Women’s World Cup: A Game of Two Halves

Women’s World Cup: A Game of Two Halves

The popularity of this summer’s Women’s World Cup was unprecedented…

Record numbers of viewers tuned in to watch the matches. England’s semi-final match against the United States (US), with nearly 12 million views, was the most watched English TV programme of the year. Ditto France’s quarter-final match against the US.  

US viewership of the final in which its team defeated the Netherlands 2-0 was 22% higher than the 2018 men’s final. Remarkably, 88% of Dutch TV viewers also watched the match. Overall, FIFA estimates that this year’s World Cup has attracted one billion viewers for the first time in history. 

Despite Ireland’s team failing to qualify, Irish viewers also tuned-in in their droves, with a peak audience of 315,000 watching England’s dramatic defeat on RTE (surprise, surprise). The fact that Michele O’Neill was assistant referee during the final (becoming the first ever Irish woman to referee a World Cup soccer match) also helped to pique interest levels. 

There are several reasons for the dramatic take-off in viewership for this year’s World Cup. 

For one thing, the skill levels in the women’s game are increasing year on year. In soccer, skill is most accurately measured by the number of passes in a game, rather than by the number of goals. For instance, a typical English Premier League game contains more than 900 passes but this falls to about 650 passes for games in the fourth division. The average number of passes in this year’s World Cup is up 10% on 2015 levels, with latest figures from Opta showing the average game had 825 passes – and that data does not even factor in the knock-out games! The prize money on offer also doubled to 30 million dollars, compared with the 2015 prize pot. The fact that most countries broadcast the World Cup on free-to-air channels like RTE also helped to win more viewers.

Another key reason for the growth in women’s football is the transformative power of new, multi-million sponsorship deals. Some sponsors like Visa are now spending equally on promoting the women’s World Cup as on the men’s. UEFA’s recent unbundling of the rights to the women’s competitions in Europe also encouraged many female-focused brands like Avon to get involved. 

However, issues remain. The annual global wage for a female professional footballer is around 7000 dollars. In England, which has one of the wealthier competitions, a female footballer barely takes home one-hundredth of what a Premier League male footballer makes. These financial issues lead many female footballers to consider throwing in their proverbial boots. 

The US women’s team marked International Women’s Day 2019 by filing a class-action suit against their employer, the United States Soccer Federation, alleging that differences in pay and employment conditions between the women’s and men’s teams violate the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act because the women’s team is getting paid less despite engaging in “substantially equal work”

The US team also called out the FIFA scheduling of the World Cup final as “disrespectful” to the women’s game due to the decision to schedule the Copa America final and the Gold Cup final on the same day.

Closer to home, the FAI has attracted criticism for its perceived failure to truly progress the women’s game. Colin Bell, the former manager of the Irish women’s team, recently stepped down due to his frustration with how women’s football is being handled in this country. In Ireland, aside from the Senior Cup final, there is little to no coverage of domestic women’s football in the media or on television and the women’s game is definitely not getting the attention, nor the financial support, it needs and deserves. 

Don’t be a Fairweather Fan. Let’s show that our support for women’s football is not a passing fad! Now that the furor of the World Cup has passed, why not find out more about the Irish women’s national team and consider going to see them playing in person?

Photo courtesy of US Soccer WNT via Twitter

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Family Planning: why it’s a women’s rights issue

Family Planning: why it’s a women’s rights issue

“No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body. A woman must have the fundamental freedom to choose whether she will or will not be a mother, and how many children she will have.” – Margaret Sanger, Birth Control pioneer who opened America’s first contraceptive clinic in 1916. 

This World Population Day, access to family planning is a women’s rights issue that we should all STAND up for. 

World Population Day calls on leaders, institutions, policymakers, civil society and others to help make reproductive health and rights a reality for everyone. Women’s education and livelihood, in particular, can be severely impacted by a lack of access to family planning. According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA): “when women and couples are empowered to plan whether and when to have children, women are better enabled to complete their education; women’s autonomy within their households is increased, and their earning power is improved”

As a result, ensuring women’s reproductive rights and their access to reproductive health services is essential to attaining gender equality.

This year’s World Population Day theme relates to the unfinished business of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) (Cairo, 1994) which formally recognised that reproductive health and gender equality are essential for sustainable development. At the ICPD, 179 governments called for access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including voluntary family planning, safe pregnancy, and childbirth services for all, and the treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted infections.  The important linkages between reproductive health and women’s empowerment were also acknowledged. 

Since the ICPD, voluntary access to modern contraception has increased by 25%, and the quality of family planning services have improved. However, hundreds of millions of women are still not using modern contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Furthermore, the UNFPA says there are around 214 million women worldwide who want to avoid pregnancy but don’t have access to contraception. While preventable maternal deaths have declined by over 40%, the ICPD’s target of reducing maternal mortality to below 75 per 100,000 live births is far from being reached. There have been also concerted global efforts to end female genital mutilation and child marriage – yet, the total number of women and girls affected by these harmful practices has actually increased as the result of population growth.

