The Irish Feminist Network is a network of women and men promoting gender equality across all aspects of Irish society. It was founded in May 2010 by a group of Master’s students from the Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies at Trinity College in Dublin. It developed out of a desire to have a feminist organisation which was inclusive and approachable to those of all political persuasions, with the aim of making feminism as accessible as possible.
The IFN was launched on September 30th 2010 with a membership of around 11 people. We currently have almost 5000 online supporters and five volunteers who coordinate the organisation. The IFN is predominantly aimed at engaging young people in feminist discussion and as such has a majority membership of both men and women under age 30. We have many more experienced activists whom we work with, and this solidarity is really important in inspiring younger people on their feminist journey.
The IFN promotes gender equality by focusing on a number of key issues. Our remit is quite broad so we can react and respond to new issues as they arise. Currently we are mainly focusing on reproductive rights, political representation, prostitution and sex trafficking and economic equality. We address these issues in three ways, Research and Publications, Campaigns and Advocacy, and Outreach and Events.
Research and Publications
We have released a number of research documents relating to issues facing women in Ireland. During 2013 we made a submission to the government encouraging the passing of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill in as liberal a form as possible. In this, we outlined our concerns in relation to the bill including the 14-year sentence for carrying out an abortion in Ireland and the distinction between a risk to the life and a risk to the health of a pregnant woman.
Campaigns and Advocacy work
In terms of economic equality, the IFN is a founding member of the Equality Budgeting Campaign. This campaign calls on the Irish government to introduce equality budgeting in order to increase the fairness and transparency of national budgets, which in recent years have been targeting disadvantaged groups such as those on lower incomes, single parents and people with disabilities. The goals of this campaign are being worked towards through raising public awareness, lobbying TDs (members of parliament) and training equality activists to carry the campaign forward. We also work in tandem with other organisations to support and publicise their campaigns. For example, we would publicize events by Marriage Equality and the Anti-Racism Network of Ireland. In this way, we act as a community of feminist activists, as leaders in our key issue areas, as supporters for other equality movements and as feminist spokespeople on call. Another important goal is to promote discussion and debate of feminist ideas which happens both online and at public meetings.
Outreach and Events
The IFN is focused on involving as many people as possible in feminist debate and action, so we run a number of one off events and a regular discussion group and book clubs to this end. We’ve had film screenings, a Ladyfest music festival and conferences. We’ve also run a training programme in practical activism skills for young women, focusing on media skills, PR and creative direct action. The programme was a networking opportunity for activists. Our facebook page, twitter and website blog page are all opportunities for debate, discussion and communication between both feminists and those interested in feminist issues. Anyone can submit a blog proposal to us, and we really welcome any ideas for campaigns or actions we can support or become involved in.