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From the party programme International Women’s Day

The CPI reaffirms its comprehensive policies with respect to women. The issues of affordable child care, low pay and poverty remain major social problems affecting women in Ireland. Women continue to be under-represented in political life. The CPI recognises the crucial role the Women’s Coalition has played in the peace negotiations in the North. We also recognise the positive contribution that the women’s movement has played in politics.
     Communist women and men have played an extensive role in the labour, civil rights, anti-apartheid, women’s and other campaigns, including such leading figures as Betty Sinclair, Madge Davison, Lily Anderson, Kathleen Morrissey, Lily Murphy, Margaret Bowers, and Edwina Stewart, as well as many others.
     Eilish Rooney of the University of Ulster has written that the CPI has suffered as a party because of the amount of work its members do in broad movements. However, that work in the “people’s struggles” is part of what the CPI is about: we are not separate from working-class struggles, we are part of them.
Communist women in Belfast, 1940s (left to right): Betty Sinclair, Madeleine Craig,
Minnie McCartney, Anne Bruton, Lily Anderson, unidentified.

Policy on women

The following is the section on women from the main political resolution adopted by the 24th National Congress (September 2010).

Women’s emancipation and liberation from class exploitation

This year, the 100th anniversary of the declaration of 8 March as the International Working Women’s Day, the Communist Party of Ireland is reaffirming its commitment to the liberation of women from class exploitation and double oppression as workers and as women. As a party we have sup­ported and led the political struggles for women’s rights in the work-place, trade unions, and the com­munity movement, and we will continue to do so.
     We believe that only a socialist system will create the conditions for solving the women’s question, because working people will have control of the resources that eliminate wealth and power, which will allow people to share this wealth equitably and will have the power to eliminate the cultural and social conditions that historically have perpetu­ated it. The determining factor in the oppres­sion of women is the oppression of working people, both urban and rural, by the ruling class.

Women’s emancipation, the EU and imperialism

In the struggle for women’s emancipation and for socialism, communists understand the reactionary role played by the European Union. The EU is the driving force behind the anti-people and anti-worker policies imposed to secure the interests of monopoly capitalism. It has to be acknowledged, however, that women suffer dis­proportionately from EU policies and that any analysis should not focus solely on equality of oppor­tunity, on which the European Union claims to place such emphasis. Women, whilst not separate from the class struggle, have specific needs that have to be addressed in the struggle for equality of outcome and emancipation.
     In order to meet the needs of a flexible labour market, the majority of new jobs created in the EU are mainly low-paid and within the service and caring sectors. These are often part-time, with the majority of these posts filled by women. Because so many women work outside the formal economy in precarious and exploitative conditions they do not appear in un­employment statistics, and there is no way of measur­ing the numbers that have lost these jobs in the recession. This low-waged, casualised labour force serves the interests of trans­national corporations, bankers and big business. This feminisation of the work force means that women are at greater risk of poverty than men.
     Despite EU legislation, according to their own latest statis­tics, even in the formal economy the wage gap persists. The latest figures on the average hourly pay gap between women and men in the EU are 17.6 per cent. Women in seven European countries, namely Germany, the Netherlands, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, and Britain, earn 20 per cent less than their male counterparts and 25 per cent less in Estonia and Austria. Belgian female employees earn 15 per cent less than their male col­leagues. In Ireland the wage gap, according to the CSO, is 15 per cent.
     It is argued that part-time work and flexible working hours meet the needs of women in the work-place, enabling a work-life balance—difficult to realise, however, when women remain primary carers and reliant upon inadequate and increasingly privatised child care. This unresolved problem of publicly funded child care and caring services means that 77 per cent of part-time EU workers are women, who are often excluded from full-time, better-paid employment opportunities.
     Communist women continue to work within broad-based progressive women’s movements and trade unions, both at home and internationally, in the fight against inequality and the exploitation of women. Poverty, insecurity, poor working conditions, lack of public child care, access to health and edu­cation and exclu­sion from government persist.
     Whilst the level of discrimination and disadvantage varies between countries, the disadvantaged status of women continues. Worldwide, 70 per cent of those living in poverty are women, as are two-thirds of illiterate adults. Female infanticide is still widely practised, and forced marriage is still a major prob­lem in forty-nine countries according to the latest report from CEDAW (Conference on the Elimi­nation of Dis­crimi­nation against Women). Inheritance rights and freedom to live independently are denied to women in many countries by custom, religion, and poverty, which cause women to be sold to gain money or food for the family, while girls are denied the right to education. One in four women is beaten by her husband or partner. Every day 1,300 still die un­necessarily in childbirth or during preg­nancy. Inequality and discrimination cannot be tackled by simply replacing right-wing men with right-wing women in power. Parity and emancipation of women will only come about when we have a political and economic system that is able to support the needs of all the people.


