The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge. A key takeaway from this theme is that by challenging and questioning the world around us, we can create change. We alone are responsible for our actions, and now more than ever, we should choose to push back against gender bias, inequality and inaction by those who aren’t playing their part in lifting women up.
Despite the progress that has been made, it is clear there is still far more work to be done to achieve full gender equality for women. We see this in the gender pay gap, the lower level of representation in positions of leadership and the unequal proportion of violence against women and girls, to highlight but a few examples.
The Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the divide, with UN Women suggesting that the fall out of this unprecedented crisis could set back the goal of achieving gender equality by as much as 25 years. This is evident in, for example, the increased role women have had to play in the domestic sphere, the rise of domestic abuse, and reduced access to healthcare.
In addition to challenging these issues, a key aim of International Women’s Day is to create space to celebrate those who work to overcome obstacles and to advance equality and human rights. As such, the School of Law Athena Swan Committee have opted to highlight the experiences of three inspiring women working in academia, human rights lawyering and peace activism respectively. To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, the Committee is hosting a roundtable event with Professor Anne-Marie McAlinden (QUB Law), Gemma McKeown (The Committee on the Administration of Justice) and Angela Godfrey-Goldstein (Peace Activist), exploring their motivations for entering their careers and their reflections on the opportunities and challenges for women working in these areas.
Professor Louise Mallinder, this year’s Swan Champion, commented
“The School of Law celebrates International Women’s Day annually as part of our Swan commitments to promoting awareness of gender equality among our staff and students. This year we have chosen to celebrate the achievements of three inspiring women who research and advocate for human rights issues either here in the School or in collaboration with some of our academic colleagues. The roundtable discussion should give us all the opportunity to reflect on the distinctive contributions that are made by women working in different ways on human rights questions and should be informative for students who are aspiring to careers in academia or human rights practice.”
This event complements a LawPod series featuring interviews with each of the speakers, where our podcast hosts discuss a variety of themes. These episodes were developed in partnership with the School of Law Athena Swan Committee and cover how these women became involved in their specific roles and human rights in general. They then dive in deeper to explore their experiences they have had in their field, looking at how they have navigated this space as women and any advice for those considering a similar career. Finally, consideration is given to the potential of human rights to achieve social justice and what, if any, are the barriers to this when women are leading the charge.
We asked our LawPod interviewers, Dr Eithne Dowds, Dr Rachel Killean and Dr Alice Panepinto for their reflections this International Women’s Day, their conversations with our guests and personal advice on how to become involved with human rights and activism as a woman. Here’s what they had to say…
Dr Eithne Dowds
“I think I would say from my podcast, my main takeaway for people is to listen to Gemma when she says, ‘go for it!’. There is so much work still to do in terms of women’s rights; getting involved and volunteering will open your eyes to what is going on, how you can contribute and how you can learn from those already active in this area.”
Dr Rachel Killean
“In the Law School’s IWD event, we celebrate three women who have shown exemplary leadership in their fields, discuss the ways in which they promote positive social change through their work and challenge the continued barriers that face women in the workplace.
I hope folks who listen to the podcast are inspired by the women we have featured and are given an insight into the different ways that law can play a role in pursuing social justice. For people at an early stage in their career, I hope they benefit from the words of wisdom and advice shared by our three guests”
Dr Alice Panepinto
“In essence, she (Angela) has been instrumental as a mentor to me over the years, and that’s one of the most important bits of advice I have for anyone looking to get into human rights work: find someone who you admire, work with them /volunteer / help out and learn ‘on the job’ by shadowing them.”