Invisibility would undermine carers’ struggle for equity

Abolishing the Constitution’s recognition of caring work done within the family would be a disservice to those doing this work

Fri, Jul 13, 2018, 05:11Maggie Ronayne4

Family Carers Ireland estimates there are 200,000 family carers, but the means-tested carer’s allowance is only €214 per week for caring for one person. Photograph: Getty Images

Family Carers Ireland estimates there are 200,000 family carers, but the means-tested carer’s allowance is only €214 per week for caring for one person. Photograph: Getty ImagesShare to FacebookShare to TwitterShare to Email App

The Government has bowed to pressure, and agreed to postpone a referendum on the controversial Article 41.2 of the Constitution. It reads: “… the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved. The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

Few will defend the reference to women’s “neglect of their duties in the home”. But to abolish the Constitution’s only recognition of the invisible caring work done within the family, primarily by women, would be a disservice to those still doing this work, and to the common good of the society produced and reproduced by it.

The women of my mother’s generation would not be uplifted by hiding their contribution. Neither would those of my generation as we struggle to fit unwaged caring for loved ones around the demands of waged work. Invisibility would not help our struggle for equity, it would undermine it.

The vast majority of women in Ireland are mothers and their family’s primary carers. They are also the poorest. According to One Family, lone parents, overwhelmingly women, head 25.4 per cent of family units with children; 50.1 per cent of those families live in deprivation.

Family Carers Ireland estimates there are 200,000 family carers, but the means-tested carer’s allowance is only €214 per week for caring for one person. And it is well known that carers have to struggle to get basic supports that should automatically be theirs.

Ignored

Reviews, from the Constitutional Convention to the Government’s own task force, have recommended amending Article 41.2, including an explicit reference to caring, rather than abolishing it. The Government never explained why this advice was ignored.

Article 41.2 has never been fully tested, but this could change. Once mothers and other carers are aware that the State is to “endeavour” to keep them out of poverty, they may expect financial support instead of the austerity that has hit them so hard. The cuts and changes to the One Parent Family Payment alone may be a contravention of the Constitution.

Some 62 per cent of mothers, according to a 2017 survey by Amárach Research, would prefer to stay at home with their children, especially in their early years, if they could afford to. Such deeply-felt concerns for children appear in every country we know of. Is the Government worried that such mothers may make demands on it?

Unremunerated caring in the home has also been used to lower women’s wages and status on the job market. In 2014, a Sheehy Skeffington equality tribunal ruling noted that academic women applicants for promotion at NUIG seemed to be disadvantaged when they declared their caring responsibilities. This ruling triggered a movement for pay equity and gender equality in higher education which has now been extended to all grades – from cleaners and administrative staff to lecturers and professors.

Less respected

Gender equality would not be advanced by removing wording which values caring and the person who does it. A minority of women who can afford it would be able to shed the persona of carer, but most would be drawn into more invisibility, as would men who do this work.

Caring would be less respected and less supported, and carers, including waged carers, would be at greater risk of discrimination, impoverishment, dependency and domestic violence.

The spotlight on one Article has brought attention to the gold that’s in the Irish Constitution, reflecting the legacy of revolutionary ideals: the right of all women and men to an adequate means of livelihood; protection against exploitation; the principle that the State should safeguard the economic interests of the “infirm”, “widows”, “orphans” and “the aged”, ensuring that no one is forced by economic necessity to engage in “avocations unsuited to their sex, age or strength”.

Again, the language could be updated, but, most importantly, this Constitution sets down a standard by which we as a society aspire to live. Article 41.2 must be seen in this humane context.

Now that fast-track abolition of caring work from our Constitution has been halted, we can consider this issue fully. We must first hear from the women and men on the frontline of caring, and explore what language can best acknowledge and support their massive contribution to the common good.

Maggie Ronayne is a lecturer at NUI Galway, a trade unionist and a member of the Global Women’s Strike.

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/invisibility-would-undermine-carers-struggle-for-equity-1.3563054

