On March 8th, 1986, myself (Catherine Drea) and Glynis Currie organised the first celebration of International Women’s Day in Waterford. My 8 week old baby, now 29, slept for most of it, but was there to be fed if necessary!
Over 150 women crammed into the upstairs room of the old Garter Lane Building and Liz McKay who had a Cafe in the basement, fed everyone with loaves and fishes. It was also the close of the United Nations Decade for Women and the beginning of designating March 8th to raise awareness of women’s struggle all over the world. It was probably this very event that led to the setting up of Framework in 1994; born out of idealism and a strong commitment to equality.
1986 began a special journey for many Waterford women who set up community projects, organised conferences, campaigned for Mary Robinson, came out, got divorced, got jobs, left jobs, went into business, emigrated, had children, got fit, lobbied and networked nationally and internationally. A personal highlight was attending the World Women’s Summit in Taiwan and speaking about Irish women’s lives and their progress in bringing about change.
In 2006 we celebrated 20 years of events, with the Waterford Women’s Centre, in City Hall. To document the part that the women of Waterford played in the movement, Framework produced a short film of the event and interviews with 3 women whose lives had been affected by the changes brought about by feminism during those years.
In those days everything needed to change. One by one Irish women began to tick off a list of successes and changes now benefitting future generations. Glynis and myself are part of the first generation of working “married” women who up until the 1970’s had to resign from their jobs on marriage. More and more of us are in leadership roles, we have more choices, more opportunities, but we should never forget that women still need support, encouragement and safety more than ever.
This week on International Women’s Day, we remember again our sisters here and around the world who still long for the kind of freedom some of us take for granted.