Wednesday 8, March 2023

Is Ireland Ready to #EmbraceEquity?

‘Embrace Equity’ is the rallying cry across the globe on this International Women’s Day.

Equity Is Not Equality

This global theme is much more than a nuanced re-positioning of the traditionally equality call associated with the now established annual event, it is a challenge and one which we should ensure we are ready to meet.

Equity is not another word for equality. It is significantly different and if we are to achieve a society free from discrimination, it is one which we need to understand and implement during these hugely challenging times.

We all know the equality calls and campaigns which have delivered so much social change in our country. They have served us well. As a country we are a flag carrier for marriage equality, Travellers have had their ethnicity recognised and women are increasingly taking up positions of leadership across our society.

There is much to be proud of. However, equality is not without its shortfalls. For every success it is also true that people and entire communities are being left behind, forgotten or even worse deliberately ignored.

Recognition of ethnicity was hard fought for by Travellers, but in and of itself it does lift barriers to school, college or work. Equal marriage is something we are all proud of but the LGBTQ community has just come through the most violent year in a decade. Women maybe taking up leadership roles but political parties still struggle to make gender quotas.

Much of this is because equality makes an assumption that everyone no matter what their circumstances is starting from the same position. Therefor everyone gets the same level of supports, the same level of attention and the same level of resources. That is a weak spot.

In comparison Equity comes from a different place. It realises and recognises that groups of people because of their place of birth, their ethnicity, their sexuality, their income and most pertinent for International Women’s Day their gender are more vulnerable in certain circumstances and need extra support.

Ireland Needs Equity

Dismissing Equity as the latest buzz word from a woke generation is wrong. It is a concept which has huge relevance in the Ireland of today.

The 5,000 voluntary, community and charitable partners of Community Foundation Ireland and the people they work with will all recognise it as reality – even if they have not named it out before.

The harsh reality is not everyone gets the same start in life, and as they grow up not everyone gets the same opportunities to education, to access work or to break inter-generational poverty.

When it comes to gender there are many situations where women and girls find themselves essentially in the frontline. These include women presenting themselves with young children for asylum at our airports. Far from a safe have many find themselves tangled in bureaucracy and red tape and increasingly vulnerable to traffickers, pimps and thugs.

Being a girl makes you more vulnerable to harassment both off and online as well as violence and even in the times we live in speaking out brings the risk you will not always be believed.

Being a woman in a violent relationship can mean suffering in silence, often feeling trapped in order to protect young children in the home.

Equity recognises that being a girl or a young woman you will find it harder to break into certain professions, becoming a leader is harder – and in many cases you will work side by side with men being paid a higher wage.

Each of these issues requires extra attention, targeted policies and responses.

Equality does not deliver solutions, because from the very outset because for a variety of circumstances over which they have no control women in these situations face an uphill battle from the very start.

The Challenge

Recognising the need for equity challenges the argument that everyone no matter what their circumstances, their income or their place in society should get the same benefits, the same resources and the same care.

The Foundation and its partners have challenged this approach before.

Research with an alliance of age sector charities makes clear older people felt cancelled during Covid restrictions. A partnership with the ESRI shows the cost of living requires a targeted response so those less well off get more help. Ireland’s first ever Child Poverty Monitor with the Children’s Rights Alliance shows 62,000 of our children live in consistent poverty.

Policies based on equality leave these people and families down. They leave them behind.

We know many share our mission that everyone is treated equally in thriving communities, but together with our donors and our grantees we do recognise that we cannot achieve this without policies based on equity.

Denise Charlton is Chief Executive of Community Foundation Ireland which since 2000 has with its donors provided €110 Million in support to communities.