a number of years (being a bit busy with the kids) we now felt confident to start working on the plans we made.

 


First things first we wanted to clear the land as much as possible and as natural as possible, so we enlisted the help of a few friends, we enlisted the help of some pigs and they got straight to work clearing the ground for us. In 2013 my local community group Pobail Le Chéile asked me to run a Community Garden, it pushed my boundaries and enabled me to work with people in my local community, we shared tips, stories and food.

 

Coming initially from a background always doing some sort of community work I wanted to put together a programme of events that reconnected the links between the food we grow, the food we eat and the people we feed.  We ended the year with a harvest festival, inviting people from all over the area to come together to celebrate food and enjoy the experience of coming together in a social setting. This sparked the flame and OURganic Gardens was born.

 

That winter I attended many courses and events around the country connected with community gardening, I joined the community garden network and completed my FETAC level 6 train the trainer. I put together a community garden course working with local people growing, cooking and connecting with each other.

 


I then started to look beyond just the gardening aspect of it , outside the ‘bubble’, I wanted to bring more than just healthy eating into the classes, I wanted  to show people the impacts of what we do here now, locally and how it will affect other people in the future and Globally.

In February 2014, I began a FETAC level 4 in Global Development with Donegal ChangeMakers, this opened doors I didn’t even know existed. It took me on a journey of learning that not only burst that bubble but entered me into a whole new world of conscious thinking. Hearing the shocking, hard hitting facts I learnt left me feeling overwhelmed to say the least. We looked at the developing countries and how our lives here, affect their lives there. And then more than ever this word CHANGE started to resonate deep within.


 

I went on to complete a tutor facilitator course and I remember hearing  more and more disturbing  insights into the global state of play, where we were at with our natural environment. I had heard enough, I left the course early on the last day barely unable to breath …. I had heard a lot …. I thought to myself … What could I possibly do in any way that could make one ounce of impact in the world today. In tears I wept, for the peoples who’s lives that our choices are destroying, the unfair food trades that are dealt. For the lack of control that we have over large companies that wreak havoc on our food and the environment.

 

But it was then that for me the defining moment came. And it was around that time that the ripple effect, for me came into play. I realised that what we do here, now and the choices we make, while at the time may feel like it’s only a tiny drop in a puddle. But if we allow this drop to affect everything it meets, then in turn this drop creates the possibility to reach all of the ocean. Even the smallest changes we make can affect the people around us.


“For me community gardening and teaching about growing local food became my drop”

 

Since then I have worked with lots of different groups in community gardens and Community Gardens Ireland. Fast Forward four years and the more that I left home to work with people about sustainable living, I realised that I was not being sustainable myself, I was driving all over the county and beyond and not taking time out for me, my family and my garden. So since the beginning of 2018 I took the decision to start to work from my home garden in Gortahork. To start a social enterprise that will show people how and why I do it.

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I have since discovered permaculture which is set of ethics and principles that help me understand nature and work with it rather than against it.

 

EARTH CARE – PEOPLE CARE – AND FAIR SHARE

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When I work with groups now we talk about the nature of our global food system. A system where the fruit, vegetables, and herbs found in grocery stores have often been grown hundreds of miles from our kitchens and packed, shipped, distributed, and displayed, all while being refrigerated, this is a process that can wreak havoc not only on the environment but on the flavour and nutrients.

To talk about how growing a simple bag of salad naturally at home can not only cut down on your chemical intake, but in terms of the water it takes to grow the vegetable from seed to bag. In a country like Kenya where water charges are literally costing the earth. As most companies’ triple wash their salads at packaging point, we are literally running the well dry and that doesn’t even take in the transport.

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To learn about how only a few generations ago, most of the food on the dinner table had been growing in gardens only hours before it was served. While it would be a full-time job these days to feed your family this way, it’s surprisingly easy and fun to grow some of the staples on your grocery list and it saves a whole lot of air miles in between.


