Tag Archive | Donegal

Covid-19: Amplifying Gender Inequality

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 [1]


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.


[1] Coronavirus and gender: More chores for women set back gains in equality; By Sandrine Lungumbu and Amelia Butterly,  November 2020 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-55016842?fbclid=IwAR3BiPLXq7H-_Q6pJygRsaChN1GKKAzv3-NKONWbtkzi9WfQrP8p4mqY6gU

 

Why doesn’t she just leave him?

In this Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature in support of the 16 days of action campaign  Donegal local Jenna talks about the issue of domestic abuse, highlighting why it’s so important to understand the realities of victims and survivors.


Did you know Ireland is currently taking part in the annual International campaign known as the 16 Days of Action? This internationally recognised campaign runs from 25th November (UN Day For the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10th December 2020 (International Human Rights Day). It is a campaign used to highlight the issue of gender based violence and 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)

And while both men and women can experience gender based violence the reality however remains that in 2020 it is women and girls who are disproportionately affected by this violence. With 1 in 4 women in Ireland having experienced domestic abuse by a current or former partner. (Women’s Aid)


Why doesn’t she just leave him?

By nature people are quick to form judgments. Have you ever sat just drinking a coffee and watching strangers pass by as you contemplate what kind of people they may be? I think it’s normal for us to create stories in our minds now and again about the lives of others and the characteristics they may possess.

Or maybe you can think of a time when you have read or watched a news story on television and had speculated about those involved and how they might have found themselves in a certain situation.

We take in what we can see in front of us and somehow our brains begin to connect the dots and form opinions about people. Maybe in some cases we judge correctly but in others we are just guessing without any real depth of knowledge.

Perhaps it is something we can teach ourselves to refrain from doing. Maybe sometimes we need to take a step back and really truly think about the person we are making the assumptions about.

“Before you judge my life, my past or my character, walk in my shoes, walk the path I have travelled, live my sorrow, my doubts, my fear, my pain and my laughter” – Unknown

After my sister’s death last year I learned a lot of life lessons that I’d never imagined I would have to. I had to face things that I would never have dreamed could have happened to our family. I definitely learned that we don’t know what is going on in other people’s lives and the difficulties they face.

Since Jasmine died I think that people feel as though they can talk to me about their own problems more so than a person who hasn’t experienced this tragedy. Through this difficult journey I have had several women talk to me about their past experiences with domestic violence or the current situation that they are in.

I truly don’t think that enough people are aware of the extent of people who are having to deal with gender based violence in their lives. So many of the victims who I have spoken to are probably the women who society would ‘never expect’ would find themselves in a situation like that. But unfortunately this type of violence is happening more than we think.

Why doesn’t she just leave him? A question that has probably been asked a million times. Maybe to some people this is a logical question. Just walk away. Simple? Every million times this question is asked there are another million responses as to why this question isn’t in fact helpful or logical.

When I was asked to take part in 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence I knew that I had to take this opportunity to share some of the reasons that the women I have spoken to share with me.

One of the reasons that came up over and over again was because of the children.

“A mother will do almost anything to protect her child and I stayed because I didn’t know what could happen if I tried to leave.” – Lady 1

“I felt as though I was trapped and if I moved then my children would be in danger” – Lady 2

Another reason that we discussed was the guilt that the victim is made to feel.

“I stayed with him because he said he was going to kill himself and it would be all my fault ” – Lady 3

This type of threat was also used against a victim but while adding the extra danger by involving the child. “I stayed with him because he threatened to kill himself or run away with our daughter if I left” – Lady 4

Other reasons why these women stayed included an immense sense of fear. A feeling of shame about the situation they are in and also financial constraints. If they left, where would they go, how could they leave without the money to escape.

But all of the victims I spoke to did express something that it is so important, that gender based violence becomes something that people are more aware of. That questions and judgmental statements aren’t helpful in preventing it from happening. Awareness is key and in order to help these people we must understand that everything isn’t always black and white and there are so many factors involved in these extremely dangerous circumstances.

So why doesn’t she just leave him? It’s most definitely not that simple.


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

Local county wide support in Donegal 

Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service 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.

Donegal Women’s Centre operate a domestic violence counselling service delivered in the Donegal Women’s Centre with outreach centres in, Killybegs, Ballyshannon, Falcarragh, Dungloe and Carndonagh. Call 074 91 24985 for appointment or more information


National support in Ireland

Women’s Aid Ireland 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.

Safe Ireland You can find a list of County services across Ireland here.

Men’s Aid Ireland is a service for men who are experiencing domestic violence. You can call them on 01 554 3811or email hello@mensaid.ie.
Their helpline is open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.

The National Office for Victims of Abuse provides assistance, support and advice for people in abusive relationships. Freephone 1800 252 524.

Anyone who may wish to report or discuss an incident of Domestic or Sexual Violence can contact 112/999 or their local Garda Station.


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.

The Impact of Covid-19 on Maternal Health in Donegal

Finola Brennan, NCCWN- Donegal Women’s Network project Co-ordinator speaks with Greg Hughes on Highland Radio about of the isolation, anxiety and stress many pregnant women in Donegal have experienced since Covid-19 and highlighting;

The urgent need to have a more national women centred, human and compassionate response  in the delivery of the Maternity Services, while living with Covid 19”.


You can listen to the interview with below.


As a member of The National Collective of Community based Women’s Networks (NCCWN) we are calling on the Government to ease Covid-19 restrictions in maternity services and allow birthing partners to support pregnant people and be present at all pregnancy related appointments, scans, full labour and birth as soon as possible.

As part of this call, we are also asking members of the public to let Government representatives know that you are not happy with the current measures or treatment of pregnant people and you want restrictions in maternity services to ease.

To make it as easy as possible for you to contact your local TD we have drafted a letter you can use to express your concerns and support every pregnant person across the country. You can find who your local TD is and how they can be contacted at: https://www.whoismytd.com/.

If you are part of a women’s group and would like to draft your own letter, please feel free to contact your nearest NCCWN project for support. You can find where all of our projects are located here. Or, if you would like your nearest project to send the letter on your behalf please contact us and let us know. Your personal details will only be used for this campaign unless you indicate that you want us to retain your details.

Download the letter template

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

permaculture

 


 

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.

joanne 2

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.