If we want flourishing communities, we must invest in women

In a letter this week to the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government Alan Kelly, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) has called for urgently-needed funding to be restored to women’s community groups in Budget 2016.

Eilís Ní Chaithnía, Membership Development Officer with NWCI, said,

“Austerity and cutbacks over recent years have disseminated community development projects, in particular those working with women. We know from our many members working at community level that they are barely surviving and are increasingly unable to provide essential supports and advocacy for women in our communities. As a result, we risk losing the voices of marginalised women in local planning decisions and an opportunity to build healthy and vibrant communities that are informed by the experiences and expertise of all of their citizens.”

As Vivienne Glanville from Ronanstown CDP/NCCWN, a member of NWCI, highlights,

“The extremely difficult funding environment means that we are at a ‘stand still’ and not developing our programmes with local women to our full potential. Women’s Community Groups are working with large numbers of women and children in our communities yet we are stifled in accessing sustainable funding streams. This lack of financial support is stopping women’s development and engagement in civil society.”

Eilís Ní Chaithnía continued,

“Studies consistently show that investing in women is good for progress as diversity will lead to more innovative solutions and inclusive growth. However, the Department’s decision to remove ‘disadvantaged women’ as a target group from its new social inclusion support programme, SICAP, has further diminished opportunities for women’s groups to access sustainable funding. There is also no funding-related imperative now for local authorities and their partner organisations to ensure that projects specifically improve the lives of Ireland’s most disadvantaged and marginalised women.”

Eilís Ní Chaithnía added,

“NWCI calls on the Minister for Environment Alan Kelly to recognise the important work of women’s community groups in addressing social exclusion and promoting women’s equality. While we warmly welcome the decision to allocate specific funding to one of the biggest collectives of women’s community groups, the National Collective of Community-based Women’s Networks (NCCWN), under the auspices of the Department of Justice and Equality, it does not address the far-reaching implications of disregarding the need for dedicated funding for disadvantaged women in SICAP.”

“The Department should now reinstate ‘disadvantaged women’ as a specific target group under SICAP or any of its successor programmes. In the short-term it must provide dedicated funding to community groups that have been removed from Departmental funding streams in order to ensure their sustainability and autonomy.”

Eilís Ní Chaithnía concluded,

“Budget 2016 is a unique opportunity to do some of the urgently needed repair work for our local communities after years of austerity. If we want flourishing communities, we must invest in local community and women’s groups.”

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