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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.

When Life Changes Your Plans

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How do you recover when your life and way of living is thrown off course?

In this Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature Sarah shares her story and unique journey to create a new life for herself and family in Donegal after a major life change.

 


 

Sarah is a yoga teacher and essential oil educator in Donegal. She supports women who are exhausted, stressed & overwhelmed. Through her approaches she supports women how to learn to revitalize their energy and reduce stress so they not only feel amazing but feel recharged and refreshed, ready to embrace life.

 

 

3My story begins in November 2015. Living in New York with my husband and 2 children. My husband was not legal and we tried to get him a Greencard or visa so he could legalise his status. We both had great jobs, I had just became a partner in a Bar and Restaurant and Hughie – a foreman for a construction company that he had worked for since first coming to New York in 2001. We had just moved into our home that we purchased in 2014. Our hard work was finally starting to pay off. Success was here and now our American Dream was commencing! We had everything we wanted, our beautiful children, our home and the Careers we strived for.

 


 

ICEOne morning in November as Hughie was going to work, he left our house like always at 6am to be met by Immigration Law Enforcement – ICE. Immediately he was arrested, taken into Manhattan for booking and transferred to Jersey to a detention Centre. He was getting deported! Our life was ruined! We were completely devastated and fought to the very last minute of getting on the plane to stop this deportation. Having one week to pack up our life, our home and leave the country we had both known & loved for 14 years, The Country our kids were born in, We arrived back in Ireland Thanksgiving morning (ironically)

 


 

The first year was a complete blur, we were still living in a little bit of hope that this nightmare would be over and we would be back in NY, we searched for someone that could help us, hopes were lifted and then dropped so quickly that it was a roller coaster ride of emotions each day. It was the closest to rock bottom that I had ever been emotionally. I was running on empty. I couldn’t sleep and when I did manage to sleep I would wake up in the middle of the night with that heavy heart realising that the nightmare was real.

A year went by and we were still on the hunt to get someone to help, we tried countless lawyers and anybody we encountered for help. Living in Ireland was just not in our life ́s plan. We were shattered. For the next two years I would go back & forth to NY, leaving my kids for weeks at a time to work in the restaurant and help out as much as I could, especially during the busy periods of Christmas, Easter etc so needless to say missing out on school plays, major events in my kids’ lives. We had the house so I had to organise repairs etc. Dealing with tenants etc… It was hard but overtime it became the new norm for all of us. Then my time in Ireland consisted of being a stay at home mom. Looking back I had to live two lives!

 


 

Over time…. This was starting to crumble, I couldn’t maintain this lifestyle. We had to let go…. it was eating us alive and we had two wonderful kids that were just happy being with mom and dad.

So I decided to become a yoga teacher, I always loved the practice of yoga and was a member of a fantastic yoga studio while living in NY. So I picked a teacher training in London and commuted back and forth so I wasn’t away from my kids too much. Once I completed my course, it took me 6 months to pluck up the courage to teach my first class… after that I never looked back. I began teaching classes in my local area going from one village to the next. Starting to get a following I started to see how I was helping people believe in themselves. Seeing these women feel stronger mentally and physically was bringing  joy to my heart.

 


 

So now here I am currently with a great yoga business in Donegal, I added essential oils into my business and the combination of both are amazing!  I love my life! I love being a stay at home mom while also having my yoga business which I love. I still go to NY during the summer with my kids so they don’t lose sight of where they came from and give them the best life I can provide to them by having the best of both worlds.

I don’t work in the Restaurant business anymore and that was a blessing in disguise,  so now I enjoy all the holidays with my kids and I work around the school calendar. I have created the life and business I have always wanted!

 


 

2So this quote will close my talk perfectly….. “what if the worst thing that happened you ended up being the best thing that ever happened to you”. So if you take anything from this story…. Take this advice… ACCEPTANCE is what got me through this ordeal. When I accepted what had happened and nothing was going to bring back the life we longed for, things started to happen. The pining thoughts for my old life started to melt away, I began to focus on how to make my current situation and life into a life that I have always dreamed of. I realised how Strong I actually was as a woman and the powerful woman in me started to show up everyday.

So go with the flow even in times of doubt or when you think life is not going your way!! Everything is happening around us….. For us!

 


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.

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.


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.