Irish women have direct experience of these issues as contraception was illegal in the Republic of Ireland from 1935-1980 in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church. On World Population Day, we can celebrate the landmark Contraceptive Train event of 1971 when members of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement travelled to Belfast to purchase contraceptives in order to protest the law prohibiting the sale and importation of contraceptives in the Republic. The event made a powerful statement and helped to raise awareness of the issues surrounding women’s rights and contraception. The eventual legalisation of contraception was an important breakthrough in women’s rights as it finally allowed Irish women to take control of their fertility. However, the fact that Ireland still charges women for birth control remains controversial (particularly as it is free in many parts of the world) and the National Women’s Council of Ireland has recently called on the Irish Government to commit to free contraception in Budget 2020. 

To keep up to date with latest developments regarding free contraception in Ireland please visit https://www.nwci.ie/

To find out more about World Population Day please visit https://www.un.org/en/events/populationday/

Photo: Photo by Chayene Rafaela via Unsplash

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Hedy Lamarr: not just a pretty face!

Hedy Lamarr: not just a pretty face!

“When I was a little girl I wished I was a boy
I tagged along behind the gang and wore my corduroys.
Everybody said I only did it to annoy
But I was gonna be an engineer”

Peggy Seeger Lyrics to “I’m gonna be an Engineer” – a women’s liberation song.

 

Meet Hedy, a brilliant engineer and inventor who was also a Hollywood actress deemed the most beautiful woman of her time. For International Women in Engineering Day, our Women’s Section Editor Cassie tells the story of a woman who should be celebrated in engineering history books, and not just on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! 

Born in Austria in 1914, Hedy Lamarr (pictured) was a glamorous Hollywood actress of the 1930s-1940s, frequently dubbed the most beautiful woman of her time. She starred in films such as “Samson and Delilah” and “Boom Town” alongside famous stars such as Clark Gable and Spencer Tracey. However, what is often overlooked is the fact that Hedy was also a brilliant engineer and inventor. 

In 1933, aged just eighteen Hedy appeared nude in a controversial Czech film called Ecstasy, attracting much attention in the process. By the late 1930s, she was a true Hollywood star. 

During World War II, she supported the war effort, selling bonds and entertaining troops…but she helped her adopted country in other ways too. In 1942, she and composer George Antheil developed a guidance system for allied torpedoes which used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology in order to resist enemy “jamming” (blocking of the torpedoe’s communication ability). Unfortunately, the US Navy failed to adopt the ahead-of-its-time technology until the 1960s. Today, the innovative principles involved are widely used in our Bluetooth, GPS and Wi-Fi systems! In 2014, Hedy and George were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame

As we celebrate annual International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), we must pay tribute to Hedy, and to all of the other brilliant women who have been and are forging careers and “engineering” change in what is still a traditionally male field. 

While gender parity in the life sciences has been achieved in many countries, women still trail behind men in engineering. According to UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics, only 8 percent of engineering students globally are women. UNESCO’s recent report, Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in STEM finds education pathways for women and girls into engineering are extremely limited. 

In Europe and North America, the numbers of female engineers remain low (12% in the UK, for instance). Interestingly, in a number of developing countries (particularly in the Arab world) a significant proportion of engineers and engineering students are women. UNESCO details how, in the United Arab Emirates (where 31% of engineers are women), the government has recognized the need for a strong human resource base in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and has introduced policies promoting greater female participation in the labour force. However, women graduates still face barriers to employment including gender bias and a lack of female role models. 

Ensuring girls and women can equally access engineering careers is an important women’s rights issue as well as being imperative from an economic and development perspective. INWED is an annual day of awareness-raising and celebration for women working in engineering and the career opportunities available to women in the industry. To find out more visit http://www.inwed.org.uk/

 

 

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Women still first victims of sexual violence in conflicts

Women still first victims of sexual violence in conflicts

Wars are still being fought on and over the bodies of women and girls”. Ahead of the annual International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflicts, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative highlighted that although the scourge of sexual violence does not spare men and boys, women and girls remain the major targets of sexual violence in conflicts worldwide.

The United Nation’s landmark Resolution 1325 (adopted in 2000) called on member states and parties to armed conflict to “take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence in situations of armed conflict”.

But almost twenty years later, much progress is still needed to prevent and reduce cases of sexual violence in conflicts. A new resolution adopted earlier this year, Resolution 2467, introduces a new survivor-centered approach to help combat this type of violence.