There are greater demands on the community to provide much-needed services, which in effect means the responsibility being pushed back onto women. Community and voluntary associations the world over have become key providers of human services, especially health and welfare. The good will and support within civil society means privatisation by stealth, signifying the use of the community and volun­tary sector as a smokescreen for state retrenchment and corporate interests.
     We have witnessed EU-funded projects and training schemes multiplying, EU directives on main­stream­ing, frameworks and road maps have been implemented, yet unemployment and poverty continue to rise as the gap between those who have and those who have not widens. The real cost of EU-funded projects and initiatives has been a far weaker radical women’s movement, locally and inter­nationally. Progres­sive women’s groups and community organisations have been constrained in their fight against in­equality and injustice, as they are forced to jump through hoops to access much-needed fund­ing. These groups that were born out of radical feminist politics now are less likely to criticise the funding hand that feeds them, and indeed in some cases have become agents of the state, as opposed to agents of change.
     The result has been sticking plasters over gaping wounds as more and more projects addressing poverty and social exclusion are constrained by EU demands, forced to become funding-led, steeped in bureauc­racy and focused on holding on to the few jobs created instead of meeting real needs of people in working-class communities.

Trade unions

Women constitute half the working population, and women’s membership of trade unions is rising. How­ever, they remain under-represented in proportion to their numbers, and the tendency to sub­sume women’s issues within the general class struggle or to relegate them to a secondary position con­tinues. There is therefore a need to revitalise the fight for parity and women’s emancipation by focus­ing on the key demands of progressive women in relation to social policy, the labour market, and the labour movement.
     Women in the work-place need to be organised around key issues that are relevant to them, specifi­cally the insecurity of casualisation and zero-hours contracts, low pay, long hours and poor working con­ditions, job segregation and limited training opportunities, lack of state-funded child care pro­vision, bully­ing, and sexual harassment.
     The gender pay gap shamefully continues, and women remain under-represented in senior and better-paid positions. Increased work loads, maternity-related discrimination and work-life balance have a dis­proportionate effect on women, but improvements in these areas will lead to improvements for all. Tackling inequality and discrimination is central and needs to be adequately resourced.
     In society, cuts in welfare state and public services have a disproportionate impact on women, and there must be a collective, democratic and progressive left response to reverse these cuts and to high­light the feminisation of poverty. The right-wing ideology used to perpetuate women’s inequality must be replaced by a powerful international women’s movement, on a clear theoretical basis.
     The notion of “family values” and the “family wage” must be challenged, alongside the role of the media in the objectification of the female form, the sexualisation of young women and girls, and the re­inforce­ment of unequal gender relations between men and women. As Lenin contended, “There is no good practice without Marxist theory.”

Migrant women

Ireland has become an increasingly diverse society, and migrant women contribute economically, socially and culturally as active participants in the labour market and through family life and com­munity activity. However, migrant women are over-represented in low-skilled, low-paid jobs, often with­out trade union representation.
     The result is that many face some of the most serious problems of social exclusion and marginali­sation and are further discriminated against in the work-place as they face a range of gender-specific issues and in the community as many working-class women face exploitation, disadvantage and racism.
     These key issues require a collective response, and therefore organising migrant women workers into trade unions is crucial to challenging inequality, particularly in non-unionised areas of employment, where the potential for exploitation is greater. Communists need to work within progressive move­ments and lead the fight for equal working conditions, working hours and pay for work of equal value for migrant and non-migrant workers and for an effective system of recourse against exploitative employers.
     Protection and support, however, need to go much further than just within the work-place: this must extend to the wider community, society, and globally. This will require us to challenge a wide range of issues, from the need for greater access to information to an end to the trafficking of women, the power­ful multi-billion sex industry, and the promotion of prostitution. This is clearly the ultimate form of the com­mercialisation and abuse of women because of poverty.

