By Jessica Robinson, Founder and President, Purepoint International
In visiting Ambassador Donoghue of the Permanent Mission to the UN, the fellows of the Emerging Global Leadership Program with Impact Leadership 21, were able to not only learn about the evolution of active participation of women in Ireland and the removing of structural barriers for women, we were also able to get a better understanding of the history of Ireland, and how its leaders, made such significant progress in the last 20 years.
The rise of the Celtic Tiger, the age of economic prosperity in the mid-1990s that was also experienced in Asia and the US, had a direct tie with the political healing in Northern Ireland through the Good Friday Agreement under the leadership of their first female president Mary Robinson. In 1997, when Mary Robinson left office, Mary McAleese succeeded her as the second female president. At that time, not only was the Agreement a celebration of the cessation of violence in Northern Ireland and Ireland, but it was a time for young people to go to college, specifically women, and build a life outside of the fear that had plagued the country for decades. Ireland soon started to see an influx of women taking higher level leadership roles in corporations and the public sector.
Over the past 15 years, the Ireland cabinet has moved at lightning speed to increase the representation of women in the House of Commons, by asking political parties to have 40% representation of female nominees or else they would not be eligible for financial support. There is only 15% participation of women presently in the lower house of the Ireland Parliament. Though Ambassador Donoghue is very proud of the country’s ranking in Economic World Forum’s The Global Gender Gap Report, at number 6 in the world, he admits there is a lot of work to do not only with women representation in the work place, but with reproductive rights, which is still a taboo topic since abortion still illegal in Ireland.
Globally, Ireland is sharing key learnings from the Good Friday Agreement regarding the importance of the active participation of women during difficult, intractable conflicts as highlighted in UN 1325. Through cross cultural learning initiatives, Mary Robinson is working with women in East Timor and Liberia to come up with their own ideas and solutions to move forward in their respective countries. In preparing for 2015 UN Development Goals, Ambassador Donoghue is part of a sustainable working group with Finland and Norway. Other discussion topics include violence against women and women, peace, security concerns that Donoghue stated, in part, starts with national ownership within governments to reform internally.
Overall, visiting Ambassador Donoghue of the Permanent Mission to the UN was an incredible experience and did give us ways to think more innovatively in how to create change in our own countries.