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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.

Happy Women’s Day Donegal

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In this Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature a Donegal woman shares her thoughts on why we should celebrate International Women’s Day, highlighting the importance of reflecting on achieves made in advancing women’s equality but also recognising the work that still has to be done and remembering those women whose voices go unheard and are excluded from realising their full potential.

 


 

Sunday 8th March is International Women Day, a day to mark the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women worldwide. The overall purpose of this day is to draw global attention to gender inequality and violence against vulnerable women. International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on progress, change and to celebrate those acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

 

Imagine a world where everyone has equal rights and opportunities, where gender equality is the norm. Men and women sharing the care work at home and getting paid equally for work of equal value.  Picture equality on factory floors, corporate boardrooms and in political leadership. Women would have an equal say in decisions that affect their lives, their bodies, their policies, and their environment.


 

It’s easy to dismiss International Women’s Day as a day just for women and why it’s needed. If we look at the typical life of a woman in a country like Ireland, you might be slightly cynical as to why it would be necessary. After all, women can do what they want here – they have the vote, can work where they want, receive the same education, everything on the surface seems straightforward.

 

But it’s important to remember that International Women’s Day is over 100 years old. And here in Ireland no less than 50 years ago, women had to leave their job in the civil service if they got married. Women were not permitted to own property outright and were also prevented from collecting child benefits – it had to be paid out to the father.  And while there has been much improvement within the last 50 years or so, regarding Irish women’s position in society, this is not the same in every country.


 

We must look back as well as forward, and remember the struggle that women faced throughout the centuries in gaining fundamental rights.  The rights that are often taken for granted in western countries, and are urgently required in many developing ones, for instance, the right to vote, own property, and to have an education.  Those rights were required in a hard fought battled against those who sought to deny them.

 

International Women’s Day is a further opportunity to honour the incredible achievements that women have made throughout the world. All too often women have been erased from the history books, and this particular occasion is a great opportunity to experience the wonderful literature, music and scientific discoveries as well as all the contributions for which women have never been accredited.


 

Women like Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell (1883-1957) who was a member of Cumann na mBan, and a dispatcher during the Easter Rising for the rebels. She was a midwife and a fierce Republican who stayed in the GPO throughout the rising caring for the wounded.  However, Nurse O’Farrell was ‘airbrushed’ out of history when her shoes were all that remained in a photograph of the 1916 surrender, in which she appeared alongside Padraig Pearse.

Elizabeth O farrell 1916


Also women like, Jenni Wyse Power (1858-1941) who is one of the better-known female figures in the Rising and politics of the 20th century. She was an activist, feminist, politician and businesswoman, a founder-member of Sinn Féin. She was appointed to the first Seanad, and used her position to campaign for women rights. Stories such as these are commonplace, and therefore it is important that women are remembered for their contributions to society.

 

Ireland is imperfect to the law of equality, for example, the wage gap disputes and also the vast inequality in politics. However, we need to recognise that events like this are an essential step of active solidarity for many women around the world. We, therefore, must reflect on the work that still has to be done and remember those women whose voices go unheard and who continue to be excluded from realising their full potential.

This is why International Women’s Day is essential – it provides otherwise silenced women with a voice, which is a vital step in the right direction.

 

 We are #GenerationEquality

 

 


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.

 

You got this

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In this month’s Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature Sharon Doherty shares her learning experience on the importance of embracing self care and making small changes to support our health and well being.

 


Hello and Happy New Year!

 

My name is Sharon Doherty, from Quigley’s Point, Co. Donegal. As we enter a new decade, I think there is so much hope for our health and wellbeing. Here’s a little bit of my life story so far.

 

I was diagnosed with stage two invasive breast cancer on the 22nd August 2013 at the age of 37. I found the lumps myself but naively thought they were due to hormonal changes and didn’t get them checked out for almost a year.

 

While I was a little surprised, I knew I had been under a lot of pressure at work, some of it self-inflicted. I was also still grieving for my son who had passed away as a baby nine years previously. I knew in my heart these had been taking their toll. What I didn’t realise at the time of my diagnosis was just how many silly mistakes I had been making that contributed to my illness.

 


Illness isn’t even a word I really associate with it though because I never felt sick, although I was very tired a lot of the time. Having had breast cancer has brought nothing but hugely positive changes to my life. It was a real wake-up call.

