An event hosted by Women in Media Belfast and Belfast City Council took place on Monday to amplify the voices of young girls from across the city ahead of International Women’s Day today.
The two-hour special lunch in Belfast City Hall saw local schoolgirls joined by activists, journalists and councillors, including Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl, to discuss issues surrounding feminism in Northern Ireland.
Teenagers attending gave their opinions on what challenges they face as young girls in modern society, but they also discussed all that is “good about being a girl”.
Some of the issues raised at the event included more awareness and funding into sex education, school education around consent, domestic abuse and safe relationships, period poverty, affordable childcare, safe spaces for females and those from the LGBTQ+ community, and more employment opportunities for women, particularly new mothers.
They also talked about their own favourite things about being women, including being part of a sisterhood, having to work harder than men to receive the same recognition and wage, and having empathy towards others.
Key speakers included Cori Conlon, a feminist activist from Youth Action NI, who gave a powerful opening speech and also sang a rendition of the 2021 single, I am Woman by Emmy Meli.
Lauren Martin, a youth worker from registered charity Glow NI shared details on the organisation’s work, which aims to empower women and girls with life skills to increase confidence and self-esteem through in-person programmes, workshops and online courses.
Pupils from Hazelwood Integrated College gave information about the feminism society they’ve started in their school, which “challenges sexism in the classroom”.
They are further hosting a feminism conference at the school on Saturday through the Feminism In Schools Network, which Hazelwood history teacher and SDLP candidate for east Belfast, Charlotte Carson introduced into the Newtownabbey college.
Una McCabe from WOMEN'STEC talked about their #NotJustForBoys initiative, which encourages young girls aged 16-24 to explore careers in non-traditional sectors and provides links to industry through work experience placements and internships.
Women in Media is an organisation that was formed last year by journalists Allison Morris of the Belfast Telegraph, Amanda Ferguson and political commentator Patricia MacBride.
Concluding the day’s proceedings, Allison said: “I feel really safe and secure that the young women in this room are going to leave this world better than they found it. There’s so much fire in your bellies and you can hear that when you talk. Don’t lose that.”
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Kate Nicholl - who is the sixth female mayor of the city out of 409 mayors in total over the years - also commended the schoolgirls from Belfast Model School for Girls, St Louise’s Comprehensive College and beyond, on their courage and inspiration throughout the day’s discussions, as did human rights activist, Sipho Sibanda.
Ms Nicholl is further set to make history by becoming the first Lord Mayor of Belfast to have a baby while in office.