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Equality of pay and education - what women really want to see

What is the one change women would like to have most for all other women? Kerry McKittrick asks 10 well-known female faces for their personal opinion.

Arlene Foster, DUP Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Environment, lives in Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh with her husband Brian. They have three children - Sarah, George and Ben.

"In the international stage I would dearly love to see the end of the practice of female genital mutilation.

Just reading about it is very painful so I would love to see an end of such a barbaric practice.

Secondly I would like to see more females in politics here and I would love it if the media would concentrate on what we have to say instead of what we are wearing."

Alyson Hogg (52) is the founder and CEO of Vita Liberata. She divides her time between Belfast and New York with her husband Colin Lewis and they have five children between them.

"It's easy to say that you would like education for all women and that is something that is incredibly important. It's a reality, though, that for hundreds of thousands of women their education is cut short because of lack of female sanitary ware - in other words sanitary pads. It's a basic thing that women in the developed world can take for granted but women in Third World countries tend to stop education when they start to menstruate.

It's a huge problem and it's been identified that if it were fixed, women in that group would have a 100-300% rise in independence.

Judith Cochrane (38) is an Alliance Party MLA for East Belfast where she lives with her husband Jonathan and their daughters, Emma Rose (9) and Jessica (6).

"Of the estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide who live on less than $2 a day, 70% are women. I would like to ensure women are educated and invested in equally across the world as the correlation between gender equality and national competitiveness is strong.

Even in the most developed economies, gross domestic product could be increased by as much as 16% if the gender gap were closed."

Julie Hastings is the marketing director of Hastings Hotel Group. She lives in Lisbane with her partner John and their children.

"There are the obvious things like pay equality and seeing more women in boardrooms but there are lots of people who will say things like that.

It's always struck me that there is a lot of pressure on women to constantly look their best. Men spend 15 minutes in the barber's shop every few weeks and that's that but women need to have their hair done, nice make-up, nails and clothes.

It's the same for everyone, no matter what kind of family life or job we're juggling.

If I could change one thing for women then I would give us all an extra hour a week off to juggle all this - we all need the time to look our best."

Kerry McLean (39) is a BBC Radio Ulster presenter. She lives in Ballymoney with her husband Ralph and their children Tara (7) and Dan (6).

"The thing that I would change for women would be access to education. I've always felt very grateful for the opportunities I've had in this part of the world.

I spent years working for the BBC World Service which saw me travelling through lots of different parts of Africa and that really opened my eyes. I no longer take for granted things like education that girls have here.

In Africa you would visit schools that had nothing but boys because families couldn't afford to send their daughters to school. I want to see all women with the opportunities to educate themselves."

Carrie Neely (39) is an art consultant and director of Carrie Neely Art Ltd. She lives in Belfast with her husband Rob and three children, Jaxon (7), Marley (5) and Nainsi (3).

"Equality is what I would like to see for women. I'm talking about all aspects but the basic right to live safely and with dignity.

I think women should have the right to not be abused, to be victims of sexual violence or to be objectified.

It's happening more and more these days with women in India at risk of being raped if they travel by public transport.

There was also a woman in Kenya who was stripped and beaten in the street because she had 'tempted' men by wearing a miniskirt."

Michelle Gildernew (44) is a Sinn Fein MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. She lives in Dungannon with her husband Jimmy and their sons Emmet and Euan and daughter Aoise.

"To me, the most fundamental thing that women need but haven't got is equality.

That's why I'm in Sinn Fein, a party that is progressive and proactive in gender equality. Until we have achieved proper equality in every way - in the home, in the workplace, financially and with caring responsibilities - women cannot fulfil their proper role in society.

This is something that needs to happen around the world - even the actress Patricia Arquette made a very impassioned speech about pay equality at the Oscars.

Until equality is achieved across the board women will always be discriminated against."

Karen McKevitt (43), SDLP MLA for South Down, is married with three daughters and two sons.

"If I could change one thing for women I would give every woman across the world the opportunity to learn, to go to school and receive a free education, to have a career if they wish and to have the freedom to choose a career.

An education is a powerful tool that enables women to be independent, to make their own choices, to be free."

Tara West (44) is the author of 'Poets Are Eaten As A Delicacy In Japan'. Tara lives in Newtownabbey with Dave and their daughter Farha (9).

"I would like to change one thing for girls and that's how everything about girlhood is pink. Clothes, bed linen, toys, shoes and everything else these days seems to be pink.

I think it's wrong that colours should belong to a gender in the first place but if you constantly buy your daughter pink things then she will begin to see herself purely in terms of her gender.

I think by doing that we're unwittingly setting limits for women when they're very young. Women should see themselves as humans beings first and foremost and not have to operate themselves."

Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson lives in Waringstown with her husband John. They have two sons, Elliott (24) and Mark (21).

"I would like to make it easier for young women to engage with politics. I get a lot of young women shadowing me for work experience and I think the confrontational aspect of politics can really put them off.

There are very few women MLAs but I don't think getting more women representatives can be forced.

It's not something that will change overnight and women should be encouraged from a young age and at a grass roots level.

We need to follow through with putting women forward and getting them involved.

It's time to lose the confrontational aspect of it and get back to politics.

I think role models are important and I don't think there's anyone better than the Belfast Telegraph's new Editor Gail Walker. It shows women can be successful."

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