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On International Women’s Day 2023, the Civil Engagement Group senators are calling for transformative change to address gender inequity in Irish society. The Senators highlighted the recent publication of the action plan for a gender-equal Ireland by the Joint Committee on Gender Equality, of which Senator Higgins was a member.


The CEG are the only all-women group in the Oireachtas. They called attention to the challenges faced in particular by Traveller women, migrant women, disabled women, and women heading one parent families.


Traveller women


Irish Traveller women have a life expectancy on average 11.5 years lower than women in the general population, and face higher rates of infant death and maternal morbidity. CEG senator Eileen Flynn chaired the Special Committee on Key Issues Affecting the Traveller Community.


Senator Flynn said: “Gender equality is about engaging with all women. We need to implement the recommendations of the Traveller and Gender Equality Committee reports – we need action now rather than more words.”


The CEG are reiterating their call on the Government to implement the recommendations of the Traveller committee report. On IWD 2023, they ask the Government to protect the medical cards of the predominantly Traveller women who improve health outcomes for other women in their community by working in Traveller Primary Health Care Projects.


Women heading one parent families


Another group highlighted by the CEG are one parent families, the vast majority of which are headed by women. One parent families make up over half of all homeless families in Ireland, and are more than 2.5 times as likely to be living in enforced deprivation as two-parent families.


Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, who was a member of the Joint Committee on Gender Equality, said: “For far too long, Ireland has failed and discriminated against one parent families. We need to make changes to our constitution and social protection systems so that they properly recognise all families, and the contribution made by carers.


On IWD 2023, the CEG are calling on Government to progress action on a constitutional referendum to recognise all families equally, and to strengthen social protection supports for care by extending eligibility for Jobseeker’s Transitional Payment until a child turns 18.


Disabled women


25% of disabled women live in poverty in Ireland. Current disability supports are inadequate as they do not reflect the cost of disability, while the delay in ratifying the Option Protocol continues to be an obstacle to justice. Disabled women often face additional obstacles in accessing reproductive health and services.


Senator Frances Black said: “This International Women’s Day I’m thinking of all the women with disabilities who are campaigning to make education, work and politics more accessible and inclusive. Ireland could assist their efforts by ratifying the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”


On IWD 2023, the CEG are also calling on Government to raise rates of Disability Allowance to take account of the cost of disability.


Migrant women


The CEG senators also drew attention to the overcrowded living conditions and health vulnerabilities often faced by migrant women in Ireland. Those migrant women who have fled conflict may be deeply impacted by gender-based violence and psychological trauma.


Senator Lynn Ruane said: “On International Women’s Day, just like every other day, I feel strongly that feminism is leaving large groups of women behind. Whether that is working class women, mothers’ access to safe accommodation and health care, or safety and options for women experiencing intimate partner violence. A common theme in women’s lives, including for our trans and migrant sisters, is the lack of safety in one’s very existence. There is no progression without equity, and so on this IWD I call for less conversation in favour of more radical action in the pursuit of an equitable society.


On IWD 2023, the CEG are calling on the Government to put targeted health and mental health supports in place for women migrants who may be contending with trauma or unmet health needs due to fleeing conflict, and who are currently facing overcrowded, temporary accommodation due to State failures.