 

 

On the day I was diagnosed, the consultant told me I would be returning the following week for more tests. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I let him know I was going on holiday that week and the tests would have to wait until I returned. It still makes me smile. And it was a blessing that I took that time to go away and not be panicked into treatment. I think this is really important. Not to panic or worry overly. Worry achieves nothing positive.

 


I began to read and research all things health related and I started making some small but significant changes to my life. The more I read, the more I realised just how little I knew. I was fascinated by what I was learning, and still can’t get enough. More importantly, as I implemented the changes I noticed almost instantly, improvements to my health. It was then I began to realise that we have an incredible ability to heal ourselves given the right environment.

 

When I stopped eating dairy products, headaches that I got frequently, vanished. That was the first and most startling discovery. For years I had been eating painkillers for headaches and simply cutting out dairy prevented them. Too much sugar and white flour products in my diet were contributing to dandruff, candida overgrowth and a mucousy cough in the mornings – lovely. That strong coffee driving to work was making me nervous and on edge all day and seriously damaging my immune system unbeknownst to me. A glass of wine on an empty stomach in the evening was putting further pressure on my body. All of these little things added up and on top of the stress and previous trauma in my life, became too much.

 


I was able to change so many of these things I and haven’t looked back. I thought I wouldn’t like coffee without milk. Or that I couldn’t live without cheese! But these little changes have been so easy to make. I have also started making a vegetable juice a few times a week which has massively strengthened my immune system. I make bone broth and look after my gut health. I eat a lot more vegetables and I try not to be the stress head I used to be.

 

One of my friends asked for the bullet points of what I was learning because she didn’t have the time to do all the research I was. From there, the idea for my little book was born. Simple little tips, for general health that people could easily implement into their daily lives. It has taken five years, but finally, You Got This, is in print. It’s available in the Four Masters bookshop in Donegal Town and the Bookmark shops in Letterkenny.

 


I had a mastectomy at the end of November 2013. By this time I had done enough objective research to know I didn’t want to have chemotherapy or radiation. I was unsure about the hormone drug that it was suggested I take however. I remember clearly the exact moment I decided not to take it.

 

I had spent the day on my computer and my head was full of conflicting information. Many websites pointed to all the benefits and yet the World Health Organisation listed it as a carcinogen. I simply didn’t know what to do. I looked to the sky and said out loud, “Oh for a moment of clarity.” And the answer came to me straight away. If I took the drugs, I would have absolutely no way of knowing for sure if they caused a recurrence or not. If I didn’t take the drugs, but made changes to my diet and how I was living, then perhaps I would remain healthy and not need any further treatment at all. This is what’s been happening so far.

 


I have discovered so much through this particular journey. One of the most important things is that prevention is so much better than cure and that everyone has the power to make small changes every day that might just prevent them becoming one of the worrying statistics. I think we live believing that it won’t happen to us, but it can if we’re not looking after ourselves.

 

The most exciting thing is that there is so much we can do so easily to look after our health and wellbeing. Eat good food and really enjoy it. Laugh and chat with friends, family and loved ones. Get out in the fresh air and breathe deeply. Learn new things and have experiences. Dance, sing, listen to music. Go for regular physio, massage or reflexology to release tension from the body. Have kinesiology, go to a nutritionist or naturopath and find out the root causes of little ailments in the body and make the necessary changes. Stop at times during the day and be aware of life and grateful for it. Pray, meditate, exercise moderately but regularly. Slow down!

Profile pic smallYou can find me on Facebook @yougotthishealththing

Be well everyone.

Sharon xx

 

 

 


 

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.

Beyond 16 Days

 

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In this month’s Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature a Donegal woman shares her views and thoughts on the issue of ‘gender based violence experienced by women and highlights the important need for us as a society and country to confront the reality of gender based violence in Ireland.

 


What will you do to support the 16 Days of Action Campaign and beyond?

 

Ireland is currently taking part in the annual international campaign known as the 16 Days of Action which runs from 25th November (UN Day For the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10th December 2019 (International Human Rights Day). The campaign is used as an organising strategy by individuals and organisations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. ( UN Women)

 


Gender-Based Violence refers to “violence that is directed against a person on the basis of gender or sex and includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other denials of freedom” (cosc.ie) While both men and women can experience gender based violence the reality however remains that in 2019 it is women and girls who are the main victims of this directed violence.

