Tag Archive | Women’s Voices

Sorcha’s Healthy Living

This feature is part of the NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network, ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series. Written by Sorcha Mc Elchar, a qualified Nutritionist, Healthy Lifestyle Blogger, columnist, Fitness instructor, and YouTuber from Donegal.


My nutrition story began early on and from a very young age. I had a keen interest in Nutrition and still have a project from Primary School where we had to write what we wanted to be in the future. Some of my classmates wrote they wanted to be a Hairdresser, a Guard, a Teacher etc but what did I write…. a Dietitian. Most 12-year-olds didn’t even know what a Dietitian was…but unfortunately, I did because I had met several growing up…. along with numerous Doctors, Consultants, and Nurses. Why was that? …I hear you say.

At the age of two I became very ill. It began with sore eyes so bad I couldn’t bare to go out in daylight (I also had very pale skin so you could be thinking Vampire here….) but along with chronic diarrhoea and a failure to thrive the Doctors just couldn’t figure out the cause. That was until at age four when I went into a full body cramp (very painful) and it was discovered my blood Calcium levels were extremely low and I was finally diagnosed with a rare Auto-immune Disease called APECED syndrome. Due to two faulty genes, my Immune system was attacking the hormone producing glands in my body. My failure to thrive was because my gut didn’t absorb enough nutrients from my food. The Dietitians tried everything to help me put on weight from shakes to a ‘green card’ allowing me to eat as much junk food as I could…but nothing worked. If I managed to put on a few kilos I would become ill and lose it all again. Life was running in a vicious circle. I had no quality of life. It was either school (if I was well enough) hospital or home. I had no energy for anything else. If I managed a full week of school, we celebrated.

Then at age 17 my Doctors decided I wasn’t going to live much longer if they couldn’t get enough nutrients into me so in a last ditch attempt to save me I was put on a specialised personal Intravenous Nutrition that bypassed my Gut entirely through a permanent central line in my chest at allow the nutrition to go straight into my bloodstream. Then a miracle happened…. within days we could see improvements. I had more energy, I slept better, I caught less infections, I wasn’t cold all the time. my hair, skin and nails were healthier looking. I also felt happier in myself and stronger.


This was my light bulb moment where I saw how important Nutrition was. I still had my condition…I still had loads of medication to take…. I wasn’t cured… but my quality of life improved one hundred-fold.
Thankfully growing up my parents instilled in me the importance of hard work and perseverance. I also had an amazing SNA at Secondary school Trisha Redmond (Finn Valley College) who helped push me out of my comfort zone more and I realised I could do a lot more than I thought I could if I just put my mind to it and now, I had the energy to do this!


I was able to start dance classes with Aislingi Academy in Stranorlar and there I found a new ‘happy place’ where I could get stronger and foster a love for performing. In time I started college at LYIT doing an honours degree in Food Science & Nutrition where I graduated with a first-class degree thanks to the amazing support from my PA’s Therese Fitzsimmons and Bernie Alcorn and all my lecturers who realised despite my illness I was willing to give them 110%. The Disability officer Rosin Mc Cormack in LYIT and everyone at the Curve including the College Nurse Hannah Glackin saw my abilities instead of my disabilities and encouraged me all the way.


When I graduated, we were in lockdown so even though I had ideas of where I could get a job, I had to stay isolated due to my immune deficiency. So Covid motivated me to set up sorchashealthyliving.com where I Blog scientifically sound Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyle advice. I also upload videos to my Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channel and offer one-to-one Nutrition and Lifestyle consultations and packages which can be found on my webpage and Facebook page.
My goal is to help people realise how important good Nutrition is, because healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Small steps can often make the biggest change….and most importantly….enjoy food!

Contact details for Sorcha: 

Visit her website at: sorchashealthyliving.com

Email: sorchashealthyliving@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SorchasHealthyLiving/

https://www.instagram.com/sorchashealthyliving/

https://www.tiktok.com/@sorchas_healthy_living?


Sorcha’s Healthy Living YouTube Channel


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.

