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19 Aug 2022

International Women's Day | Violence against women remains a challenge in 2022, says Longford's Tara Farrell #IWD2022 #BreakTheBias

International Women's Day | Violence against women remains a challenge in 2022, says Longford's Tara Farrell #IWD2022 #BreakTheBias

CEO of Longford Women's Link, Tara Farrell

If there is one organisation in this county that deserves recognition over and over again, it’s Longford Women’s Link. And CEO Tara Farrell is the driving power behind all the good work LWL has done over the past year, especially.

“I was very proud to take over as CEO of LWL in 2021 – it is an organisation very close to my heart and which I believe has had a huge impact on the lives of many women in Longford,” she told the Leader.

In her position, Tara is keenly aware of the biggest challenges facing women in Longford and beyond this year and, unsurprisingly, violence is still at the top of that list - with LWL’s Domestic Violence Unit continuing to assist women who are victims.

“Violence against women remains one of the biggest challenges in 2022 and there is a particular impact for women living in rural communities who face increased isolation and additional barriers in terms of reduced services,” she said.

In recent weeks, RTE Investigates revealed Longford to be one of nine counties without refuge for victims of domestic violence.

“We know that there are eight family places promised for Longford,” Tara explained.

“The details are yet to be agreed but this is very much a collaborative issue and we look forward to working with the relevant agencies to ensure the best outcomes for women who need refuge space. We need to remember that the provision of refuge space is just one element of the very complex issue that is domestic violence and it is not a panacea for all ills.”

Last year, Tara was also elected Chairperson of Irish Rural Link and she was Chairperson of AONTAS, the national organisation for adult learning, prior to that.

This International Women’s Day, LWL will be thinking of our sisters in Ukraine, many of whom are fighting on the frontline.

“While I think it is always important to celebrate the achievements of women, particularly in our community, it has to be acknowledged that the difficulties faced by many women in our communities do not disappear on International Women’s Day, or the day after,” said Tara.

“There is much to be thankful for in terms of emerging from the pandemic and also in terms of the wonderful work carried out by our team in the last year, but the issues that impact on women and girls in our society still remain.”

How will you mark International Women’s Day on Tuesday, March 8?

This year, LWL are having a staff gathering to mark the first time we have all been able to come together for two years. It will be a time to reflect on the trojan work that has been carried out by the LWL team during lockdown and look to the future. This IWD will be particularly poignant as we send our support to our sisters in Ukraine, many of whom are fighting on the frontline. 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

While I think it is always important to celebrate the achievements of women, particularly in our community, it has to be acknowledged that the difficulties faced by many women in our communities do not disappear on International Women’s Day, or the day after! There is much to be thankful for in terms of emerging from the pandemic and also in terms of the wonderful work carried out by our team in the last year, but the issues that impact on women and girls in our society still remain. 

It is also a historical day, when we should remember those women who fought for the many freedoms we now have that perhaps are sometimes taken for granted – the right to vote and the right to equal pay. We also have to acknowledge that there are many countries where women and girls face appalling breaches of human rights and offer our support where we can.

#BreakTheBias is the theme for International Women’s Day 2022. Applying the theme to your own life and career, what might it mean to you and what is your view or interpretation on the theme?

There is no place for prejudice in our society. I think it is important for International Women’s Day and every day, that we highlight the great work done by women in our communities and in particular, those role models who inspire other women and girls. But I think the theme goes beyond bias and also refers to imbalances, for example, political representation for women, unequal distribution of caring responsibilities among others. So in 2022, I would like to see more women becoming involved in our democratic structures and for those who are interested but perhaps unsure where to start, may I recommend our SHE project www.seeherelected.ie.

What have been three career highlights for you to date?

I was very proud to take over as CEO of LWL in 2021 – it is an organisation very close to my heart and which I believe has had a huge impact on the lives of many women in Longford. Last year I was also elected as the Chairperson of Irish Rural Link which was a highlight for me and I look forward to bringing my passion for rural advocacy and equality to the discussions! Prior to that I was the Chairperson of AONTAS, the national organisation for adult learning and that was a wonderful experience as I am an avid advocate of the transformative role of community education in the lives of women. 