The right to choose

Between 2008 and 2009 surveys in both the North and South of Ireland have indicated that the popu­lation believe that abortion should be legalised. The fact that 4,000 Irish women go to Britain each year also show the need for abortion law reform. As communists who are trade union activists we know how impor­tant control over reproduction has been in terms of advancing education, employ­ment and civic and trade union opportunities for women.
     Abortion in Ireland is and remains a class issue, an issue that also involves the need for improved sex edu­cation, health facilities, and so on. We will continue to fight for the reproductive rights of working-class women, through progressive movements and campaigns, and continue to give a voice to those who are silenced through marginalisation, stigma and social exclusion on this Island.
     The Communist Party of Ireland gives its support to the “Alliance for Choice” campaign and those Irish women who are taking their cases to the European Court of Human Rights. The Communist Party of Ireland reaffirms its commitment to a change in the law on women’s right to choose in both parts of the country. The Executive and Assembly in Belfast have a respon­si­bility to open up the widest demo­cratic debate among the people in relation to this important issue. It is time to change the law in the Repub­lic, away from the cowardly “Irish solution to an Irish prob­lem,” which attempts to ignore the reality of Irish women who choose abortions abroad and fails to provide them with the necessary sup­port. The CPI supports those organisations and campaigns that wish to see legislative changes as well as greater social and cultural understanding and support for those women who make that choice. We also sup­port those Irish women who are taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Domestic violence

The impact of the recession with increasing unemployment has resulted in increasing financial pres­sures within the home, giving rise to an increase in the severity of domestic violence. In this current crisis in capi­tal­ism, domestic violence figures are soaring as advice line calls, shelter visits and domes­tic violence-related crimes rise significantly. However, this current recession must not be used as another reason to justify why men abuse women: to exercise power and control over them.
     In 2006/07 there were more domestic violence related crimes than the combined total of sexual offences against children, indecent exposure, robbery, armed robbery, hijacking, fraud and counter­feit­ing, shoplifting, dangerous driving, offences under anti-terrorism legislation and firearms offences As com­munists we must understand that the impact of the recession is not only the increasing severity of violence that has always been existed as a result of power relationships within society but also that additional barriers are created for women in terms of seeking support or trying to leave. For example, NGOs such as Women’s Aid are having their funding cut and may have to cut services and reduce service hours because the demand for social welfare increases and leads to long delays in access­ing payments.
     Habitual residence is now a major issue, with women being unable to access even emergency pay­ments due to lack of official status. A most recent initiative that we welcome is the development of policy by trade unions to help women whose work is affected by acts of domestic violence.

International Women’s Day

Presentation by Deirdre Uí Bhrógáin, National Executive Committee, CPI, on International Women’s Day, Dublin, 8 March 2007.

