Standing up for women’s rights is something most Americans are very familiar with. There have been many marches covered on major news outlets, arguably the biggest one being The Women’s March on Washington.

The United States is not the only place finding itself in a fight over gender equality. Women in Ireland have been fighting for their rights for many years. Mary Plum, completing her graduate work at The National University of Ireland, Galway, recently participated in the International Women’s March and a walk for abortion and consent rights.

“It was powerful, seeing so many women, and men as allies, stand up and march,” said Plum. “Knowing it was happening all over the world for the Women’s March, and all over the country and in some parts of the world for Repeal the 8th, made me feel part of a larger movement and gave me hope that society is moving forward to equality.”

Plum also spoke on how women are viewed in Irish culture.

“Ireland has an interesting history with women’s rights. Because of the strong conservative influence of the Catholic church, women’s rights since the start of the Republic of Ireland have been not very great, but they’ve gotten better, especially since the 1970s,” she said. “Contraceptives were first allowed to be sold (with prescription) in 1979, and then without prescription in 1993. Condoms were allowed to be sold to those over 18 in 1985 without prescription (these were illegal in 70s). Divorce was constitutionally prohibited until 1996! When Ireland entered the EU in 1973, it had to give up the marriage bar which meant that women once married had to stop working. There’s numerous other examples of women having little rights until recently, but these are the ones that I think are the craziest! Abortion is probably the biggest issue right now concerning women’s rights.”

I had to ask her how it felt to be an American woman in Ireland right now as she helps Irish women to gain more equality.

“It’s interesting being an American participating in the campaigns. The Women’s March allowed me to still show my resistance towards current American politics, and it allowed me to see how much the rest of the world is impacted by America’s policies. They also tied the march into how Ireland specifically is attached to American politics which I thought was great – for example, allowing US military to stop over in Shannon Airport, and the Taoiseach (basically the Prime Minister) bringing over a bowl of shamrocks to the President on St. Paddy’s day which represent Irish immigrants even though Trump has anti-immigrant policies,” she said. “At first, I felt a little out of place at the Repeal the 8th march, but I realized it could potentially affect me just as much as it would affect an Irish citizen, because I am a resident here. As a resident, even though I can’t vote, I can still voice my opinion and support the cause.”

-Claire O’Reilly, Guest Blogger

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