International Women’s Day is a global event celebrating the many achievements of women while also marking a call to action for more equality. We may think the Day is a recent phenomenon, but the first day was held in 1911, and was immediately seen as a significant occasion. While women have made great strides ever since, many, many women are unequal still.
In Ireland there are different events taking place round the country today. Soroptimist international North Kildare celebrated International Women’s Day 2020 with a afternoon of food, friendship, stories and music in the home of club member Eileen Lawlor. We have chosen a curry lunch to acknowledge gender inequality in many Far Eastern countries.
President Áine Brady remarked that ‘In Ireland we can be grateful that discrimination against women is largely a thing of the past – though women are still somewhat unequally represented in politics, in business and on boards. For women to progress we need the support of all. As Sotoptimists we belong and subscribe to an international organisation that celebrates and supports women as evidenced in our mission and project. So we can rightfully celebrate this Day, recognising the value of the friendship we offer each other, demonstrating that together we are stronger, with much to contribute.’
Eileen is a supporter of initiatives that help young women who have been trafficked and chose the charity ChoraChori, an organisation that empowers young women in Nepal. We learned about 17-year-old Roshni (name changed) who was raped by a young man from her village in Sunsari District, southeast Nepal, while her parents were away from home. In that lawless part of Nepal, the family sought justice from village leaders. Their “solution” was that since rapist and victim where both single, they should marry. Moreover, Roshni’s father would have to pay a £2,000 dowry to the rapist’s family.
Roshni and her family were under extreme pressure to accept the decision since rape is so stigmatised in Nepal and Roshni’s prospects of marriage with anyone else had dwindled. Reluctantly, her father sold land to raise this vast sum. But on the day of the planned wedding both the rapist and his father absconded.
At this point the family filed a case with the police and turned to ChoraChori for support. It took a year to track down the rapist but he was finally arrested by the police. Our legal team provided support to the prosecution and Roshni’s assailant was imprisoned for 5 years.
Throughout this prolonged case, ChoraChori protected and counselled Roshni at our Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre. She joined our in-house tailoring course, determined to make a blouse for her mother. She completed this six months’ training as top of the class and returned to her village. There she set up her own tailoring shop and, supported by an aunt, was soon busy with orders. Soon afterwards, her father passed away and Roshni is now able to support her mother and younger siblings through her income.
Roshni’s story is the reality for far too many girls and young women in Nepal. In Nepal reported cases of rape have quadrupled in the past ten years and in some areas, violence against girls and their abduction seems to be treated as a social norm. The statistics on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Nepal are truly shocking. One survey in 2016 found that 23% of women had been subject to physical, emotional or sexual violence with 7% having experienced sexual violence. Over half of the victims were minors, one in five under the age of ten.
This project tackles this problem head-on by providing security, rehabilitation, education and training for these vulnerable girls.
While this was one story about women who are being empowered around the world and how we can help, Cathy Fleming, local historian and former primary school teacher (and friend of the club in North Kildare) spoke to us about Kate McCarthy, an Irish woman who was liberated by the Swedish Red Cross from Ravensbruck concentration camp after surviving selection from the gas chamber four times. She, with two French women Sylvette Lelue and Madame Tardiveau started one of the very first Resistance groups in Bethune. She was captured by the Gestapo in June 18th 1941,she was sentenced to death. A year of solitary followed. Then two years of hard labour travelling 1,500 km towards Hell. Throughout this she helped save 200 people. We were delighted to hear about amazing women who in their way changed the world for the better.
An enjoyable day was had by all celebrating friendship, empowerment and women paving the way in society. The day raised over €900 for ChoraChori. Thank you to all who took part and helped us raise vital funds for this great organisation.