Violence against women is not just a women’s rights issue; it’s also a human rights issue.  “A third of all women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, half of women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family, and violence perpetrated against women is as common a cause of death and incapacity for those of reproductive age, as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than road accidents and malaria combined.” (UN, 2019)

According to the latest Woman’s Aid Femicide Watch 2018 report, 225 women have died violently in Ireland between 1996-2018. 176 cases have been resolved. 9 cases are awaiting trial, and 40 cases remain unsolved, 137 of these women died in their own homes with 16 children also dying alongside their mothers. (Women’s Aid Ireland)

 

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Globally in a 2018 UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report,  it was highlighted that some 87,000 women and girls were murdered worldwide in 2017.  Of these, 58 % had been murdered by someone in their inner circle – 30,000 were killed by their spouse or intimate partner, and another 20,000 by a member of their own family. The high murder rate among women is a consequence of rampant gender-based violence.

 


In Ireland

The recent murder of the young teenage girl Ana Kriégel is a particularly dark representation of male violence towards women. Ana, in my opinion, was murdered by boys because she was a girl; it’s as simple as that. It isn’t a pleasant sentence to read; it is a harsh and unpalatable fact. Despite seeking a more elaborate explanation, the real reason is hidden in plain sight. Disregarded because we cannot or will not look at the evidence that gender-based violence is a real problem in Ireland.

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar recently acknowledged that Ireland is gripped by “an epidemic of gender-based violence”. During leaders’ questions in the Dail, Mr Varadkar stated: “There is an epidemic of gender-based violence in Ireland and indeed across the world and it does need to stop”. He went on to state that the Government were implementing law changes and had undertaken to protect and support victims of a sex crime. Only time will tell.


Sexual Abuse reported in Donegal 

 

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The Donegal Sexual Abuse & Rape Crisis Centre continually work towards meeting the needs of and providing accessibility to their services to the population of County Donegal through the provision of Outreach services. Their Outreach Services are located in GP surgeries and various Health Providers in the local communities.

They are based in Letterkenny with 4 Outreach Centres:

  • Donegal Town (Monday Mornings)

  • Buncrana (Friday all day)

  • Lifford (Wednesday Mornings)

  • Derrybeg (Friday Mornings)

 


Breaking Ireland’s Rape Culture

“Rape culture is the social environment that allows sexual violence to be normalised and justified, fuelled by the persistent gender inequalities and attitudes about gender and sexuality.” ( UN Women 2019)

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Rape, a single word with a devastating impact, it destroys bodies and minds. When left unpunished or trivialised, it creates a culture where sexual violence is normalised and women and girls are undervalued and not respected. Far too many of us fail to name or challenge the rape culture that surrounds us.

 

Through our words, actions and inactions; discriminatory laws or tolerance towards perpetrators; through the media we view, indecent humour, and opinions we do not question, we have become part of a culture that allows rape to continue.  Nonetheless, in recent years, the voices of activists and survivors through campaigns such as #MeToo and #TimesUp, have reached an intensification that cannot be silenced or ignored. However, violence against women and girls continues worldwide.

 

It is time we quit looking the other way. There is an endemic problem in this country with gender-based violence. It is so rooted that boys as young as 13 years of age visited unimaginable brutality on a defenceless young girl.  This violence exists in our homes, on our streets, in our institutions and establishments. We need legislation to support victims and penalise perpetrators.

However, we also need a cultural shift where girls and women’s complaints are responded to and taken seriously. This would mean no dismissal of charges based on the character of the women. Also, we require men and boys to be held accountable for their actions.  Furthermore, we need to stop viewing violent men as though they were unique and peculiar. An excellent place to begin would be a guiding opinion that values women’s safety over men’s sensitivity.

 

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If you want to help break this circle and end such violence towards women and girls why not check out this practical guide; 16 ways you can stand against rape culture here.

 

 


Remember you are not alone, there are people you can talk to. If you or any one you know have been effected by domestic or sexual abuse you can find support with the following services;

 

In Donegal  

offers counselling, support and advice to survivors of rape and sexual abuse in a confidential, safe and friendly environment. Freephone: 1800 44 88 44, Telephone: 074-9128211

is a frontline service providing crisis accommodation, 24 hr helpline, support (1800262677) and information and outreach service throughout the County to women and their children who are victims of domestic violence.

Nationally

24 Hour Helpline on 1800 778888

Freephone Helpline (1800 341 900) operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and provides support and information to callers experiencing abuse from intimate partners.

 


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.