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Category: News

Women in Volunteering

Women volunteeringPerhaps we could assume that in Ireland the Meitheals or self help co-op movements of the 17th and 18th centuries marked the birth of the Voluntary Movement as we know it to day. In simple terms it is the colonising of ones free time in a productive manner, prioritising those in need.

In 1997 the United Nations proclaimed 2001 as The Year of theVolunteer and in answer Ireland set up The National Committee of Volunteers. They duly produced a booklet entitled ‘Tipping the Balance’.

The following chart demonstrates the gender imbalance;
• Female 40%
• Male 28%

This report also states that 33% of our population are engaged in the voluntary sector.

The many organisations that come under this banner include Schools, Hospitals, Sports and a numerous amount of organisations who work in the fight against Poverty. The reasons why we volunteer are perhaps a belief in a cause or maybe for self satisfaction or simply to meet people.

My own experience began at school in Cork where we were encouraged to join The Legion of Mary. Visiting the less fortunate than ourselves and reporting on our work weekly left me with a sense of doing for others at an early age and this mantra was to crop up in later life when I found time on my hands. Fifteen years of involvement in the Hospice movement (one half day per week) where I met some wonderful people and learned many lessons-not least that life is so very fragile. During this period I monitored the Gender Balance among my fellow workers and found very very few fellows! In fact it was 99% female.

In a report by Freda O’Donoghue- ‘A Feminist Space2001’ the author states some reasons for the unbalance of gender in volunteering;
1. Women are less likely to seek material gain.
2. We possess more skills for dealing with people.
3. Our desire to be neighbourly.

Now in the winter of my life I am so fulfilled with the companionship and regularity of helping the great organisation of Saint Vincent de Paul. I am fortunate enough to be involved in a busy conference (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) which serves a city area and rural surrounds in Co. Limerick. It is a privileged to be given this opportunity and to be trusted and welcomed as wego about our work. My wish is that the Fir will some day equalthe Mna in each Conference and continue for many years thework of SVP.

By Ann O'Brien

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