Gender Equality is one of the most important indicators of the 'health' of any society. My own path to seeking a mandate from the NUI electorate to create programmes and initiatives to achieve gender equality is summarised below, in an article I was asked to write for the Fulbright Alumni newsletter in 2018.
I have learned through my own experiences as a sub-warden for students in university accommodation spaces, as a class tutor, as Chair and Director of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes, and as an activist academic at the coal-face of university life over the past thirty years, the extent of the problem of gendered violence in terms of the effects on the individual victims, their relationships with self and others, and on wider society.
The rate of victimisation appears to be worsening rather than improving, but it is difficult to ascertain due to a lack of research in the area. If elected, I will seek funds to run another up-dated Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) survey and publish the findings in a report. The data will guide the formulation of a range of policies and programmes to tackle the problem.
Given that 80% of rape victims are aged under 25 years at the time of the attack, it is clear that educational institutions (with 85% of their attendees aged under 25 years) have a role to play in tackling gendered violence. In 2002, the Council of Europe called upon member-states' Higher Education Authorities to take initiatives to prevent gendered and domestic violence.
One of my top priorities is to create a #SurvivorSolidarity initiative, called "Dandelion Day", to raise funds for much-needed research, to raise awareness, to educate using media and public talks, and to show the survivors that their society as a whole is behind them, and their journey from surviving to thriving.
The dandelion's colours have important meanings: Yellow (flower) growth and healing; White (puffball): clarity and new beginnings; Green (leaves/stem): groundedness, resurgence, and life. Dandelions go through a process of emergence (budding), transformation (yellow flower to white puffball), and new growth opportunities (as the seeds are spread and take root far and wide), similar to that journey survivors embark on, in order to thrive once again.
Wearing a dandelion flower on Dandelion Day, an outward symbol of solidarity with survivors, can help to transform our society and empower us all to create a safer and more supportive environment for everyone.
Further details of my gender equality action plan are below:
Dr. Karen Devine