International Women’s Day is the annual day for the recognition of women’s struggle for economic, social, cultural and political rights. It is an opportunity for awakening consciousness among women and for the unity of all women on issues affecting their fight for equal rights with men.
     Because of rapid industrialisation from the middle of the nineteenth century, and particularly in the first two decades of the twentieth century, there emerged a growing workers’ and women’s rights movement. Women were joining trade unions and organising politically, while the women of the new bourgeois and capitalist class were campaigning for the right to vote and for property and inheritance rights. There was merging and opposition between these groups, but the more conscious women in each group saw that there was a need for a united front to fight for these common issues.
     Socialist parties were springing up in America and Europe, and there were massive trade union activities, although women were forbidden in many cases to become members. The socialist and later communist leader Clara Zetkin had been an indefatigable organiser of the international socialist movement and was aware of events all over the world on women’s rights. An event in the United States was the inspiration for an international women’s day. A National Women’s Day had been set up there to commemorate an event on 8 March 1857, when women from the clothing and textile factories staged a protest in New York. The women were protesting against poor working conditions and low wages. The protesters were attacked and beaten by the police. These women established their first union two years later. More protests followed in the following years, and in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York, demanding shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights.
     It was at the Second International Conference of Socialist Women, held at Copenhagen in 1910, with 100 delegates representing 17 countries, together with unions, clubs and societies representing women workers, that the subject of an International Women’s Day first arose. Clara Zetkin, Louise Zeitz, Rosa Luxemburg and Aleksandra Kollontai—all leading socialist women—proposed that there be an International Women’s Day set aside each year to focus the struggle for women’s rights.
     An excerpt from the proposal was published in Gleichheit (Equality), whose editor was Clara Zetkin, the newspaper recognised by the conference as the organ of international socialism. It stated:
     “In agreement with the class-conscious, political and trade union organisations of the proletariat of their respective countries, the Socialist women of all countries will hold each year a Women’s Day, whose foremost purpose it must be to aid the attainment of women’s suffrage. This demand must be handled in conjunction with the entire women’s question according to Socialist precepts. The Women’s Day must have an international character and is to be prepared carefully.”
     Other issues debated at the conference were: strategies for attaining universal suffrage for women; social security for mother and child, including maternity leave and health insurance; questions of war and peace and women’s obligation to oppose chauvinism and bring up their children in a spirit of anti-militarism; the demand for an eight-hour working day; and the struggle against domestic manufacture and against night work.
     In 1911 the first International Women’s Day marches took place in many countries, and in 1913 the day was devoted to peace rallies against the forthcoming war.
     An appalling event that took place on 25 March 1911 is also commemorated on International Women’s Day, and it also happened in the United States. A fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York and killed more than 140 garment workers. A lack of safety measures was blamed for the high number of deaths. Many killed were immigrant workers from Europe.
     The socialist movement was shattered by the disagreement over support for or opposition to the imperialist war—the First World War—and unfortunately many retreated into chauvinist support for their respective imperialist countries. In 1915 it was only in Norway that they managed to organise an international demonstration on Women’s Day, which included representatives from Russia and other neutral countries.
     Thousands of working women gathered in Petrograd for International Women’s Day on 23 February (8 March) 1917 to demonstrate for “peace and bread.” The following day they were joined by many thousands of men who had gone on strike, and this was the start of the Russian Revolution. In 1927 women throughout central Asia demonstrated against laws that enslaved women. In 1936 in Spain 200,0000 women demonstrated in Madrid against fascism. This was carrying on a long tradition of women organisising and marching when conditions become intolerable, as earlier in France and Germany and many other countries.
     It has become traditional to invite speakers from other countries where possible to maintain the original international nature of the day.
     International Women’s Day has become a symbol of the worldwide struggle against the oppression of women. We must ensure that it remains at the forefront of workers’ struggle for the abolition of capitalist exploitation and all the evils of subjugation that go with it.

National co-operation on basic demands for women’s rights

The Communist Party has always been to the forefront in advocating the rights of women, in keeping with the Marxist analysis of the role of the working class, and the special position of women within that class.
     The earliest fighters for women’s rights came out of the trade union movement and early socialist and communist parties. Simultaneously, women in the other classes in capitalist society have been advocating women’s rights, particularly since the middle of the nineteenth century for their own demands to have the right to vote, to enter the professions, and to compete with men in property and inheritance rights. But it was the socialist and communist women who understood the nature of the fight and joined with the other classes in advocating rights for all women. Marxist theory had influenced all but a few of the feminist movements, and certainly many of the most serious advocates of equality. Marxist theory has also been enriched by the civil rights movement and by international women’s rights networks.
     Since the beginning of the twentieth century, women have succeeded in winning many rights at the legal and political levels to varying degrees, depending on where they live in the world.
     However, despite all the equality legislation and the organisations, nationally and internationally, dealing with women’s rights, there is still a great gap in equality between men and women. Women in Ireland still receive 15 per cent less pay for the same work, are more at risk of poverty, and are concentrated in low-paid and part-time work, with little job security and poor pension rights and social welfare entitlements.
     In Ireland today this is borne out by an ESRI report, which states that one of the reasons for the wage gap between men and women is the increasing wage inequality between the highest and lowest income groups in recent years. Of course the unbridled profits of financial institutions and translational corporations allowed by the government aid in this exploitation.
     We maintain that full equality will never be achieved until capitalist exploitation is replaced with a socialist society, and all exploitation, both of men and women, is abolished. The first socialist states enacted laws granting full equal rights for women. The social system introduced free health care, free child care, creches, and extra parental leave—demands that are still to be achieved in the twenty-first century in capitalist countries.
     These gains have all been eliminated with the dismantling of socialism in those countries. But the experience of women in those countries, while appreciating these rights, was that there still remained inequality in the sharing of domestic work, in the segregation of jobs in practice, and consequently a gap in pay. This proves that certain practices of an outdated economic system do not automatically disappear when a new system replaces it, and it requires the active participation of those concerned to raise consciousness needed to move forward.
     Women in those countries have cause to mourn the disappearance of so many rights that they once took for granted. They are now the victims of unemployment, discrimination, emigration, absolute poverty, prostitution, trafficking in women and girls, and slave labour.
     In the meantime in Ireland certain demands are being made by all progressive organisations dealing with women’s issues, which will help to eliminate the worst elements of discrimination and the exploitation of women. Working-class women must fight for their rights by being organised, as schemes of charity and social welfare dependence will not raise women to independent status.