 

 

We follow the principles as best we can. We observe nature, use and value diversity, produce no waste and use small and slow solutions. Now me and my family have taken it one step further and have looked at these permaculture principles in all our aspects of life at home. From saving our rainwater, building with natural materials, managing our waste materials and using renewable resources we are hoping to show people how they can live more sustainable lives on a home scale basis.

69911756_2406689436035154_6369487674503331840_oI now work with a fantastic team at OURganic Gardens and during 2019 we ran successful  courses in Permaculture, Horticulture and social and therapeutic gardening. We have set up volunteer days and community garden co-operative sessions. We have done numerous walks and talks around the land and we have even set up a small stall at the house providing surplus vegetables to the community with an honesty box to help keep the garden going.

This year we plan to do more of the same with some extra workshops and further development on the land. Who knows what route our learning together will take at OURganic Gardens, but one thing I do know and  that’s the more and more people we can get involved in our garden project then the more and more people that we can get thinking about their own ripple effects and in the near future we look forward to a tidal wave of hope from all of the ocean!

Go Raibh Maith Agat

 


Adapting to Change

Joanne is currently doing a series of online live facebook videos on Sundays under the title #GrowTogetherDonegal check it out here 

 

 


NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.

Mighty Women

Mighty Women

 

“The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are” Maya Angelou

 

On 1st February NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network held the county’s  first Herstory event in support of a  national women’s storytelling movement to tell the stories of women past and present. The event  brought women together to share stories through a creative process and created a space to reflect on the importance of ensuring women’s everyday lives, contributions and stories are both told and included in our history.

 

As part of this day Julie Griffiths an Artist and facilitator from Donegal Changemakers a development education project lead a unique workshop entitled ‘Mighty Women’ commemorative plates a creative way of talking about and celebrating the women who have influenced and enrich our everyday lives.

 

We are delighted the Commemorative Plates created by the woman on the day will now been on display in Donegal Town, giving others the opportunity to see these unique piece and read about the women who influenced their creation. These unique plates will be on display in Simple Simon, Donegal Town from Thursday 5th March in celebration of International Women’s Day.

 

We would like take this opportunity to thank all the woman who participated in this event, the  stories their shared are inspiring and highlight why it’s so important women’s lives and voices are both valued and heard. And to Julie Griffiths and Simple Simon for organising and facilitating the display of these unique plates. We invite the community to stop by and see them 🙂

 

Historical Donegal Women

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In this Women’s Lives Women’s Voices feature Historian Dr Angela Byrne from Donegal highlights the historical struggles faced by women here in Ireland. And she pays tribute to Rose Brogan, Ethna Carbery, Máire de Paor, Maureen Wall, née MacGeehin, Kathleen ‘Kay’ McNulty and Margaret ‘Pearl’ Dunlevy, inspiring historical women with Donegal connections. 

 


By Angela Byrne

This is a good time to reflect on women in Irish society in the past and in the present. The ‘Decade of Centenaries’ and its commemorations gave the people of Ireland an opportunity to re-examine the keystone moments in our national story. Remarkable figures emerged from the shadows as we heard new stories about the women and children of the 1913 Lockout and the Easter Rising. The volunteer-run Her story Project established a series of local and national events to provide a platform for telling Irish women’s stories. One of the great successes of the recent commemorations was the naming of Dublin’s newest bridge after the republican and labour activist, Rosie Hackett. This is the first of our capital’s twenty-one bridges to bear a woman’s name.


 

0194400c0c609b470d95a4db3335e62dIn 2018, we celebrated the centenary of what Catriona Crowe has called “the single greatest human rights achievement of the entire decade of centenaries” – the extension of voting rights to women on 6 February 1918. The Representation of the People Act enfranchised some 8.4 million women across Britain and Ireland – but only property-holders aged 30 and above. In 1922, the constitution of the Irish Free State extended the franchise to all Irish women and men aged 21 and over, but for a period of four years, younger and poorer women remained voiceless.

