'Hidden Gems: Illuminating the Brilliance of Women #IWD2024 Event'

March 6, 2024

CHI’s Community Engagement Team holds event to mark International Women’s Day 2024 at the Ashling Hotel, Dublin 8

Yesterday, Tuesday, 5th March, CHI Member Tenants, colleagues, stakeholders, peers from third-sector organisations, and members of the general public, gathered for an interactive event facilitated by women Member Tenants to mark International Women’s Day 2024. The theme of the event was ‘Hidden Gems: Illuminating the Brilliance of Women’ and it aimed to give a platform to women from CHI communities and allow them the opportunity to speak about causes close to their heart, and ‘illuminate their hidden gems’, that is, speak about the women who inspire them, teach them and enrich their lives.

The event commenced with tea, coffee and treats, before the facilitators took over to tell their stories. The conference was MC’d by Sabrina Ryan, who began with a quote from Ntozake Shange “Where there is a woman, there is magic.”

Geraldine Martin, CHI Member Tenant and Visual Artist from Dundalk

First to speak was Geraldine Martin, a visual artist based in Dundalk. Geraldine paints in watercolours and oil and is involved with her local housing Member Association where she helps at community events. She plays tenor drum with a newly formed local pipe band, St Brigid's of Dundalk. She spoke about the influence of the women in her family on her art and on her faith. Art, faith, and music are essential for her wellbeing and inform her outlook. She took the place of her neighbour and friend, Inga Perkone, who could not make the event, and referenced notes Inga had prepared on the importance of International Women’s Day in her home country, Latvia.

Geraldine’s question for the audience was: “What do you know about International Women’s Day and what does it mean to you?” Attendees discussed the question with their table. One group mentioned that there is a long way to go to really embed women’s days, another said that IWD presents an opportunity for men to learn about women.

Fiona Callinan, mother, hairdresser and CHI Member Tenant

The next speaker was Fiona Callinan, a mother of four children and a hairdresser, who was joined at the event with her mother and her daughter. Fiona spoke about her experience raising her children in Irish society and the importance of creating a sense of belonging. She is a member of her estate's Member Association and works hard to grow a sense of community. She spoke about how being a hairdresser gives her the opportunity to bring happiness to other women's lives, how fostering inclusion in her community is key, and ended her piece by speaking on an issue that matters to her, organ donation, citing the loss of her friend. Her question “What message would you give the generation coming up?” garnered many interesting responses. People said they would encourage them to ‘take up space’, and ‘stand their ground’.

Nuala Savage, CHI Member Tenant and member of CHI's National Board

The final live speaker was Nuala Savage, a CHI National Board Member, currently living in Wicklow. She is a single mother and has one son with special needs. She spoke about the power of women in society, how women were conditioned growing up and the difference in her home, and how she has been inspired by her late mother to accept the challenges of each day and never give up when things get tough. She posed two questions to attendees:

“What would message would you give to the next generation of women?” and ‘How are you raising your sons?"

Mahla Bashir, a mother of five from Limerick, could not make the event in person but told her story through video played to the audience. Mahla came to Ireland in 2008. She spoke about how difficult it was for her to leave her home country of Sudan and settle into a new culture. Her question circled back to the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, ‘Inspiring Inclusion’. She asked us “What are the steps we can take as individuals to inspire inclusion in our communities?”. One group replied “Don’t just wait for inclusion to happen”, inclusion is an active process. Another said to ask and be curious about difference.

This event marked the second year CHI has celebrated International Women’s Day with an in-person event.

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