Global Women’s Strike Calls Women to Shannon Airport

Press statement, Global Women’s Strike

Global Women’s Strike Calls Women to Shannon Airport on 8th March! by Global Women’s Strike Working Group Galway. Global Women’s Strike Women in Ireland say No War — Invest in Caring Not Killing — Globalise Neutrality The Global Women’s Strike is organising a national event against war at Shannon airport on International Women’s Day, starting at 2.30pm. As we prepare to take Strike action with women from many countries, we face the threat that the US and UK governments will unleash their weapons of mass destruction on women, children and men in Iraq, people just like ourselves, only poorer. The Strike is calling all women to down tools on Saturday, join the Strike caravan and travel from all over Ireland to the airport on that day. All women are invited to Shannon airport under the banner ‘Women Say No War. Invest in Caring Not Killing’. Women in Ireland, proud of our anti-war tradition, are saying, ‘Globalise Neutrality’. The event is organised by non-party political grassroots women who are part of a global network. Together we make women’s hidden case against war… Global Women’s Strike Calls Women to Shannon Airport on 8th March! Women in Ireland say No War — Invest in Caring Not Killing — Globalise Neutrality and reclaim the military budget for carers The Global Women’s Strike is organising a national event against war at Shannon airport on International Women’s Day, starting at 2.30pm. As we prepare to take Strike action with women from many countries, we face the threat that the US and UK governments will unleash their weapons of mass destruction on women, children and men in Iraq, people just like ourselves, only poorer. The Strike is calling all women to down tools on Saturday, join the Strike caravan and travel from all over Ireland to the airport on that day. A Strike bus and cars will leave from Galway at 11.15am after a breakfast at 10.15am for all women and a women’s speak-out in word, song and performance at the Town Hall Theatre. The Strike caravan will be stopping off in Ennis at 12.45pm. We will meet other women in the market in Ennis to make our voices heard en route and for more music. All women are invited to Shannon airport under the banner ‘Women Say No War. Invest in Caring Not Killing’. Women in Ireland, proud of our anti-war tradition, are saying,’Globalise Neutrality’. The event is organised by non-party political grassroots women who are part of a global network. Together we make women’s hidden case against war: ** We and our children are the majority of victims. ** During and after war, the enormous burden of work of survival of our families and communities, falls on women’s shoulders. ** We are the first to do without so that governments can build weapons of mass destruction which, neutral or not, threaten all of us and even our planet home. Maggie Ronayne, Strike co-ordinator said, ‘Global military budgets now total well over $900 billion. The cost of war is paid for first of all by women and our families, in cuts to welfare and basic services and ultimately, with our lives. We demand all of this stolen wealth back first of all for women but ultimately for the care of every single, precious human being and for our planet’. ‘We’re asking women to bring their reasons for demanding back a part of the billions wasted on death and destruction globally each year’ she added. Women in over 70 countries will take Strike action, including our sisters in the huge and growing US movement against the war (though news of this massive movement is censored out of the media). The Strike is co-ordinated by the International Wages for Housework Campaign. The official International Women’s Day event of the Venezuelan government has endorsed the Strike. ‘We are inspired by what grassroots women have won there through great efforts. The Strike action of women at Shannon will recognise their victory. We know that in recognising and supporting the enormous struggle for survival of Venezuelan women and others in the global South, we support ourselves,’ added Ms Ronayne. Women from Derry, Dublin, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Cork, Ennis, Connemara, Galway, Limerick and Shannon, have contacted us to say they will join us. Clare Women’s Network, Women in Media and Entertainment, Organise!- Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation, Organise!- ASF Women’s Commission in the North of Ireland and the Mid-West Alliance Against Military Aggression (MAMA) are supporting the Strike. The Women’s Commission in Belfast will link up live with the Strike in Shannon from their radio show, as will radio stations in the US. Women taking part in Ireland to protest the war include pensioners, single mothers, African women, women from Iraq, women from the North of Ireland, students, Roma and traveller women, women from the Connemara gaeltacht, women with disabilities, women with children with disabilities, women in waged jobs such as teachers, as well as ‘veterans’ of the women’s peace camps at Greenham Common and, most recently, at Shannon. We demand recognition and payment for our work and are striking around the world to reclaim military budgets for caring, feeding, healing, learning. Why is there money for war and no money for: clean accessible water, food, single mothers, maternity care in rural areas, childcare for all women and not just those in waged work, disability benefits and carers, students, pensioners, travellers, asylum seekers fleeing war, rape and other torture, decent pay for teachers, nurses, jobs at Shannon airport . . .? Why is WAR the priority for which we must all do without? Therese Maher, a mother who has supported the Strike for the past three years asked, ‘Why is killing a paid job when giving birth and the work of caring we women do is unpaid, under-resourced and unsupported?’ ‘They are trying to close down maternity services and other health care in rural areas now which will put more women, especially mothers and our babies, at risk. Women seeking asylum and traveller women are let down even more badly by the health system here,’ she added. African women joining the Strike said, ‘Services in villages and rural areas don’t even exist in many places in the global South. African women spend most of our lives growing and cooking food, collecting water and fuel that keeps the rest of the world alive. Women have to walk for hours to collect water in many places in the Middle East and Africa. Then we face wars and our work becomes almost unbearable. We demand social and economic compensation for this contribution.’ Men in many countries are supporting our Strike because they well know that what grassroots women win always benefits the whole community. This support is co-ordinated internationally by Payday, a network of men working with and in support of Strike. Pier Paolo Frassinelli, an Italian immigrant to Ireland working to support the Strike with technical support and childcare said, ‘I refused my military service in Italy because I did not want to be part of the military machine that attacks and slaughters women, children and men. As a conscientious objector I worked instead in a school for children with disabilities. Why don’t they pay more of us men to do this kind of work, rather than training us to kill in the army?’Internationally renowned playwright John Arden is joining the Strike caravan to Shannon; he writes in support that ‘this year, as never before, the importance of a Global Women’s Strike flings itself at our heart and at our head. It demands support of all men who oppose the war . . .’ Ends 1. For further information and interviews with the Strike women, telephone the Strike co-ordination in Ireland: Maggie Ronayne on 087 7838688 or email maggie_ronayne@hotmail.com 2. The Strike bus from Galway will cost 10 euros (waged), 5 euros (unwaged) and children go free. There will be a small charge for breakfast at the morning event and donations to the women’s Strike fund are welcome. 3. For further updates, see our website: http://womenstrike8m.server101.com or email womenstrike8m@server101.com Men from Payday, which organises with the Wages for Housework Campaign are co-ordinating men’s support for the Strike. Email payday@paydaynet.org and see website: http://www.paydaynet.org 4. The Global Women’s Strike wishes to clarify that this is an independent women’s non-party political event, which takes place every year, and is not called or organised by any other anti-war organisation. We welcome support from every sector of the anti-war movement on the basis of respect for the autonomy of grassroots women and what we are organising in Ireland and globally. related link: womenstrike8m.server101.com

Start Date: 2003-03-02 19:00:00-05

End Date: 2003-03-03 06:59:59-05

Event E-mail:

Event URL: http://womenstrike8m.server101.com

Created By: global women’s strike galway organising group