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Friday, December 9, 2016
Looking at the world through women's eyes - Irish missionaries report
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¬†Today will see millions of women around the world from Dublin to Zambia celebrate International Women's Day. As such, this is an opportune time to recognise the progress that is being made around the world in the sphere of the empowerment of women. In far too many places around the world, however, women remain victims of serious human rights abuses and discrimination, the Irish Missionary Resource Service (IMRS) said today. "Women confront a particular set of challenges in achieving their full human rights. They experience discrimination and rights violations on a daily basis. While we applaud the important advances that have been made, we need to remain focused on the obstacles that women still face around the world ≠ the work of Irish missionaries in this area is an example for others to follow," said Mike Geally, CEO of IMRS. At a quite formal level International Women's Day is an occasion marked by women's groups around the world, is commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. As part of this occasion, the Irish Missionary Resource Service (IMRS) wants to shine a light on the hidden work being done by its members with women around the world. Promoting a stronger and more productive role for women in development demands a broad and flexible approach - an approach already being utilised by many Irish missionaries. Sr Isabelle Smyth, Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM) Communications Department maintains: "Giving visibility and support to women's contribution to development is part of gender mainstreaming as envisaged in the UN Development Programme. Working at grassroots level, the challenge lies in finding ways to enable women to start from where they are, so that they can work from there towards their own personal and community development. For example, in Brazil Sr. Brigid McDonagh, has been working with women's groups for the past thirty-seven years. She is greatly energized by the enthusiasm of the women who are working to improve their quality of life and that of their families and their neighbourhood." Sr Brigid said: "By 1991, preparation for each year's International Women's Day had become a common focus. During these years one dream of many women emerged very strongly ≠ that of being able to read and write. Many returned to school. There were other practical outcomes ≠ as in 2002 when the theme involved domestic violence. Help including medical and legal services, protection and ongoing accompaniment, was organised as well as questioning government bodies." Speaking from Kenya Sr Angela Hartigan, a Sister of Mercy explained: "As part of our awareness activities for IWD 2007 the Mercy Sisters are running an International women's day workshop on behalf of the National Commission on Gender and Development; MS-Kenya and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR)." She continued: "This being an election year, the workshop will focus on the chosen theme of Women's Day, which is Wise up to Women's Leadership. The Sisters of Mercy globally are proactively involved in empowering woman specifically in the arena of politics and human rights. We are continuously encouraging woman to register for a voting card, to vote and more importantly stand for election." Furthermore, Sr Pereka Nyirenda, a Religious Sisters of Charity from Zambia believes: "Our mission is to serve the 'poor' and vulnerable. Poverty and vulnerability has many faces and forms. It is found among a large number of Women and girls that our Sisters reach out to in the countries in which we serve. The Sisters try to reach out to these women and girls in ways that enable and empower them to take charge of their lives and move out of the cycle of poverty and vulnerability." One such person who works with women and girls on the margins is Sr Anne Kennedy, a Sister of Charity, based in Zambia and working in the Mary Aikenhead School. She maintains: "One might ask, what difference has this school made to the girls in this locality? It has given them- many of whom are bereaved of one or both parents, many whom are living with parents who are sick and unemployed, many whom are living with relatives who are overburdened with their own families and do not want them - it has given them: hope for a better future; confidence in themselves; has helped them to be assertive and aware of their human rights, gained them respect from others and hopefully will give them a better quality of life and the hope that, through education, they will contribute to the development of their country. In short they have been empowered." These women missionaries are making an unprecedented impact both in terms of development generally ≠ and more specifically as an Irish contribution of women helping women throughout the world. Sr Noelle Corscadden, IBVM, IMRS Chairperson said: "There is an amazing variety of women missionaries working for the development of women in Ireland and worldwide. The IMRS have recognised, through its members, our Irish missionaries, the essential role women play in the development of their countries." "International Women's Day began with women protesting poor conditions and discrimination. Though there have been some improvements, the mission of those first women protesters is ongoing and is something which Irish missionaries can readily identify with. Missionaries are at the forefront around the world in the battle against these injustices. This is a global day connecting all women worldwide and inspiring them to achieve their full potential." The Irish Missionary Resource Service (IMRS) is a charitable non-governmental organization that supports the development work of Irish Missionaries. For more information about the IMRS and some of the work of its members, please go to their website on www.imrs.ie.
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