We include here the most important areas that have been identified and that should be fought for immediately.

     Equal enjoyment of fundamental social, economic and human rights by everyone—irrespective of age, disability, racial or national origin, religion, sex, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, or political opinion, membership of the Traveller community, or membership of a trade union.
     These fundamental rights to include equal access to such basic necessities as housing, health care and education at all levels; equal access to all forms of employment; positive action to facilitate equal participation in the labour market by under-represented groups; paid educational leave for workers; more in-service training, and a national system of lifelong learning. [Extract from the SIPTU Women’s Charter.]


Women constitute the largest proportion of low-paid workers, concentrated in the service industries, particularly hotels and tourism, entertainment, and cleaning.
     Rural women working on farms have no recognition of their work and its contribution to the economy.
     Women constitute 99 per cent of full-time carers in the home; and because of the lack of state-funded creches and professional carers, many women cannot go out to work.
     To bring women into the work force and to ensure that they get jobs that end the stereotyping of women in low-paid jobs and allowing them to move into the higher-paid and satisfying jobs, the following demands should be implemented by the government immediately.
  • State provision of child-care facilities.
  • Increase the number of professional carers for home care for the elderly, disabled, and people with long-term illness, thereby releasing women to return to paid work.
  • An increase in the minimum wage, as an increase in the minimum particularly benefits women, who are the lowest-paid.
  • Increase maternity and paternity paid leave periods.
  • Ensure that women may leave and return to the work force without loss of pension rights and social welfare benefits.
  • Ensure that there is adequate public transport.
  • Provide affordable housing within a reasonable distance of employment.
  • Dramatically increase the number of labour inspectors, ensuring that employers enforce the minimum wage.

Lone parents

Lone parents have a 42 per cent risk of living in poverty. The lack of child-care facilities means that they can get only part-time employment, and for some lone parents entering employment, attempting to retain the security of their social welfare income can result in their becoming trapped in part-time and low-paid employment. Almost half of lone parents have only a primary education.
  • The government must provide a lone parent education supplement.
  • Through employment schemes, flexible working arrangements should be provided.

Trade unions

It is a well-known fact that women who are members of unions get higher wages, just as men do.
     Trade unions are working to include more part-time workers and traditionally non-organised workers, but this varies between unions. They need to
  • have specific campaigns to organise women into unions, particularly part-time workers, workers in the domestic market, cleaners, and short-term contract workers;
  • improve the number of women in the higher grades in their own organisations.
For those who cannot return to the work force because of their caring role, and for women who work on farms,
  • a minimum basic wage for all, based on the best estimate of a living wage, compatible with health and well-being and ensuring the basic necessities without fear of poverty.
For those who cannot avail of professional carers there should be
  • no means test for the carer’s allowance
  • retrospective contributory pension credits for homemakers and carers
  • individual social welfare entitlements for women.
Older women are particularly vulnerable and in danger of consistent poverty and need special measures to ensure a basic wage.
     Lone parents—91 per cent of whom are women—need to have special support measures to ensure that they are not in consistent poverty.