Five tips for a plastic free July

This feature is part of the NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network, ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series. Written by Angela Mc Glanaghey the store manager of Simple Simons in Donegal Town, to raise awareness to the global movement and campaign ‘Plastic Free July’.


As the manager of a local health store business ‘Plastic Free July’ is important to us because every single day we see such needless waste. As a business we try and reduce this in any way we can; providing refill solutions to cut down on plastic, offering boxes instead of plastic bags to carry shopping, reusing old packaging to send out our online orders etc. If we don’t stop what we are doing our world is going to run out of space. We must act now to make things better for further generations.


Plastic Free July begins this month, but what is it all about? We all know by now how important it is to cut down on plastic but sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. There are so many small changes we can make which WILL add up to make a difference, so here are my top 5 tips for a plastic free July. 

The main thing I recommend is first of all not to be too hard on yourself. When you first try to start it can be really daunting to try and cut all plastic out. Just realise that to make this planet a better place we don’t need 1000 people being plastic free all the time. We need as many people as possibly making small changes which are sustainable. I recommend trying two or three small swaps a week and building that over time.


Here are a few you can do

Reusable coffee cups. SO many of us are fond of our takeaway coffee. During the pandemic really it was all we had. So many nice things were taken away from us and sometimes getting out for a takeaway coffee was a lifeline. Making a swap to a reusable cup can make SUCH a difference. Remember, it’s not about ditching ALL plastic, that’s a really hard sacrifice to make. It’s more about reducing single use plastic. Even if you only get two takeaway coffees a week if you’ve got your own cup that’s over 100 cups you have saved from landfill. And many of us drink way more than that in a week!


Bring your own bag! How many of us have a drawer sitting at home full of plastic bags? By simply popping one or two into the boot of your car or into your handbag you can reduce the amount you buy from now on. Investing a few euro into a “bag for life” means you will have a strong and sturdy one you can use for years to come. 


Menstrual cups. The amount of waste a single woman produces in her lifetime simply by having a menstrual cycle is shocking. Menstrual cups are a fantastic solution. Each one lasts for around 10-15 years. No need for tampons or pads then. Most menstrual cups are silicone based, and while they may take a cycle or two to get used to they are fantastic. Much more hygienic, clean and plastic free. This is probably my personal favourite of the swaps as I think they are a real game changer!


Refills. In Simple Simons we offer refills on dried foods, body care, household cleaners, natural yoghurt, milk, olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Simply bring in your own container and we will refill it for you. We aren’t the only shop doing refills so ask around. This means the plastic bottle or tub you normally use once and then throw away can be reused hundreds of times, saving so much unwanted single use packaging.


Beeswax wraps. In most Irish households clingfilm is a staple for wrapping sandwiches, leftovers etc. By swapping to a beeswax wrap you are choosing a much more sustainable option. The wraps are made with cloth and coated in beeswax. You can wrap food with them or use to cover food in a bowl. They can be wiped clean with a hot wet cloth and each wrap will work for up to a year. After that you can re-wax them and use again. 


Contact details for Simple Simons: 

Visit there website at: www.simplesimons.ie 

Email them on: hello@simplesimons.ie 

They can also be found on facebook: here


Plastic Free July is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities. Will you be part of Plastic Free July by choosing to refuse single-use plastics? To find out more about this global movement check out the Plastic Free July the website


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.

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

 

Beyond the Dáil: Will Gender Quotas Make a Difference?

Screenshot 2019-11-05 at 13.22.05

This September graduate student Danielle Brady visited the NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network office as part of her master’s thesis project research gathering. We chatted about the local realities for women running for election, breaking into politics and discussed the recent 2019 local elections and our post-election commentary were we asked Why so few Women in Donegal Politics? In October Danielle was awarded a first class Masters honours degree from Queens University for her project research. We are delighted to see a young woman such as Danielle achieve such an award, it was clear from meeting her that she has so much passion and knowledge in this area and we wish her all the best in her budding and bright future.  

 

In this months Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature Danielle Brady shares her research on the impact of national gender quotas on candidate selection at the local level. 

