OPINION: Be under no illusion, Brexit is bad for women - Nic Alastair

 None so fitted to break the chains, as they who wear them. None so well-equipped to decide what is a fetter” – James Connolly

On this International Women’s Week, we feel pride and maintain strength by remembering the revolutionary women who stand up to oppression and colonialism, who fight for social justice and liberation; the women who shatter glass ceilings.

But in this time, we also feel anger – knowing that this celebratory day will pass and the mainstream media, after a day of promoting Western women and limited victories, such as this year marking 100 years since only some women in Ireland, based on class were allowed to vote – will become quiet once again.

We will then continue having to fight for the basic right to our freedom as women, our freedom as a people still occupied and our freedom from violence, discrimination and an array of inequalities and injustices.

The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Bejing recognised that “Many women face additional barriers to the enjoyment of their human rights because of such factors as their race, language, ethnicity, culture, religion, disability or socioeconomic class or because they are indigenous people, migrants, including women migrant workers, displaced women or refugees”.

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own” – Audre Lorde

We do not need to list once again, examples of the vast variety of barriers facing women, and exploitation we have faced, but we will follow Maya Angelou’s words that “we must not be defeated” and instead, ensure we highlight the very real concerns of Irish women – including this year, with the very real threat posed by Brexit.

Despite our overwhelming vote to remain, we face into acontemporary period of uncertainty as we face the loss of EU legislation based on equality and protecting rights – such as paid-leave for maternity, challenging the gender pay-gap as we continue to be over-represented in the lower paid tiers of employment, and visibly lacking in top-paid senior level roles, lack of political representation, reproductive rights… Need we go on?

“The corridors of power are structured to accommodate the associated characteristics of male, heterosexual bodies of dominant racial and ethnic groups”.

There is absolutely no guarantee that the rights afforded to us as a result of EU legislation, will be protected.

Who are we being asked to rely on instead to uphold our fundamental rights?

We know what has been done to women across the world, by a British colonial machine – the remnants very visible on the lives of women in our post-conflict society.

Thinking of Ahed Tamimi, a 17 year old with the heart of a lion, resisting Israeli occupation in the West Bank. Grateful to Martina Anderson, who was also the heart of the resistance in Ireland, as a freedom fighter from her late teens – now continuing to ensure the rights of Irish citizens are glaring in the eyes of the world.

Proud of personal friends, such as Rosie Kinnear in the human rights legal system, Niamh Cusack working in healthcare and progressive campaigns, Sarah Wright who will never leave any woman unsupported, Emma Rogan who will leave no stone unturned in her work to ensure the families get truth and justice.

And to the many, many others who continue to challenge every form of oppression.

On #IWD18, we reiterate that we will not allow the status quo to remain, or for women to have to suffer most. Instead, we will continue to stand for legislation and treaties/strategies compliant with our rights, for the Courts and Justice system which we can rely on to appeal discriminatory actions, and for women across the world who follow the likes of Angela Davis in “no longer accepting the things (they) can not change”, but “changing the things (they)cannot accept”.

Ní Saoirse go Saoirse na mBan.

By Collette Nic Alastair

Ógra Shinn Féin