Stand Strong Girls

Archive for the category “Odds and ends”

Women’s Rights and International Development

I wrote this speech for the Action Aid Speech Writing Competition in January, but unfortunately my entry was unsuccessful. There were three possible titles and I chose:

Why are women’s rights important within international development and ending poverty?

The rights of women are the same as the rights of men, and therefore the same as those laid out in the Declaration of Human Rights. Women, simply because they are as human as men are, have many rights such as the right to be employed. Women’s rights are thought of differently and sometimes given special priority because women are more likely to be deprived of their rights. In a situation regarding any breach of human rights, it is almost certain that women will be suffering at a more intense level than men, because even the most basic standards are often not being fulfilled. This occurs not just in developing countries, but in developed ones as well. However, the most obvious abuses, such as the Marriage Bar, have disappeared in developed countries, whereas they are still prevalent in the developing world. However, many developed countries are still guilty of not upholding women’s rights, but this is usually not so blatant and easy to see.

International development is one of those terms that trips off the tongue, but is actually quite hard to define. Development in this sense is the advance or growth of a country. It is international because it occurs all around the world and involves countries creating links and bonds that extend further than their own borders, through trade and shared projects. Development differs from change in that it is more select. It recognises the long-term costs and results of growth, and takes account of them. On the other hand, change is not always so positive, and often disregards long-term costs. Development, then, is progress and improvement for an economy, a country and the people who live in it.

To lack food, money and essentials is to live in poverty. Sadly, this is a situation in which millions of people find themselves. It is nigh on impossible to end poverty, because it is a vicious cycle which traps people and leaves them no way of escape. The old maxim, ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’, is probably the neatest way to sum up how to end poverty, which is our goal here. Education, of all sorts, is vital to helping people out of this cycle. If you want to be metaphorical, it’s the light at the end of the tunnel.

Now that the key concepts have been made clear, we can look at how the rights of women are a part of development and the battle to end poverty. Women who do not have their rights fulfilled may not be permitted to work outside the home, travel, vote, access family planning or control their own finances. All of these barriers thrown up in front of women also hinder international development and the worthy goal of ending poverty. For a country to develop and its people to be relieved of poverty, its economy must be strong and sustainable. This is very difficult to achieve if a large part of the workforce is blocked from employment. How can a country appoint a forward thinking and stable government, if approximately half of the electorate cannot speak their minds through their votes? It is impossible to fully develop an economy, and therefore a country, without the active participation of the citizens. Women’s rights play a huge part in international development because their exclusion means that any ‘improvement’ or ‘growth’ will benefit only a part of the people, and never the whole. In this way, there will always be poverty lingering in the background and creeping around the corner, because some people, namely women, are barred from escaping it.

Paid employment has a lot to do with ending poverty. Women who have the right and the facilities to work can earn an independent income, money that is their own. This money, when spent or saved, feeds into the economy, just as a man’s income would. A country needs money and resources to develop, so an economic climate in which most of the citizens can earn and use their money is to the country’s advantage. Certain facilities are necessary for women to be able to work in the public domain, but these are no more than they are entitled to. Included here are toilets and maternity leave as well as equality of payment and holiday entitlement.

Healthcare is important both to development and a reduction in poverty levels. Clinics, general practitioners and family planning centres are all elements of infrastructure that any developed country needs. Family planning is particularly important for realising women’s rights and all of the benefits for development that come with them. Women in developing countries can often feel trapped by the family obligations that five, six or more children present. It is a barrier for women who wish to work, and a cycle in itself because more children require more money, yet more children also need even more time spent at home, and not working. Therefore, women’s rights to healthcare is essential to development and ending poverty.

There are many examples of cases in which women exercising their rights have assisted with development, as well as lifting themselves and others out of poverty. Women who have the right to work have often been involved in setting up co-operative businesses and banks, which benefit an entire community. Projects such as these can lead to improvements in infrastructure, education, disease prevention and local government. It is not difficult to see how women’s rights can be a starting point from which a broad range of people in a community may be helped.

It may seem odd, but all of my arguments have something to do with bicycles. Let’s look at the example of Amina Kasuim, a Ghanaian women who was formerly a slave working for her uncle’s family. Later in life, she learned to ride a bike and purchased her own from the Village Bicycle Project. It has been invaluable and allows her to reach markets, her farm and family occasions with greater ease and efficiency than before. The use of a bicycle as a women’s instrument of freedom goes right back to Edwardian Britain, during which the introduction of bloomers as cycling garb began a women’s clothing revolution, leading to greater emancipation. All of this has contributed and is continuing to contribute, to development, by allowing women to travel further to work, or for leisure. It plays a clear role in ending poverty as well, Kasuim’s bike maintenance skills could lead to a well-paid job, or encourage her to become an entrepreneur.

In conclusion, I think the American campaigner Susan B. Anthony summed my sentiments up well when she said of bicycling. ‘I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance’. With ‘freedom and self-reliance’, brought about by the fulfilment of their rights, women can become a driving force behind international development and the move to end poverty.


International Women’s Day 2016

As it’s International Women’s Day today, I’d like to mention an event that I’ll be taking part in to celebrate it. On Friday 11th March at 4:30, I will chair a panel called Women in Education and our contribution towards Gender Parity in the Long Room Hub, Trinity College. There will be a second discussion afterwards and a screening later in the evening. The events will mark International Women’s Week 2016. The theme of International Women’s Day 2016 is Pledge for Parity, and this event is called Leading Parity. Follow this link for full details or to book for any of the events!

