2016 has certainly been a year to remember with huge changes in national and international politics. Women for Election have been busy througout the year, training candidates and bringing politically minded women together. Below we look back at our work over the past twelve months.
The Year in Politics
On Wednesday December 14th we were delighted to welcome our supporters to the RIA on Dawson Street, for the sixth edition of our ‘The Year in Politics’ event. Once again Norah Casey was our moderator, chairing a discussion between Deputy Kate O’Connell TD (Fine Gael), Deputy Catherine Martin TD (Green Party), Deputy Fiona O’Loughlin TD (Fianna Fáil), Deputy Louise O’Reilly TD (Sinn Féin) and Senator Ivana Bacik (Labour). Over 110 participants came along for the spirited debate.
The event took place on the 98th anniversary of Irish women’s first opportunity to vote, on December 14th 1918. To honour the leadership and legacy of the 114 women who have been elected to Dáil Éireann since 1918, we launched a new ‘Invite a woman to run’ campaign, distributing postcards for participants to send to women they know whom they believe should run for election! Thanks to all those of you who joined us! The pictures can be viewed here & read more about the event here.
Oireachtas Women meet with First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon MSP
On November 28th we facilitated a private event bringing together Oireachtas women for a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, MSP. The event was hosted by An Tánaiste, Minister for Justice & Equality Frances Fitzgerald TD. A groups of over 30 TDs, Senators and Councillors spent an hour with the First Minister discussing issues ranging from Brexit, Scottish-Irish relations, increasing female representation in politics and creating a women’s caucus.
The unique event was a frank and incisive discussion and highlighted how much talent there is among our elected female representatives. Bringing the group together allowed Women for Election to play a part in strengthening the cross party spirit of cooperation between them. Take a look at the pictures here.
Increasing female representation in GE16
GE16 was a huge step forward for female representation in Ireland. 35 women were elected to Dáil Éireann, increasing female representation from 16% to 22% – the world average. While there remains much work to do, we are proud of this first general election result since Women for Election began our work.
19 of the 35 female TDs are newly elected, 40% of whom are Alumnae of our programmes. The Seanad also features a number of new female representatives and we are proud to support all female members of the Oireachtas.
During the campaign we ran a national advocacy campaign #electwomen to promote the women running. Thanks to the gender quota legislation there was a 100% increase in the number of female candidates compared to 2011. For more check out and share our GE16 Report Card.
WFE Trainings during 2016
Throughout 2016 we continued our work to train women at every level of their political journey. In the run up to the General Election we worked with candidates during our series of Media Masterclasses. Many of the participants are now TDs and Senators and we were delighted to support them with the practical skills to strengthen their candidacies.
In February we worked with Twitter for our joint #PositionOfStrength training, bringing together leading Twitter users and campaigners to share best practice advice for use of the platform. Many thanks to Sinéad McSweeney for making this special event possible.
In May we partnered with the Glencree Centre for Peace & Reconciliation for trainings in Belfast, Derry/Londonderry and Cavan, with support from the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade. Working with women north and south of the border to build their capacity to represent their communities for the second year was inspiring and informative.
Our 2016 Summer School took part at the Facebook HQ in Dublin. Over 100 participants came together for a full day of training, focused on amplifying your online voice. The day began with a discussion between female politicians on how they used Facebook during GE16, we were delighted that Senator Maura Hopkins (Fine Gael), Deputy Anne Rabbitte (Fianna Fáil), Deputy Catherine Martin (Green Party) and Deputy Joan Burton (Labour) were there to share their experiences. The trainings provided by Facebook experts contextualised the panel discussion, and enabled everyone present to better understand how to campaign on Facebook. See the photos here. We’re very grateful to Niamh Sweeney from Facebook for her support putting the day together.
In November we partnered with IMPACT trade union for an INSPIRE training. The day was a big success with over 40 activists joining us for sessions on confidence, communications and campaign strategy. Patricia King, Secretary General of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, addressed the group, sharing her own experiences. Taking place the week of the US elections the training was a welcome reminder of how empowering it is to work together advocating for equality.
Thanks to all our partners and everyone who has attended our trainings this year. Our Alumnae network continues to grow and allows the learnings and shared experience of trainings to go beyond the day itself, building connections between politically minded women that we are confident will last.
The GEPLE Project
Throughout 2016 Women for Election has been part of an EU Erasmus + project working with five partner organisations from the USA, Poland, Czech Republic and Finland, as part of the GEPLE Project. The trainings have taken place in Prague, Warsaw, Dublin and in the United States.
In May the partners visited Dublin, where the focus was on best practice communications strategies for campaigning organisations and fundraising. For a full report on the events in Dublin click here. In September the US part of the training focused on how diverse campaigns can work together and leverage the potential of tech in their work.
If you would like to read more about the US trip, and the organisations we met with, follow this link.
The GEPLE project aims to develop an online platform bringing together our shared knowledge and resouces to increase female participation across Europe, the knowledge gained on the successive trips this year have contributed greatly to the content for this platform, which is currently in development. To keep up to date with GEPLE follow the project on Twitter: @GEPLE_EU and read the blog here.
Working with Student Leaders
During 2016 we ran our third level programme INFORM across Ireland. As part of our goal to develop a pipeline of young female political leaders we continued travelling to campuses across the country to train and empower young women. Working with Queen’s University Belfast, CIT, DCU, UCD, TCD and the Union of Students in Ireland it has been a privilege to meet enthusiastic and talented young women, with bright political futures ahead of them.
Thank you for supporting Women for Election’s mission. Building lasting equality in Irish politics will take time, together we have taken the first steps and laid the groundwork for the next phase of our work.
A special thank you also to our team during 2016 Suzanne Collins, Hannah Deasy, Una Power and Niamh Walsh, their work has been an important part of our shared success.
Now, after a busy year, we’re looking forward to continuing our journey towards building an Ireland with equal participation of women and men in public life with all our supporters in 2017 and beyond.