Sabina speech at an event marking the 16 Days of Global Action on Gendered Based Violence
Irish Museum of Modern Art, Thursday 25th November, 2021, 6.30pm
I am honoured to be here as part of this important event. This memorial service to mark the 240+ women who have died in Ireland between Dec 1995 – Nov 2021. Women who lost their lives and had their right to life taken from them by male violence in the past 26 years. We are here in solidarity with women and men worldwide to be part of an act of global action and resistance as we participate in this United Nations denoted 16 Days of Global Action against Gender Based Violence.
It gives me great pleasure to pay tribute to all the people involved in organising today’s memorial service, the wonderful activist Rita Fagan and the Resource Centre Community, Annie Fletcher and Imma, the speaker Sinead Gibney and all the artists contributing in so many ways.
Violence against women is one of the most persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today. Kofi Annan of the United Nations has stated :
“Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, with the abuser usually someone known to her.”
Indeed, one of the most common forms of violence against women internationally is domestic violence, and here in Ireland one-in-four women have been abused by a current or former partner. That is a frightening statistic and one which reminds us that even as we gather here today, many women around the country and around the world are trapped in vicious relationships – relationships they entered into with joy and hope, but relationships in which they have been maliciously deceived and betrayed by violent and manipulative partners.
A quarter of women have had their lives impoverished by violence and abuse; it is intolerable that one in four women have lived in homes defined by terror, cruelty and bullying.
It is so heart-breaking to know that domestic violence that was sadly common in Ireland has now increased and deepened appallingly amidst the Covid Crisis. Calls to Gardaí increased by 20%. Criminal charges linked to breaches of order increased by 24% to more than 4,000. There were more than 7,600 criminal charges for crimes involving domestic abuse – up a quarter from 2019.
It is hard to grasp that those things are actually happening. It is a cause for grief but it is also true that we can be so grateful to all the people for their courage in taking action to deal with the situation as best they can. The brave women who ring the Gardaí or a family member the health services or the help organisations to look for help. The brave people on the front line who respond. Also those who realise that help is needed and have the moral courage to intervene. Unfortunately, the amount of resources needed to respond to calls for help are not available and the suffering goes on.
The health services and essential services, such as many domestic violence shelters and helplines, are past reaching capacity. We need to prioritise dealing with violence against women and provide the extra services and resources of response at every level. We need to provide adequate funding to organisations supporting victims of domestic violence.
It is clear that urgent action needs to be focused on the problem of gender violence. How can it be that children on whom love and care and kindness was lavished when children, particularly by women in their life, can grow to be a person of ignorance and cruelty. People who violate their own human dignity by violating the dignity of another.
What can be done?. Particular educational opportunities could be of help. Educating against violence in general and gender based violence in particular could start at the earliest age. We could instil in children and in young adults such an awareness of their own dignity and self-worth so they could become conscious of their own authenticity and be able to understand and cope with their personalities, develop good character and make a commitment to ethical behaviour and never resort to violence on another person.
I myself think that if yoga was taught and practised in primary and secondary schools, on a daily basis, it would develop and maintain a healthy body and breathing and thus enable self-control and management of anger and frustration. Instead of striking out, one might be able to take time to think and take positive action.
I think that education as well as family influence can help in building in children a consciousness of the human dignity and the respect that is due to them, and is due by them to every other person. It can give them an awareness of their right not to be bullied or insulted, a confidence as to what to do and how to speak up and ask for help if they or others are being bullied or belittled. Parents and teachers need to be helped to be aware of when their help is needed and how to give that help.
The problem is huge and needs to be addressed in so many ways from so many angles if the violence is to be greatly reduced. It is clear that urgent action needs to be focused on the problem of gender violence.
Today we not only remember those lost lives, but resolve to honour them by committing to walk in solidarity with those who are abused. The fact that so many people are aware of the issue and are working towards the achievement of the 3rs & 5th Sustainable Development Goals of, Good Health and Well Being, and Gender Equality will surely bring good results in time.
Thank you all, and love to you all.