Traveller women

Traveller women have a comparatively short life expectancy, high infant mortality, extremely poor accommodation on official and unofficial halting sites, and a constant threat of eviction when they have no fixed site. They are also discriminated against socially and culturally by large sections of the community.
  • Give all Traveller families the right to a camping site in each council area.
  • Amend the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (2002) to allow camping and other access to land in rural areas, with guarantees of mutual respect on both sides.
  • Give funding to community associations to foster better understanding and relations between Travellers and the settled community.
  • Work with Traveller organisations to promote employment quotas.

Immigrant workers and asylum-seekers

  • Provide adequate protection to women who are in danger of violence and discrimination.
  • Provide proper separate facilities and trained carers for women whose culture or religion requires special treatment.
  • Provide the means for families separated by emigration to be reunited.
  • Provide adequate translation services for essential services.

Political, social, and cultural

We demand that the Government
  • enforce the quota of 40 per cent for increased women’s participation on state boards
  • ensure that the imbalance of women at the top levels of the civil service, educational institutions and other state employments be corrected by positive action for a temporary period
  • provide a free health-care system for all
  • ensure equal access to women’s health-care facilities throughout the country
  • enforce the social housing quotas for all new housing, to ensure that there is a social mix in all areas. This will stop concentrations of people who feel discriminated against and who feel that there is no way out of poverty traps and lack of facilities
  • ensure that all housing developments have social facilities, small shopping units, public transport, schools, and creches
  • ensure that the apartments being built have adequate soundproofing, storage space and essential facilities within each block
  • fund schemes for promoting the participation of men in caring and housework. Marriage guidance councillors recently reported that one of the biggest causes of marital disharmony was the division of household tasks
  • encourage more cultural enrichment though promoting local cultural events.

Non-government action

Women’s organisations that work closely with community organisations could play a positive role in
  • encouraging women to resist the pressures of consumerism and advertising and the deliberate directing of advertising at young children
  • promoting more cultural and personal contact within housing estates and in rural communities by providing alternative entertainment to television and isolation.

International co-operation

  • Assist the fight for the rights of women internationally to employment, equal pay, health care, housing, and access to public services.
  • Encourage contact with trade unions internationally on women’s issues.
  • Oppose economic policies that promote the exploitation of countries’ national resources and the growing of cash crops and manufacturing of goods for export at the expense of indigenous crops and industries.
  • Raise awareness of the right of women to freedom from coercion and violence, both inside and outside the family.
  • Raise awareness about sexual abuse, prostitution and trafficking of women and girls, all of which are inflicted on women for profit and are organised on an international level.
  • Make known the many international conferences dealing with women’s rights and raise consciousness about influencing polices at the national level for inclusion in reports to these bodies.
As women succeeded in making their demands known since the Second World War, there now exist many international organisations dealing with women’s rights. There are several regional organisations dealing with issues specific to their area.
     The UN Commission on the Status of Women was established in 1946 with the aim of preparing recommendations and reports on promoting women’s rights in the political, economic, civil, social and educational fields.
     The UN World Conference on Women was first held 1975.
     The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was set up in 1979, and it makes a report every two years. The latest report was in 2005. Ireland is represented and has its own report. Women’s organisations here have made submissions to the report.

Convention on the Elimination of all Discrimination against Women

[Source: United Nations.]

This convention defines discrimination against women as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”
     By accepting the convention, states commit themselves to undertaking a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including
  • incorporating the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolishing all discriminatory laws, and adopting appropriate ones that prohibit discrimination against women;
  • establishing tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and
  • ensuring the elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organisations, or enterprises.

Fourth World Conference on Women: The Beijing Declaration

We, the governments participating in the Fourth World Conference on Women, gathered here in Beijing in September 1995, the year of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations,
     Determined to advance the goals of equality, development and peace for all women everywhere in the interest of all humanity,
     Acknowledging the voices of all women everywhere, and taking note of the diversity of women and their roles and circumstances, honouring the women who paved the way and inspired by the hope present in the world’s youth,
     Recognise that the status of women has advanced in some important respects in the past decade but that progress has been uneven, inequalities between women and men have persisted, and major obstacles remain, with serious consequences for the well-being of all people,
     Also recognise that this situation is exacerbated by the increasing poverty that is affecting the lives of the majority of the world’s people, in particular women and children, with origins in both the national and international domains,
     Dedicate ourselves unreservedly to addressing these constraints and obstacles and thus enhancing further the advancement and empowerment of women all over the world, and agree that this requires urgent action in the spirit of determination, hope, co-operation, and solidarity, now and to carry us forward into the next century.

