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What local women really want now..and in the future

Kerry McKittrick opens a special debate on International Women’s Day with some of our best known females

Each year on this date thousands of events are held all over the world to celebrate the achievements of women and to inspire the next generation to continue to strive for true equality.

Women now enjoy greater equality than ever, but they’re still not paid the same as their male counterparts in many cases, are not equally represented in boardrooms or in politics and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.

The first International Women's Day was marked in 1911 by Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland and is now celebrated in many countries across the globe. In some nations the day has become a national holiday and in China and Nepal is a holiday allowed for women only.

This year's theme is Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures with the hope that the more girls that are involved in International Women's Day, the more minds will be inspired across the world.

We speak to women from every walk of life here about the hopes and dreams they have for themselves or their daughters.

Oonagh Boman (44) runs the Oonagh Boman School Of Make Up. She lives in Belfast with her husband Leslie and her children Skye (13) and Brad (9). She says:

In short, I just want Skye to be happy. Recently though we've been having the conversation about what she wants to do career-wise and she hasn't really decided anything.

I didn't go to university and I wouldn't encourage Skye to go unless she was doing a vocational degree — something like law or medicine.

I would like her to travel if it suits her because I've done a lot of travel and I think it gives you confidence and the ability to talk to anyone in any walk of life.

I think if she has good morals that will also be good for her.

My mum died when I was 19, but she always told me to follow my dreams and be true to myself. It's one of those things that has always stayed with me and I want to instill that in Skye.

She's starting to grow up now — she's as tall as me and I find myself having conversations with a equal rather than with a child. She's not a follower, she has a strong personality, which I'm very glad about.

Clare Allen (35) is a novelist and lives in Derry with her husband, Neill, and their children, Joseph (8) and Cara (3). She says:

I want Cara to follow her own instincts as they rarely lead you down the wrong path — in yourself you know your own abilities anyway. Most of all, I want Cara to be happy and successful. I'll support her if she decides to become a doctor or a full-time mummy. I think I might have something to say if she becomes a stripper though.

Beth Robinson (54) is a partner of Templeton Robinson estate agents. She lives in Belfast with her husband, David. She says:

Before the property crash, I had it all planned out. I was going to retire in my early 50s and plan what to do next.

With the bubble bursting in the Autumn of 2008, things have changed.

We had to strip back our business model to the original nuts and bolts because it stopped being just about selling property, but also about keeping the business afloat.

There is a little light at the end of the tunnel in 2012, so my new plan is still to retire before I'm 60.

I'm not quite sure what I want to do yet, but at the moment, I'm planning to have a plan for when I retire. I saw my mother, who worked very hard, spiral downwards after she retired because she hadn't planned to do anything.

Because of that I know I will need to find an occupation — I'm just not sure what it will be yet.

Women in general have an important role to fill in the workplace.

There always needs to be a balance between work, running a house and having a family.

I've always stood back in admiration for the women who can do that because you can't be in three places at once, so it's a real juggling act. Women are able to look at their own boundaries and make them work for themselves.

Roma Tomelty (66) is an actress, teacher and writer. She lives in Belfast with her husband, Colin, and they have three daughters, Ruth (33), Rachael (28) and Hannah (22). She says:

I would like my daughters to do whatever makes them happy, no matter what they do. I suppose I would say that for all of my children, even if they weren't girls. It's the women in the Third World who have a terrible time. I also feel for those who live in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, who haven't even been able to learn to read.

I always used to wear a dinner jacket on International Women's Day when I was adjudicating acting examinations in Northern Ireland to mark the occasion.

I would like young women around Belfast to keep more clothes on. It's extraordinary what they wear in the dead of winter on a Saturday night. There's so much pressure on young women today about how they look but they all look the same.

There aren't enough roles for older actresses, but they're the best ones. Women like Maggi Smith in Downton Abbey and any of the women in Coronation Street bring something really special to those programmes because they're such characters.

Mairead Maguire (68) is a co-founder of the Peace People, and joint winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize for Peace. She has five children. She says:

I think I would like to see a future with no violence against women and a more equal society. The Secretary General of the UN tells us that one in three women will experience violence in their lifetime.

If you consider all of the people on the planet, that's three billion women.