Women’s suffrage was won after decades of effort by campaigners like Anna and Thomas Haslam of the Women’s Suffrage Association, and the more “militant” Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWFL) established by Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington and Margaret Cousins. The IWFL brought much more public attention to the women’s movement because they refused to be confined by social expectations of women’s behaviour. Tactics ranged from petitioning to window smashing. In 1909, English suffragettes in became the first to use hunger striking as a form of protest, leading to the infamous ‘Cat and Mouse Act’ of 1913, which allowed the temporary release and recapture of hunger strikers in response to public objections to force-feeding. In 1912, the Irish Women’s Franchise League established its own weekly newspaper, The Irish Citizen, which ran until 1920. In its pages, suffragists of all political shades debated their differing interpretations of feminism.

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There was a rapid growth of women’s suffrage groups throughout Ireland. In Sligo Eva and Constance Gore Booth set up a branch of the IWSGLA. By 1914 there were 26 suffrage societies with almost 3,000 members. Although committed to the same aim, these societies often represented distinct social and political groups e.g. the Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Association, Irish Catholic Women’s Suffrage Society, Unionist Women’s Franchise Association. The activities of these societies were uncoordinated. In 1911 Louie Bennett (1870 -1956) and Helen Chenevix (1880-1963) helped establish the Irish Women’s Suffrage Federation (IWSF) to link the suffrage groups together. The IWSF was non-militant and non-sectarian. Image Source  www.dublincity.ie


On 21 November 1918, the UK parliament voted in the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act. The act simply stated: “A woman shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage for being elected to or sitting or voting as a Member of the Commons House of Parliament.” Women aged over 21 now had the right to stand for general election. Just weeks later, on 14 December 1918, Constance Markievicz became the first woman to win a seat at Westminster. She abstained in favour of sitting in the First Dáil.

 

In her celebrated 1995 book The Prospect Before Her, the historian Olwen Hufton wrote that women’s absence from history pointed to “either a grave sin of omission or to a flagrant suppression of the evidence, and hence to a distortion of the record by historians of former times. Whether the omission was unconscious or deliberate, the result was the same: women, with a few notable exceptions, had been denied a history.” Let’s celebrate our suffrage centenary by continuing to challenge that denial, to give silenced women a voice.

 


Discover some of Donegal’s Historical Women

 

Please take the time to read further features written by Angela and discover more about Donegal’s inspiring historical women by clicking on the pictures below.


“I hope that these features will raise awareness of the richness of the lives of Donegal women in the past, shine a light on their achievements, and show how they overcame barriers to education and other obstacles. Reflecting on past lives can help us to contextualise current issues and to understand changes and continuities. With that in mind, this series will focus on past women’s struggles for equality, access to education and work, and social justice.”

Dr Angela Byrne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


About Dr Angela Byrne

Dr. Angela ByrneAngela Byrne is a historian specialising in migration and women’s history. She is Research Associate at Ulster University and, in 2018-19, was the inaugural DFAT Historian-in-Residence at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. She is author of Geographies of the Romantic North (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), A Scientific, Antiquarian and Picturesque Tour: John (Fiott) Lee in Ireland, England and Wales, 1806–1807 (Routledge for Hakluyt Society, 2018), and many articles and book chapters on the histories of travel and exploration, the Irish abroad, and women in the sciences.

She has previously held lecturing and research positions in University of Toronto, University of Greenwich, Maynooth University, and the Royal Irish Academy, as well as visiting fellowships at Cambridge University, the All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature (Moscow), and the Huntington Library (Los Angeles). Her research is concerned with cross-cultural encounters and the experiences of women and migrants in the past.

 


NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network have had the privilege of Angela giving insight into the lives of historical  Donegal women over the past few years at past events, including most recently our 2019 Balance for Better International Women’s Day Event in March, where Angela gave a talk on the political life of Letterkenny local Kate McCarry, Donegal’s first ever elected female county councillor.