As CEO of Longford Women's Link, what do you feel are the biggest challenges facing women in 2022?

Violence against women remains one of the biggest challenges in 2022 and there is a particular impact for women living in rural communities who face increased isolation and additional barriers in terms of reduced services. We also need to highlight the Early Years sector – we saw during the pandemic that we cannot have a functioning economy and society without high quality early years care and education so it is critical that this sector is properly resourced to provide that car and that includes appropriate remuneration for Early Years staff. 

What challenges does Longford face in terms of securing refuge spaces for victims of Domestic Violence?

We know that there are eight family places promised for Longford, which is one of the nine counties in Ireland without a refuge for women. The details are yet to be agreed but this is very much a collaborative issue and we look forward to working with the relevant agencies to ensure the best outcomes for women who need refuge space. We need to remember that the provision of refuge space is just one element of the very complex issue that is domestic violence and it is not a panacea for all ills. 

See Her Elected became the first Irish recipient of the Innovation in Politics Award in the Democracy category late last year. How does it feel to be involved with such a fantastic organisation?

Receiving the Innovation in Politics Award in December last year in Brussels was a fantastic organisation. LWL founded the SHE project in 2019, along with our partners 5050 North West and it has grown from strength to strength since then – with no small thanks due to our brilliant Programme Manager Michelle Maher and the latest addition to the team, Communications Manager Mairéad O’Shea. SHE has shown that there is an enormous appetite for political knowledge in our communities and over 700 women from across the country have taken park in the SHESchool seminars. Watch this space for the Local elections in 2024!

According to the World Economic Forum, gender parity will not be attained for almost a century. Do you agree? Could it be attained sooner?

I think there is an onus on those of us who can, to call out gender bias, to call out damaging and harmful attitudes to women and girls. Coupled with that, we need robust policies which support change and which address inequality and issues such as violence against women. I am hopeful that the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence will go some way to achieving this but all policies and strategies must be underpinned by sufficient resources to implement them and to effect real and meaningful change.

It is also the case that many women are not in a position to raise issues of sex-based discrimination for fear of retribution or because they do not have access to the required structures. It is important that we listen to the voices of women who are experiencing discrimination and unequal treatment and advocate for change. I believe there has been a change in some attitudes in recent weeks but it remains to be seen if this translates into long-lasting change.

With Covid-19 pandemic restrictions lifting, what have we learned over the past two years and what are your hopes for the future? 

I think we have learned the importance of community, the importance of family and the importance of social interaction. We have learned what is actually essential in our society and what we can perhaps do without. We have also learned that things that we were told were impossible pre-pandemic are now possible! We have learned much about digital technology but II think we have also learned that while digital connectivity is important, nothing can replace the benefit of human interaction. I hope that we are emerging into a more tolerant society, recognising that the pandemic impacted everyone differently that that people have been shaped by their experiences. 

The invasion of Ukraine have seen men and women go through untold pain and fear. What are your own thoughts on what is happening in Ukraine now?

I think many of us are watching the news in disbelief at the scenes coming from Ukraine – at LWL we have friends and colleagues from Ukraine as well as Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and we stand with them in our support for their families, friends and country. There are very significant implications for the future of the EU and indeed our global future as a result of this invasion and the impact on the people of Ukraine, both at home and abroad is devastating. I am heartened by the Irish response to appeals for aid and am reminded that there is good in the world, even at times like these. 

Who are two ladies who have inspired you in your own life and explain why?

I have been inspired by so many women in my own life – I couldn’t possibly pick two! My family – grandmother, mother and sister are all strong women who have inspired me and I am fortunate to have some very brilliant women in my circle of friends but I am also inspired every day by the women I meet at LWL, colleagues from across the country at Irish Rural Link, AONTAS, the Centre for Cross Border Studies. There are so many women that I have worked with whose passion for addressing injustice and inequality know no bounds and I am very proud to know them. 

Check out our other IWD interviews with inspirational Longford women at the link below:

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