The terms of the resolution include guaranteed justice for survivors and their children and the ending of impunity for perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence. In this resolution, the UN also called for “greater attention to the physical and economic security of survivors, which includes mental, physical, and sexual health.”

However, the United States vetoed part of the draft language contained in the resolution – which had said that wartime rape victims should have access to sexual and reproductive health services – on the basis that this implied access to abortion. The resolution was ultimately adopted without this language. Amanda Klasing, acting women’s rights co-director at Human Rights Watch said that the veto can be seen as a threat to women’s rights: “The Trump administration’s extreme position on sexual and reproductive health and rights is pervading all aspects of its foreign policy in ways that escalates a global erosion of women’s human rights.

Sexual violence against women and girls has been under the spotlight in recent years as a widespread critical issue that needs to be addressed. The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 to activists Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege, who work on ending violence against women in conflict situations, was a testament to that. More broadly, the different forms of violence against women and girls were also brought into sharp focus through the recent #MeToo campaign.

More than a third of women living today have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives and there is evidence that conflict situations increase women’s vulnerability to violence.

It is imperative not to become complacent about these issues or to assume that things will only get better for women – the recent negotiations over the language of Resolution 2467 highlight the need to remain vigilant. International Days like this one are important tools for fostering awareness and mobilising political will. As such, it is very important that these days are marked and that we, as global citizens, stand in solidarity with victims of sexual violence everywhere.

 

 

 

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Image courtesy of UN Photo/Staton Winter via United Nations Photo

Reclaiming Pride as a Protest

Reclaiming Pride as a Protest

It is the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising – which sparked a global movement for LGBT rights – and with the gains of marriage equality and gender recognition, it may be hard to see the need for a pride parade anymore. It seems that pride has become an event for companies to wrap themselves with the rainbow flag and pretend for one month that they care about the LGBTQ+ community. Some would think that the days where pride was a protest are gone and now pride is a party for everyone. But homophobia didn’t disappear the day we got marriage equality and although our gender recognition act is based on self-determination for binary trans people, transphobia still exists within Irish society. Pride is needed because we should celebrate our many gains, but we have so much more to fight for.

The theme for Dublin Pride this year is Rainbow Revolution and it is important that the LGBTQ+ community take this theme to heart. We need to reclaim our space and make sure that we bring pride back to its radical roots of protest. We need to use pride as a space to highlight the continuing inequality and oppressions that we are fighting against. Rights are never given and the rights we have won were won through protest. The first pride was a protest and it was through continuous protest that decriminalisation of homosexuality was won. Companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google and many others who profit off our suffering need to know that pride isn’t a place for them to advertise their products but rather a space for LGBTQ+ people to protest and raise awareness about our rights.

The Rainbow Revolution needs to reach our hospital, schools, colleges and work places. Legal rights are a huge step forward for the LGBTQ+ community but it is not enough. We need a revolution within a society, we need to build a better society where homophobia and transphobia are challenged and nobody has to fit into rigid gender norms that oppress us all. The 50th Anniversary of Stonewall should be a rallying cry for the LGBTQ+ community, 50 years ago we stood up and we stood together. Now we again need to stand up and show our solidarity with each other. It is time for pride to return to its roots, it is time for pride to be a protest once again.

 

 

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Image courtesy of Sara Rampazzo via Unsplash

When Afghan women take their education in their own hands

When Afghan women take their education in their own hands

Afghanistan is one of the world’s most challenging places for female education and because of that, all-female groups such as Zohra and the Afghan Girls Robotic Team are leading the way for women’s rights there.

In the summer of 2017, the Afghan Girls Robotic Team travelled to Washington D.C. to take part in a robotics competition at international level.

Their invention, a robot that can tell if water is clean or contaminated, earned them a silver medal for “courageous achievement” – but the real courage came in getting to the competition.

After the girls had set off on their 500 mile journey from their home in Herat to the U.S. embassy in Kabul, they were denied U.S. visas when they got there – no reason was given.

After international outcry, the girls were granted special status by the U.S. government and allowed in.

They later went on to win out the biggest robotics festival in Europe and have gained huge support internationally by inspiring many girls to pursue their dreams in the face of hardship.

Zohra, named after a Persian goddess of music, are a group of 30 women who together form an orchestra that have played at prestigious events like the 2017 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.

However, back in Afghanistan, their talent isn’t recognised, and could even be life-threatening.

Afghanistan was once an epicentre of creativity and had a musical history of over 1000 years – this changed dramatically after the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

Strict Taliban policies, which included a ban on music, saw the deaths of several musicians while others migrated to escape the cruel treatment.

Although the ban was lifted after the Taliban rule ended, large parts of Afghan society still frown on music.  The Zohra girls, like the Afghan Girls Robotic Team, have then become models and leaders for women’s rights and human rights worldwide.

 

 

 

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Image courtesy of All Jazeera  via Twitter.