9 quotes on change and equality from boundary-breaking women

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For International Women’s Day, take inspiration from the wise words of women who have appeared within the pages of Irish Country Magazine

The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is ‘Choose to Challenge’. This year organisers are inviting women around the world to do what they can to challenge inequality. And so we turned to some of the incredible women we have featured within the magazine, each change makers in their own right. Their words and their actions show that not just today, but everyday, Ireland is home to strong women who are calling for change.

Author Marian Keyes

“I am so proud of how far we’ve come. I am so proud that we found the courage to stand up for ourselves after we were silenced for so long.

“That my mother had to give up work when she got married, that we couldn’t hire a telly or open a bank account without the signature of our husbands. That priests told us to be ashamed for wanting to leave our abusive husbands or not have any more children. The courage it has taken us to dismantle all of that stuff, bearing in mind that we have been riddled with manmade shame that was not earned or deserved.

“How we endured all of that and stayed good humoured, and buoyant, and hopeful, and funny. I think we’re fabulous. Nobody is as lovely or as funny as an Irish woman. There’s a real sweetness to us as well that’s quite unusual. Irish women are my booze, they are my heart creatures. I love us and I’m so proud of us.”

Evanne Ní Chuilinn, RTÉ sports broadcaster

“When we started talking about women in sport ten years ago, it kind of grated with me a little bit because why should we have to talk about women in sport? But it’s a little bit like a gender quota sometimes you just have to do it to get to where you need to go. The product of starting that conversation is that now, in my view, it’s no longer ‘women in sport’, it’s just sport.

“I think we’re gone past calling me a female sports presenter, or calling Katie Taylor a women’s boxer. She’s a boxer, she’s the best in the world. The next step is to start taking the word women out of everything, and I know women in sport is such a positive message but we need to get to a point where it’s just sport. It’s so subtle but it’s the next step.” 

Sinéad Burke, activist, author and founder of Tilting The Lense, a consultancy targeting inaccessibility

“It’s great I got to be the first little person on the cover of Vogue, I got to be the first little person to go to the Met Gala, that’s great, but when does the second little person get to do that? What does change mean when it’s not just rooted in change for me, how can I now be a person who is no longer an outsider in the fashion world but an insider, and leverage the space and the opportunity that I have to ensure broader change? 



Photographer Michelle Prunty, Female Photographers Network, a group inspiring women to pursue their professional and creative dreams

“It is just a lack of confidence and not feeling worthy which is deeply rooted for women. From speaking to women, they feel that their upbringing was the same. They were told to be quiet and to be good while the boys could be the loud raucous ones.” 

Senator Eileen Flynn, first Irish Traveller in the Seanad

“I am a woman and I am a Traveller. I cannot speak for men because I am not a man, just like I cannot speak for people in Direct Provision, or black women, or Muslim women, but I can do all I can to support them and ensure they are heard and I will. Their experience is not my experience, and we need to ensure that people on the margins of society are heard,” Eileen says. 

Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu

“I have heard of people being chased out of their housing because of the colour of their skin. We have seen protests pick up from the far right. We have seen people hide under the guise of protecting the Irish and keeping Ireland for the Irish. But the Ireland I was born in and grew up in was a lot more welcoming and a lot more loving than they are portraying. The Ireland I have always known and live in now would never say that, there are so many people for whom Ireland is their home.”

Vicky Phelan, on beginning her tireless campaign for better healthcare for women following the CervicalCheck scandal

“I thought the journalists and the HSE would look into it. I thought it was everybody else’s job and not mine. But when I saw the numbers going up and I was asked for my opinion, I couldn’t not talk. As soon as I started talking I couldn’t stop. It kind of mushroomed from there. I never had a real plan, I just kept going.” 

Mary Nolan Hickey, an Irish woman who ran the Irish coastline at age 67, and cycled it at age 68

“By no means do I think everyone should be running marathons, but there are plenty of other things people can do from dancing to walking, badminton, spinning classes, aerobics and Pilates. Age is a pain in the ass literally, but it doesn’t mean you stop.

“Life is for living and sport is for everyone. There’s no age limit in sport. Whether you’re a young girl, middle aged or an older women, there’s a sport out there for everybody if they want to do it.” 

Deborah Somorin, mother, chartered accountant and founder of Empower the Family

“I was the only person in my class as far as I’m aware to end up going to college straight after sixth year. The teacher didn’t think it was going to be the single mom who got pregnant at 13 and was living in a care home that was going to be the one person who was going to make it to university. For me, I needed to keep studying, I needed to get through college. That’s what always got me up. That was the only option I had, I wanted Liam to have a better life than I did.“

Empower the Family is a charity that supports young people from disadvantaged areas to access education. Read more about her story in this month’s issue of Irish Country Magazine. 



Main image: Chelsi Peter from Pexels