Blogging Break

The purpose of this post is two-fold. Firstly, to say that I’ve decided to take a break from Stand Strong Girls because I’m working on other projects at the moment. My posting has been quite infrequent of late, so I think it’s best to sign off until I’ve gathered a few fresh ideas.

Secondly, I am still posting on Curiously Creatively, a craft blog which I contribute to, if you’re interested in having a look at that. The next Stand Strong post will be up on 1st March, but I will be checking for comments or ideas from readers before then, so feel free to get in touch.

Thank you for reading, commenting and following!

India’s Female Forest Guards

I recently read this article about the female forest guards working in the Gir sanctuary in India. The women protect and rescue the big cats living in the reserve. I’d like to look into this more and write a proper post about the forest guards at some point. I hope the article interest you!

Forest Guards

Forest Guards

Blog Awards Ireland

Stand Strong Girls is delighted to have made it to the longlist of the Blog Awards Ireland. The shortlist will be published soon, so my fingers are crossed!

Longlisted Button

Glavin: The UN’s new master plan doesn’t take women seriously

I found this article about the UN Sustainable Development Goals very interesting. I haven’t actually looked into the new goals and targets yet but I’m very curious about them now. It’s a true, but often overlooked, fact that improving women’s rights and education helps a country’s economy immensely. It would be good if the UN supported women’s business start-ups and small lending banks which can empower women below the poverty line.

Daisyhouse Update

I wrote a post a few days ago about Daisyhouse, a charity for homeless women. A reception was held recently for the women who supported the charity at the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon in June. Around €4,000 was raised, which will go towards Daisyhouse’s programmes and services.

Daisyhouse presentation

Presenting the cheque

Women Run in the Wet

In wet and windy conditions, over 37,000 women took part in the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon in Dublin this year. Around 80% of the participants raised funds for various charities. There was a great atmosphere at the Mini Marathon this year as numerous participants wearing all colours of the rainbow completed the 10 km course.

It got me thinking, while there have been so many complaints about all-men races, clubs etc why are women-only activities an exception?

In some cases eg: book awards, all-women versions give recognition to people who may not receive it in mixed groups. As women are biologically not as fast as men, it is fair that competitive sporting events are separated by sex. The mini marathon though, is not just a competitive event, it is very inclusive and most participants are there to achieve a personal goal, but not to win.

Female events may also have been set up at a time when women were not permitted to enter certain events. The women’s mini marathon was established in 1983, when long distance running was not generally regarded as suitable for women by the international sporting bodies. The marathon was an immediate success. However, women can now enter a mixed 10 km anywhere in the country, there is no shortage of them. Is there a need for a women’s mini marathon when women can enter other races? For example, women can enter the Dublin Marathon, which can also be used for fundraising.

Another aspect of the women’s mini marathon is the positive atmosphere. Can a mixed event create that same atmosphere? I don’t see any reason why not, you could go to a mixed event and still have great fun. If we go with that assumption and and the arguments I have discussed above, then is there really a case for having a single-sex mini marathon?

It would seem not, but then I wouldn’t want the mini marathon to end, or be labelled as exclusive. If anything it is the opposite, as women of all ages, shapes and sizes participate in it. Can anyone shed some light on the topic?

Row, row, row your boat…

I posted up a debate about women’s sport a little while ago, and now I’m continuing that theme with a piece about the women’s boat race. The Oxford-Cambridge boat race is an old tradition, but did you know that there is also a women’s race?

Boat race team

Men’s and women’s boat race team

This year the women’s boat race will finally attract as much attention as the men’s, because of sponsorship. Helen Morrissey, the CEO of Newton Asset Management insisted on equality between the men’s and women’s events. And because sponsorship, she was taken seriously.

The increased coverage surrounding the race this year could well inspire more girls to take up rowing. This also shows the need for more public spirited women, and men, in powerful company positions. Helen Morrissey’s decision is a victory for this sport, but now we need others to follow suit.

Photo Credit:, with thanks!

A suitable job for women?

Even nowadays, there is a culture of, ‘that’s too hard for women’ or, ‘girls can’t do that’. Intensive physical labour is often considered unsuitable for women. In WWII that assumption was proved drastically wrong, by the Women’s Timber Corps.

The Women’s Timber Corps was a branch of the Land Army and the women who worked in it felled trees, worked in saw mills and chose trees for poles and timber. There were around 6,000 women in the corps during WWII.

A member of the Women's Timber Corps stripping bark from a felled tree to be used as a telegraph pole

Women’s Timber Corps


Many people did not consider such an occupation as suitable for women. Even their uniform, which consisted of a jumper, shirt, breeches, boots and a greatcoat, broke down boundaries. According to Pat Parker, who was in the Timber Corps, her breeches were, ‘something special, as it wasn’t customary for women to wear trousers then’.

Working in all weathers, these ‘lumberjills’ gave a vital contribution to the war effort, at a time when fuel and building material were in huge demand. A sometimes forgotten part of the Land Army, I just thought I’d expand on their role a little because in The People’s War (a 600 page book long about the Home Front) by Angus Calder, they only get about a paragraph!

Photo Credit: Wikipedia, with thanks!

Further Reading: What did you do in the war, Mummy? by Mavis Nicholson


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