NCCWN-Donegal Women’s Network invites you to join us in celebrating St Brigid’s Day and women’s stories. On Saturday, 30th January and 6th February, 11am-2pm, we are hosting two creative drama workshops via Zoom.
These will be fun, energetic, creative and participatory workshops and will be facilitated by Sinead O’Donnell-Carey, a theatre maker, visual artist and drama facilitator.
If you would like to sign up for these creative workshops please fill in the online form here https://forms.gle/M16L6o3UsnDiqLii6 and Donegal Women’s Network will be in contact with you to confirm your place.
*If you have a disability which you think may impact your participation, please just let us know in advance to allow the facilitator to support any participation needs.
Undoubtedly the Covid-19 Pandemic has impacted and changed the way people in Ireland have been living their lives since March 2020. Data and prior research highlight that men and women are impacted by pandemics differently and that they can amplify existing inequalities. Organisations such as the United Nations have identified women as being one of the most vulnerable groups that are being hit hardest by the pandemic. While it has been suggested that the coronavirus pandemic could wipe out 25 years of increasing gender equality.
“Women are doing significantly more domestic chores and family care, because of the impact of the pandemic. Everything we worked for, that has taken 25 years, could be lost in a year,” says UN Women Deputy Executive Director Anita Bhatia.
Employment and education opportunities could be lost, and women may suffer from poorer mental and physical health. The care burden poses a “real risk of reverting to 1950s gender stereotypes”, Ms Bhatia stated 
As a grassroots women’s organisation NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network recognised early that women in Donegal will face unique experiences, challenges and impacts during the pandemic because of their gender. We believe it is important women in Donegal have their lived experiences through the Covid-19 pandemic documented, recognised and acknowledged. And that women’s experiences and voices are acknowledged within any local and national post Covid-19 recovery strategy and that decision-making bodies recognise the particular experiences of women’s lives in society and tailor any recovery budgets, policies, plans and programmes accordingly.
To support this, we carried out a county survey to capture information that would allow us to understand the impact of the pandemic on women’s lives in Donegal.
The survey findings provide a snapshot into the lived experiences of women during the March-June first wave restriction period in Donegal. It is evident from the data gathered that the Covid-19 pandemic has created additional stresses for women in the County and added pressure to existing gender inequalities and gender stereotypes.
832 women took part in the survey, and talked about a number of issues and challenges they have faced between the March-June 2020, pandemic period. Which included dealing with additional household workload, increased caring responsibilities; dealing with post-traumatic stress with Covid-19 restrictions re-triggering past traumatic experiences, going through pregnancy during the pandemic, dealing with ongoing health issues while trying to stay safe through the pandemic.
Some of the most common themes raised by women with children which directly impacted their mental health related to childcare and work. Many of these women talked about the additional workload and the challenge of balancing working from home and childcare, expectations.
While women living with a partner highlighted that even with a partner or husband in the house, it still fell on them to be responsible for childcare. Home-schooling was a particular issue raised by women, many stated that they had experienced an assumption by their partner that it would be them who would look after home-schooling. Which was a cause of frustration for women.
Many women particularly young women, women living in their own and lone parent mothers highlighted experiencing feelings of anxiety, isolation and loneliness. With constant worrying and isolation leading to sleep issues. Being away from friends and family also contributed to this. For others stress and anxiety was being brought on by worrying about the uncertainty of the future, finances and how they were going to pay bills if no work continued because of Covid-19.
Isolation and loneliness were particular areas of mental health that was experienced by women with 60.4% of women reporting that they have experienced feelings of isolation and 57% reported feelings of loneliness since Covid-19. These levels were particularly high for young women, lone parent mothers, single women and women living alone.
Additional stresses were also brought about from a feeling of expectation that with more free time now you should be doing stuff and being active at home all the time when in reality you’re just trying to cope with getting through the day. While women who were front-line workers also expressed that their mental health was being impacted by a lack of support from their employers in relation to new workloads, personal safety and proper communication during the months between March and June 2020.
Survey results showed that, 61.1% of women living in Donegal feel that their mental health has been impacted by Covid-19. This percentage increased to 78% for women within the 18-25 age group and 70% for women between 26-40 years of age. While women living in the Buncrana Electoral Area had the highest percentage at 68% and 68.6% of women with a civil status of living with a partner had the highest percentage for any civil status category.
And while the survey also highlights that women in Donegal have come to learn, develop and adapt to the new way of living, a question that must be asked is at what cost to their long-term mental health? Is this adaptation and change sustainable in the long term or even fair? And is there significant capacity within mental health support services locally to meet future demand?
From a gender lens analysis perspective, some of the challenges and additional stresses experienced by women during the Covid-19 pandemic can be attributed to issues of gender inequality. However, when women in the survey were asked if they thought Covid-19 had highlighted gender inequality gaps in Ireland, with the given options of; Yes, No and Didn’t know, 23.8% of women said YES, 23.9% said NO and 52.3% said they didn’t know. These statistics would indicate that there needs to be a better understanding about gender inequality and its impact on women’s lives.
Women in the 26-40 years’ category reported the highest level in Increased physical household workload for any age group; while women Living with partner reported the highest level in the civil status category with married women coming a close second; within the household category, lone parent mothers and women in living alone other reported the highest experienced increase in physical household workload.
The findings highlighted that the majority of childcare responsibilities and housework is falling onto women, that within households there is an assumption it will be the woman who is solely responsible for this area of work. While there may be situations where this is agreed upon, the vast majority of the experiences expressed by women would indicate that there is often no agreement within relationships but rather an assumption. Such assumptions are likely built by continued held social gender stereotypes, that a woman’s role is to look after the children and family home. Such stereotypes are detrimental to achieving gender equality and the healthy sustainable development of our society.
Women in the 18-25 years’ category (54%) reported the highest level in supporting a family/community member cocooning due to the pandemic, for any age group; while women Living with partner (53%) reported the highest level in the civil status category; within the household category, women in living alone (49%) and women living with a partner and child/children (49.7%) reported the highest level in supporting a family/community member cocooning
Fundamentally as we all learn to live with around Covid-19 and health measures we also need to ensure that we are adopting measures and a way of living that supports the growth of gender equality and does not reinforce gender inequality structures.
You can download a full copy of the Impact Survey Report below.
The aim of this course is to support women in life-long learning opportunities. Promoting personal development, well-being and positive mental health. To sign up for this course please click on the course picture and you will be taken to the online form. This course is funded by Donegal Local Development Company CLG under SICAP
The aim of this course is to support women in life-long learning opportunities. Promoting personal development, well-being and positive mental health. To sign up for this course please click on the course picture and you will be taken to the online form. This course has been part funded by Donegal ETB under their Community Education Support Programme.
Booking for these courses is essential due to limited places, so book early to avoid disappointment.For further information please contact NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network by email on email@example.com or 074 9722790
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.
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
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.
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.
I 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.