There is, of course, violence against both men and women, so I think what we need to do is work towards finding non-violent solutions to our problems.

In order to bring this about, we need education and solidarity.

I have five children and six grandchildren and I would love for them to see a world where equality and women's rights were accepted. I would love to see women make up 50% representation in all aspects of life.

Eva Grosman (37) is a project manager for Unite Against Hate and the co-ordinator of Belfast's Polish Culture Week. Originally from Poland, she lives in Belfast. She says:

Personally, all that I hope for is to be content with what I have. I don't have a list of particular things I want because I know that life is full of surprises. It's taken me all over the world from Poland to London to Belfast, so I know looking for a specific thing isn't the best route to take.

There is still serious gender inequality all across the world and that is the thing I hope will be addressed the most in years to come. It's not too bad in Northern Ireland though. Women here are strong and have had to become strong because of the Troubles. However, here, like everywhere else, can still prove problematic for ethnic minorities.

Angela Greer (26) is a civil servant and lives in Lisburn with her husband, Mark. She is about to undergo her third round of IVF at Origin Fertility Care in Belfast. She says:

I would just like to be content in life. I have a husband, but I would love a family too.

I'd like to be financially stable so we can take a nice holiday every now and again. I don't think I would need that much to be happy.

I was first diagnosed with poly-cystic ovaries in 2005 and since then we've been trying to have children through IVF.

I would be happy with one child, but two would be fantastic. I think if the IVF doesn't work then we will investigate adopting. The things that put me off though are the fact that it can take so long and that there are so few babies available.

If I do become a mum then I think as long as my kids are happy, that's the important thing.

Judith Gillespie (49) is the Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI. Judith (below) is married with two daughters and says:

My hope for my daughters in the future is that they will never feel limited by anything except their own ambitions.

Someone once said to me, if you believe you can or you believe you can’t, then you’re probably right. I think that statement rings true, particularly in respect to ambition. For women in general, there has been tremendous progress over the last 100 years. Women have the vote, they have maternity leave and they don’t have to leave a job simply because they get married. In saying that, there is no room whatsoever for complacency.

Women are still very much the victims of crimes such as human trafficking, domestic abuse and sexual abuse. Huge progress must be made to give women the dignity, respect and equality that they deserve.

Margaret Morgan (35) is the owner of Complexions Day Spa on the Lisburn Road in Belfast. She says:

About 85% of my clients are women and some of them have been coming to me since I started working here 16 years ago — you really get to know them.

I own my own business because I was able to buy the salon 10 years after I started working here.

I didn't plan to own a salon, but I thought if I did, then it would be an oasis for people to come to and wouldn't feel clinical. I've always tried to give every treatment as well as I can and you can see the difference they make to people. I've always thought a massage can be as good as a decent night's sleep for some.

I love my job. I love the fact that people come in here so I can help them to relax and they leave that little bit happier. Having treats is so important for women who juggle marriage and a family and many of them are business owners, who will work 60-hour weeks like me.

I would love to open a training school here. Not the kind of place that does year-long courses, but the kind of place that teaches women to treat themselves and look after their own skin.

Paula McCartney (47) is the sister of murdered Belfast man Robert McCartney. She is a helpline worker and lives in Belfast with her husband, Jim Arnold, and their six children. She says:

My main hope is to see justice for Robert. It would be a good thing not just for our whole family but also for all of the families of those who died during the Troubles. It would certainly restore my faith in the judicial system as at the moment I don't have any left at all.

I also have two girls and four boys and most of all, I hope girls get opportunities to be whatever they want to be. The key thing for them is to have choice because it's something I never had.

When I was at school, we were never encouraged to have ambitions and in those days, there was only so far a woman could go — it was usually childcare issues that got in the way.

I don't actually think there's been much improvement in that respect. The issue gets flagged every now and again, but it doesn't really get resolved. For my girls, I want to encourage them to get involved with lots of things — particularly sports.

I went for a walk around Cherryvale on Sunday and saw three organised games of football going on — they were all male. I know that sporting organisations for girls do exist, but they're not encouraged anywhere near as much as the boys are.

All girls like pretty things. I wear make up and I like to dress up, but you can see young girls these days think appearance is the only thing that matters.

Belfast Telegraph


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