Celebrating International Women’s Day – Equal Ireland

We have participated in International Women’s Day Celebrations since the mid-1970s, through our membership of the Workers Union of Ireland, which later became SIPTU. Our role models and old friends were feminists such as Shiela Conroy, Inez McCormack, Sylvia Meehan, Joan Carmichael, Patricia O’Donovan, Noirin Greene and Padraigin Ni Mhuruchú, to name but a few. We went on to create EQUAL Ireland, an organisation dedicated to equality and are now Mná na hÉireann, Women of Ireland Fund Awardees. We are delighted to be working with this innovative organisation. 

The Equality Emerging Statue by John Behan from a concept developed by Nuala Keher and Eddie Higgins on behalf of EQUAL Ireland.


In 2001 we commissioned John Behan to design the ‘Equality Emerging’ statue in Galway. This was our effort to mark the continuing struggle for equality. We unveiled it on International Women’s Day 2001. 

It is the only statue in Ireland specifically dedicated to people involved in the equality struggle and to those suffering because of its absence. It is located in the Equality Park, Galway City, near the Salmon Bridge. When next in Galway do please visit

The statue depicts a woman emerging through a wall, with the wall representing all of those forces opposed to equality. The reason that the woman is only partially emerged is intended to highlight the fact that while much has been achieved there is still yet more to be accomplished!

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “EachforEqual”. It emphasises the difference people can make to ensure that women’s achievements are highlighted and celebrated. 

As part of that process and on this International Women’s Day we asked our participants to reflect and comment on the difference that EQUAL Ireland and Mná na hÉireann, Women of Ireland Fund are making for rural women in Ireland? Here are some of their responses. 

Women Role Models

I am the daughter of Mary Neenan, who is an avid supporter of EQUAL Ireland and is my inspiration. You allowed my mom the opportunity to re-educate herself at the age of fifty-six. A prospect I’m sure she thought was well out of reach due to her finishing school at age sixteen, with sparse ambition and passing grades. – Aine Neenan

Everyone Deserves a Second Chance

My time with EQUAL Ireland has been so much more than a second chance at 3rd Level Education. It has heralded the beginning of my personal self-development and has opened so many doors which were previously inaccessible. One special event for me was an EQUAL Ireland meeting organised with the Cuban Ambassador (See Photo) which I thoroughly enjoyed. But back to my studies, I began the Essential Skills Certificate with the same hopes and fears as all of my other colleagues, but we grew and gained a solid foundation to continue with the Higher Certificate. Now, in my final B.A. Year, I am equipped with new skills for future employment, a new approach to problem-solving and have made wonderful friends in the course of this journey. – Emily Burke

More than a Mother

Because of this EQUAL Ireland Programme, and the wonderful women I have met along the way, I feel empowered and confident about the future. I feel more than a mother, and I feel it’s important for my children to see me striving for more. – Jenni Owen-Thomas

Designed for Women

In the middle of year two of the programme I had a major operation and still managed to complete the year with good grades. This is because the course is designed for women with a busy family life without compromising on the quality of the studies. I felt really touched when, after my surgery, I got a call from EQUAL Ireland who wished me a speedy recovery and reassured me that I could continue my studies. – Diana Llie, Poland

….as a Very Mature Woman Student!

Some time back I became aware of EQUAL Ireland and the opportunity they offered, to gain a 3rd level qualification.  I joined the programme as a very mature woman student!  I recently gained employment in a national organisation and I know my success was due to demonstrating my ability to learn and adapt in my work and learning history.  The EQUAL Ireland Programme was almost completed at the time and the knowledge gained through the various modules, empowered me to go forward with confidence. As a Mum of 5 children I absolutely know the commitment women make to family and extended family.  However, we have hopes and dreams too. I can only hope that my story may inspire and encourage others to connect with Equal Ireland and see that it is possible to achieve if we consciously choose to step forward and ask “Why not”? – Bernie Costelloe

The Opportunity to Focus on Something that is for Myself!

This EQUAL Ireland Programme has changed my outlook on life and I am now more logical and analytical. I have developed the patience to sit for long periods of time and undertake the necessary study and research that the programme demands.  This is something that I never would have allocated time for in my previous life of rushing and caring for others. EQUAL Ireland has afforded me the opportunity to focus on something that is for myself and that challenges me in a way that I never thought possible. I have really enjoyed the journey. – Ann McNulty

It’s Early Days Yet!

I am so grateful that EQUAL Ireland are providing this Programme in West Cork.  I work fulltime and this would be the only way I could progress in my learning to help to improve my own local town, Bantry, Co. Cork. I know it’s early days on the programme, but already I have gained so many insights and ideas from the wonderful lecturers that enable this course to take place. I already know that this programme will benefit not only me, but also my home town of Bantry. – Deirdre Fitzgerald

With Confidence and much Humility

I have been given the tools to fulfil my potential, as this course has improved my knowledge and skills, and now a new chapter awaits this woman with her briefcase of lovely hard earned goods. The door has been pushed open and I will proceed through it with confidence and much humility. As I realise that much more has to be done, mountains to be climbed and rivers to be crossed. As good old Confucius once said; “By three methods we may learn wisdom: first by reflection, which is the noblest, second by imitation, which is the easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. (Confucius, 2017)- Ann Murphy

Opening My Eyes

I live in a rural Ireland. With EQUAL Ireland I can study around my caring responsibilities and I can even study in the car, which I often do but not while driving. The RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) allowed me to put a concrete value on the work I do every day as a carer. It is opening my eyes for career paths and opportunities.  –Ruth Whelan  

We will be formally launching our new programmes in May 2020 supported by Social Innovation Fund Ireland, Bank of America and the Department of Rural & Community Development via the Dormant Accounts Fund through the Mná na hÉireann, Women of Ireland Fund. These will include

  • BA in Business, Social Enterprise and Community Development,
  • Train the Trainer
  • Mentoring and Facilitation Skills for Recognition of Prior Learning 

Visit www.equalireland.ie to learn more.