I’ve just spent 2 days at Silence & Voice Festival of Feminisms which was hosted by the inspirational Clare Womens Network. It was an amazing event they hosted on a shoestring. Years of work culminating in a powerful insight into feminisms relayed through song, dance, spoken word, conversation and extremely engaging speakers. I must admit I didn’t know what I was getting myself into as I had never really explored feminism and remained ignorant to what it meant. I know I fight for the facilitation of women on decision making bodies and do my best to change the delivery of public participation in development but I had never considered myself a feminist. I wouldn’t dream of burning my bra!
I went in feeling very overwhelmed. I almost didn’t go as I felt I could have used the weekend to rest and refuel for the coming week of meetings in Ennis, an energy symposium in Mayo on Friday on top of the usual school week with 3 kids. I’d reached a point in my activism where I felt unsupported locally and could have used the weekend to wallow in despair. Of course my self imposed break from national policy, separation and move to the country didn’t help my isolation but my attempts to nurture collaboration with my peers in Clare have been mostly unsuccessful. Mind you I haven’t given that enough energy as I have been consumed by the establishment of Clare PPN and finding my feet in local policy commitments. It’s another vicious cycle.
At lunch on the first day I opened up and shared how I was feeling – almost breaking down but relieved to share the burden with a small group of amazing women. The compassion, feedback, concern and offers of help they relayed to me lifted my mood as they expressed their support. If these women could see worth in what I do after hearing only a small part of it I wondered why I don’t really acknowledge, appreciate or talk about it. Perhaps my inbuilt disapproval of bragging prevents me from claiming my own achievements. However the message of the day was stand tall and make your voice count! Use your voice against a system designed to silence women.
When I went home on the first day, with my fresh bout of confidence, I updated the introduction page of this blog. I changed the brief introduction to Theresa from the third person to myself. I wrote myself into it. I took ownership for what I do in a bold pride I don’t usually display. I know I’ve achieved a lot in my work for comprehensive public participation in national energy transition planning but apart from sharing that online I don’t really brag about it. I have been vocal and used myself to further the commitment on climate action I made to my children but I’ve had to move outside my comfort zone to do that. I know I’ve played my part in ensuring that Clare PPN is independent of Clare County Council but I don’t go on about that either. Most of my achievements are a group effort because I like to work collaboratively so I am slow to take credit even if I am the driving force.
On to day 2 where we were blown away by more amazing women. While memory fails me and I really can’t recount every speaker or performance over the 2 days I can’t not mention Marcellas story. I doubt there was a dry eye in the house when she shared it. It moved me for so many reasons. What an inspirational woman. At one stage I had plucked up the courage to read my poem Inheritance but in the end I didn’t. The moment passed and the courage waned!
By the end of the weekend I can safely say I am a feminist. I don’t agree with labelling but realise it’s something we can’t get away from so better to embrace them than shun them. A bit like my being an “environmentalist” – I’ve embraced it and am proud to say it. I also realise I definitely have a feminist agenda mainly because the lack of participation is generally a gender issue. We have a patriarchal system where men rule most decision making entities and women are systematically excluded. That needs to change. That will need more women finding and using their voice.
In an attempt to create a mutual support network in my area I have set up a Facebook group for North Clare. If you are interested in public participation, sustainable development, the world we pass on to our children and live in North Clare please get in touch to join the group. If you don’t live in North Clare then find a support network close to you or get in touch and I will see if there are any like minded people close to you in my networks.
Why call this Burnout to Balance? It was the title of the Transition Network initiative at the beginning of the year. Having attended their international conference and spending almost 2 days in tears I’m pretty sure I may have contributed to their insight into burnout. I may have read that all wrong though. Which reminds me I didn’t do much reporting back from or about that conference – now you know why 🙂 I do hope though that I can travel that journey from burnout to balance. I feel a little more positive about it having shared an inspirational weekend with amazing women and men who understand the value of female participation.
Thank you so much to everyone behind this inspirational event, to the performers, speakers and participants. You are wonderful x
9th October 2016