 


In July 2012 the government introduced gender quotas for general elections. The introduced legislation referred to as ‘The 2012 Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act’ stipulated that state funding for political parties would be reduced by 50% “unless at least 30 per cent of the candidates whose candidatures were authenticated by the qualified party at the preceding general election were women and at least 30 per cent were men” increasing to 40% seven years thereafter.  The quotas were first used in the 2016 general election. It is difficult to conclude the full extent of their success, given that only one election has been held since their introduction. However, there are some positive signifiers, as the 2016 election saw the highest number of women both running for and elected to Dáil Eireann. But, what about local government? Have the quotas had any impact on female representation at the local level?

 


 

Although not legislated for at the local level it may be expected that the quotas at national level would result in a contagion or diffusion effect at the local level, given the fact the local government acts a “springboard” “into national politics. Research conducted by political scientists has found that those who have served in local government are better positioned to secure a seat in the national legislature. In fact, 90% of female TD’s elected in 2016 had at some stage in their careers served in local government. Given this link, it might be expected that political parties would seek to increase the number of women on local election tickets so as create a pool of candidates to select from for future general elections.

Looking at the recent local elections held in May 2019, we see an overall increase in the percentage of female candidates. In total 1,975 individuals contested the elections, 561 of which were female meaning that 28.4% of candidates contesting the elections were women, increasing from 21.6% in the previous election in 2014. Although an overall increase was recorded the extent of this varied between the political parties. As evidenced in the graph below, the four main parties Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour all recorded varying levels of female candidacy, increasing the proportion of women candidates at various rates.

danielle brady


 

Despite the variation in female candidacy between parties, each party cited did increase the proportion of female candidates selected to contest the local elections in 2019. But what has contributed to this increase and can a link be drawn between this increase and the introduced national gender quotas?

Interviews with representatives from the four main parties, deduced that the quotas did indeed have an indirect impact on candidate selection for local elections. Those interviewed acknowledged an awareness within parties for a need to increase the number of women candidates at local level so as to create a pool of candidates for national election to meet the gender quota. They furthermore pointed to the role quotas played in instilling a change in culture within parties with regard to gender, whereby gender is now considered by party recruiters in a manner in which it had not previously been. However, while the quotas played an indirect role in increasing the number of female candidates, they were not the sole contributing factor. Instead further factors emerged including political mobilisation surrounding the recent referendums, whereby women who had been involved in campaigns surrounding the referendum on equal marriage and the referendum to repeal the eighth amendment, had approached political parties to put themselves forward as candidates. A third yet smaller factor also emerged; the government incentive which saw parties receive €100 per female candidate if they increased their female representation when compared to the last local elections in 2014.


 

While each of these three factors including the quotas resulted in the four main parties increasing their female candidacy, variations were recorded within each of the parties in term of geography as evidenced in the table below:

danielle brady 2

In trying to understand why such discrepancies exist within parties two factors emerge. The issue of incumbents was cited by political party representatives and representatives from the National Women’s Council, Women for Election and NCCWN Donegal’s Women Network as a barrier to increasing female representation whereby a high number of (male) incumbents in an area creates difficulties in adding women to the ticket. Furthermore resistance from party branches at the local level was cited as barrier to increasing the number of women candidates. Such resistance is not exclusive to gender promotion but rather tends to exist towards directives given from national level or HQ to constituency branches.

Although the quotas do appear to have had a positive indirect impact on candidate selection at local level, the extent of this impact differs both between and within the four main political parties. Furthermore the quotas were not the sole contributor to the increase in proportion of female candidates with political mobilisation surrounding the recent referendums and the government incentive also playing a role. Despite the positive influence of these factors women continue to be underrepresented both in terms of candidacy and elected officials with women accounting for just 24% of councillors. Thus, measures must be taken to ensure greater female representation in local government.

 


About the author: Danielle Brady has recently completed a Master of Arts in Politics in Queen’s University Belfast, having graduated from Maynooth University in 2018 with a degree in Philosophy Politics and Economics. The above piece is based on research carried out for her Masters dissertation with the same title.


 

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.