We reaffirm our commitment to
     (1) the equal rights and inherent human dignity of women and men and other purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments, in particular the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the Declaration on the Right to Development;
     (2) ensure the full implementation of the human rights of women and of the girl child as an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;
     (3) build on consensus and progress made at previous United Nations conferences and summits—on women in Nairobi in 1985, on children in New York in 1990, on environment and development in Rio de Janeiro in1992, on human rights in Vienna in 1993, on population and development in Cairo in 1994, and on social development in Copenhagen in 1995, with the objective of achieving equality, development and peace;
     (4) achieve the full and effective implementation of the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women;
     (5) the empowerment and advancement of women, including the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, thus contributing to the moral, ethical, spiritual and intellectual needs of women and men, individually or in community with others, and thereby guaranteeing them the possibility of realising their full potential in society and shaping their lives in accordance with their own aspirations.

We are convinced that
     (1) women’s empowerment and their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society, including participation in the decision-making process and access to power, are fundamental for the achievement of equality, development, and peace;
     (2) women’s rights are human rights;
     (3) equal rights, opportunities and access to resources, equal sharing of responsibilities for the family by men and women and a harmonious partnership between them are critical to their well-being and that of their families as well as to the consolidation of democracy;
     (4) eradication of poverty based on sustained economic growth, social development, environmental protection and social justice requires the involvement of women in economic and social development, equal opportunities and the full and equal participation of women and men as agents and beneficiaries of people-centred sustainable development;
     (5) the explicit recognition and reaffirmation of the right of all women to control all aspects of their health, in particular their own fertility, is basic to their empowerment;
     (6) local, national, regional and global peace is attainable and is inextricably linked with the advancement of women, who are a fundamental force for leadership, conflict resolution and the promotion of lasting peace at all levels;
     (7) it is essential to design, implement and monitor, with the full participation of women, effective, efficient and mutually reinforcing gender-sensitive policies and programmes, including development policies and programmes, at all levels that will foster the empowerment and advancement of women;
     (8) the participation and contribution of all actors of civil society, particularly women’s groups and networks and other non-governmental organisations and community-based organisations, with full respect for their autonomy, in co-operation with governments, are important to the effective implementation and follow-up of the Platform for Action;
     (9) the implementation of the Platform for Action requires commitment from governments and the international community. By making national and international commitments for action, including those made at the conference, governments and the international community recognise the need to take priority action for the empowerment and advancement of women.

We are determined to
     (1) intensify efforts and actions to achieve the goals of the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women by the end of this century;
     (2) ensure the full enjoyment by women and the girl child of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and take effective action against violations of these rights and freedoms;
     (3) take all necessary measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and the girl child and remove all obstacles to gender equality and the advancement and empowerment of women;
     (4) encourage men to participate fully in all actions towards equality;
     (5) promote women’s economic independence, including employment, and eradicate the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women by addressing the structural causes of poverty through changes in economic structures, ensuring equal access for all women, including those in rural areas, as vital development agents, to productive resources, opportunities and public services;
     (6) promote people-centred sustainable development, including sustained economic growth, through the provision of basic education, life-long education, literacy and training and primary health care for girls and women;
     (7) take positive steps to ensure peace for the advancement of women and, recognising the leading role that women have played in the peace movement, work actively towards general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control, and support negotiations on the conclusion, without delay, of a universal and multilaterally and effectively verifiable comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty which contributes to nuclear disarmament and the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects;
     (8) prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls;
     (9) ensure equal access to and equal treatment of women and men in education and health care and enhance women’s sexual and reproductive health as well as education;
     (10) promote and protect all human rights of women and girls;
     (11) intensify efforts to ensure equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all women and girls who face multiple barriers to their empowerment and advancement because of such factors as their race, age, language, ethnicity, culture, religion, or disability, or because they are indigenous people;
     (12) ensure respect for international law, including humanitarian law, in order to protect women and girls in particular;
     (13) develop the fullest potential of girls and women of all ages, ensure their full and equal participation in building a better world for all, and enhance their role in the development process.