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NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network have had the privilege of Angela giving insight into the lives of historical  Donegal women over the past few, including most recently our 2019 Balance for Better International Women’s Day Event in March, where Angela gave a talk on the political life of Letterkenny local Kate McCarry Donegal’s first ever elected female county councillor.


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series, so please get in touch if you would like to write a feature.

Let’s Talk About Fertility

Roses and Rainbows

New Donegal group raising awareness about the importance of providing local support for people facing fertility challenges.

This month a new Facebook group was created entitled “Roses and Rainbows” it started with a post about one Donegal couples experience of going through IVF and their recent loss through miscarriage. As part of this month’s Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices, the founder of the group shares her voice and lived experience around the issue of fertility.

 


Myself and my partner have been trying to conceive for the past three and a half years, we went through a number of tests which resulted in us being referred for In vitro fertilisation (IVF) in the form of ICSI, which we have been doing for the past few years.

 

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This month on the 6th August 2019, after our second frozen embryo transfer, we suffered a miscarriage. Our heartbreak and loss moved us to tell our story and set up the group “Rose’s and Rainbows” both as a way of helping us heal and deal with what we have been through but to also help others who may be going through similar fertility challenges and experiences.

 

The issue of infertility is still a very sensitive subject and I believe we are very under educated as a society about how to deal with fertility issues and miscarriage, it is still very much the elephant in the room. We need to change this.

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The Rose’s and Rainbows name came about as we both have a love of Rose’s and I guess we are looking for the rainbow in our storm, as are many. The page itself is a personal blog of what we have been through so far and continue to deal with, this includes our highs and lows, the financial cost of IVF, the emotional side of infertility and the heart break of a miscarriage.

 

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Followers are free to message in privately with their stories if they feel they would like to share them with us, and if they would like we can publish them in the hope of helping others. (this of course would be done privately with no names attached to the stories).

Since setting up we have received offers by some amazing professions who will be writing blogs on fitness and health tailored towards fertility and during and after IVF and miscarriage.

Our experience over these past few years has highlighted that there is a lack of a local support network here in Letterkenny and Donegal on infertility, IVF journeys and miscarriage.

As Roses and Rainbows we are delighted to say we have now set up a monthly met-up, the first one on Sunday 25th August with a meditation session also taking place on Monday 7th October, 7-8.30pm. We believe in respecting the privacy of individuals who are going through this sensitive matter and recognise that some people would like to keep their private life’s private, as such all locations for these meetings will be given by private message)

Our motto is “you are not alone even if you decide to go through any of these journeys without telling your family or friends, because there is a local network of support in place to listen and help”.

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Supports Going Forward

We would love to see annual information events held here in the North West from the likes of the miscarriage association of Ireland etc. While it would also be amazing if a fertility clinic and counselling service that were linked were based here in the North West.

It is hugely important that the promised funding from government is soon put into places, because at the moment all couples receive is tax back. The financial struggles going through treatment is very stressful added on top of everything else.

 


A Human Rights Issue

The right to a family life is a Human Right, yet in Ireland the right to this basic human right comes at a high price if you are a person experiencing fertility issues.

The cost of fertility treatment is high, IVF treats cost from around €4,600 upwards and this does not include other related treatments and medical supports  involved in the process. People do not receive funding supports, their only opinions is to claim tax back. Which is the last thing the State should except a person/s going through this experience in the hope of building their family to have to do. In 2018 the government announced that €1m would go to IVF treatment for couples unable to conceive, yet a year on this funding has not been released.[1]

 


National Support Advise

For more information on IVF Treatments and the process please visit here. National support advise services can also be found with the following organisations

We thank the founder of the Roses and Rainbow group for sharing with us her story and ongoing journey. You can find and LIKE the group on Facebook here.

 

[1] Reported in the Irish Examiner, https://amp.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/concern-as-ivf-funding-still-not-in-place-922418.html


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.