From the Report of the Commission on the Status of Women

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From theReport of the Commission on the Status of Women

1972

The Commission on the Status of Women was established in 1970 by the Irish government in response to a directive issued by the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women, with a mandate to "examine and report on the status of women in Irish society and to make recommendations on the steps necessary to ensure the participation of women on equal terms and conditions with men in the political, social, cultural, and economic life of the country." An interim report (1971) recommended the implementation of equal pay and the removal of the prohibition on married women in public-service employment; the final report appeared in 1972. The commission reinvigorated the Irish women's movement, and its recommendations provided a focus for later campaigns.

SEE ALSO Education: Women's Education; Equal Economic Rights for Women in Independent Ireland; Women in Irish Society since 1800; Women's Parliamentary Representation since 1922

In general . . . the picture presented of women's involvement in politics is one of relatively small participation at local level, with a progressive decline of involvement at the higher levels. This, of course, is true of women's participation in many other areas where the promotion of women comes up against serious obstacles and traditional attitudes. It is true also of practically all countries abroad. . . . There is a strong indication that women are themselves in a certain measure to blame for this situation by displaying a considerable degree of apathy. It has also been suggested that women's educational background is at fault and that even with equality of access to education the present large degree of segregated education operates to preserve a traditional division of interests between the sexes. In politics, this manifests itself in the orientation of women to believe that political power and activity is primarily for men. There is clearly a great need for really impressing on girls that they have a part to play in political life and that the general failure of women to participate more fully in political activity can only operate to their disadvantage. The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women has drawn attention to the part that education must play in this matter and has referred to the necessity for an intensive programme of civic and political training to ensure that women realise the full extent of their rights, obligations and abilities, that young people be encouraged to participate in political activity and that civic education be available at all educational levels, including adult educational institutes. . . .

In addition, the political parties themselves should make greater efforts to attract women members and to let it be seen that they welcome them. Once they become members, they should be treated equally with men and should be given posts of responsibility in the organisation on merit. Progress of women within the parties will be clearly related to their willingness to work hard and to perform uncongenial tasks where necessary. The women's organisations, also, have a part to play in providing training in public speaking and civics and encouraging a greater political and social awareness among their members even if the organisations themselves are non party-political.

Reprinted in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, vol. 5, Irish Women's Writing and Traditions, edited by Angela Bourke et al. (2002), p. 191.