We are determined to
     (1) ensure women’s equal access to economic resources, including land, credit, science and technology, vocational training, information, communication and markets, as a means to further the advancement and empowerment of women and girls, including through the enhancement of their capacities to enjoy the benefits of equal access to these resources, inter alia, by means of international co-operation;
     (2) ensure the success of the Platform for Action, which will require a strong commitment on the part of governments, international organisations and institutions at all levels. We are deeply convinced that economic development, social development and environmental protection are interdependent and mutually reinforcing components of sustainable development, which is the framework for our efforts to achieve a higher quality of life for all people. Equitable social development that recognises empowering the poor, particularly women living in poverty, to utilise environmental resources sustainably is a necessary foundation for sustainable development. We also recognise that broad-based and sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development is necessary to sustain social development and social justice. The success of the Platform for Action will also require adequate mobilisation of resources at the national and international levels as well as new and additional resources to the developing countries from all available funding mechanisms, including multilateral, bilateral and private sources for the advancement of women; financial resources to strengthen the capacity of national, sub-regional, regional and international institutions; a commitment to equal rights, equal responsibilities and equal opportunities and to the equal participation of women and men in all national, regional and international bodies and policy-making processes; and the establishment or strengthening of mechanisms at all levels for accountability to the world’s women;
     (3) ensure also the success of the Platform for Action in countries with economies in transition, which will require continued international co-operation and assistance.
     We hereby adopt and commit ourselves as governments to implement the following Platform for Action, ensuring that a gender perspective is reflected in all our policies and programmes. We urge the United Nations system, regional and international financial institutions, other relevant regional and international institutions and all women and men, as well as non-governmental organisations, with full respect for their autonomy, and all sectors of civil society, in co-operation with governments, to fully commit themselves and contribute to the implementation of this Platform for Action.


[Source: Central Statistics Office, Men and Women in Ireland, 2006.]

Principal economic status of women

Half of all women (49.8 per cent) aged fifteen or over described themselves as members of the labour force (at work or unemployed). The equivalent figure for men is 72.4 per cent.
     Of those not in the labour force, 62.2 per cent of women were looking after the home or family, compared with 1.1 per cent of men.


Women’s income in 2004 was 65.7 per cent of men’s income. Women’s hourly earnings were approximately 86 per cent of men’s.

Labour force

Women made up 42.3 per cent of the labour force. In the 20–24 age group, 45.8 per cent of the labour force was female. This was the highest proportion of all age groups.
     The employment rate for women was 58.8 per cent. The employment rate for men was 77.3 per cent.

Effect of having children on the employment rate

This rate varied from 88.3 per cent for women with no children to 53.5 per cent for women whose youngest child was aged between four and five. The employment rate of men with children varied only between 94.5 and 91.9 per cent.
     Slightly less than 1 per cent of those whose principal activity was looking after the home or family were men.

Risk of poverty, 2005

The proportion of women at risk of poverty, after pensions and social transfers, was 19.9 per cent in 2005, compared with a corresponding rate for men of 17.9 per cent.
     The rates for employed women and men at risk of poverty were 5.4 per cent and 6.6 per cent, respectively.

At risk of poverty by age, 2005

Women aged 65 and over had a risk of poverty rate of 36.2 per cent, compared with the overall rate of 19.7 per cent for all women. For men the rate for the age group of 65 and over age was 29.8 per cent, compared with an overall rate of 18.9 per cent for all men.

Lone parents

91.6 per cent of lone parents with children aged under twenty were women. There were 80,366 people receiving one-parent family payments in 2005, of whom almost 98 per cent were women.


The number of male immigrants more than doubled between 1996 and 2006, rising from 18,800 in 1996 to 48,500 in 2006. The number of female immigrants increased from 20,300 to 38,400 during the same period, an increase of almost 90 per cent.

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