30.09.13

Niamh Randall

Head of Policy, the Simon Communities in Ireland

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Niamh has been working within the field of homelessness and drug use for the past 14 years.  As the Head of Policy and Communications she is charged with managing the national policy, campaigning communications activities of the national office, identifying overall research and policy needs and managing the roll-out of in-house research projects. In addition, Niamh is the Simon Communities National Spokesperson speaking on behalf of all eight Simon Communities on national policy and strategy matters. Simon Week 2013 (30 September to -6th October) is now in its 6th year.

Prior to joining the Simon Communities of Ireland, Niamh worked for a charity working with people who are homeless and drug users for almost eight years.

Because I am a Girl I ask…why, despite all we know about gender balance and equality, it seems, at times, we are moving backwards with not enough women in the Dáil, the Cabinet, on air and in prominent leadership positions. I ask why, when women are in such roles they are seen as exceptions or extraordinary, which may indeed be very true but can appear to write off the hard work, dedication, talent and motivation it has taken to get there.

Because I am a Girl I believe…change and growth is always possible and ever present, whether is personal change, cultural change or societal change, we are all capable of great things and I see it every day.

Because I am a Girl I hope…I look to the future with great hope.

Because I am a Girl I wonder…  when we will, in fact, “cherish all children of the nation equally” and not some as being ‘more equal than others’. That we, as a society, will see the sense of a long term vision, in addressing structural poverty and providing adequate safety nets for people when they are in difficulty. That the resources and political will required to meet the government commitment to end homeless by 2016 will be invested because, quite simply, it is the right thing to do.

Because I am a Girl I dream… of a time when every woman, man and child has a ‘Home for Good’ and a clear place in their community. That when people do get into difficulty there is quick and effective intervention so that no one gets left behind, no one is excluded and no one becomes homeless.

Because I am a Girl I remember…Barbie and Sindy dolls being banned in our house, speculating on what my mother meant when she said she felt they ‘reinforced negative gender stereotypes’ and then sharing her view with my young friends!

Because I am a Girl I like…that can talk about my feelings; that I can rage, cry or laugh fairly openly and generally won’t be judged too harshly. I think men and boys get a raw deal on this one.

Because I am a Girl I dislike… some media portrayal of women and girls; the over sexualisation, the focus on looks and body type etc. Such narrow, one dimensional views just miss so, so much. But more damaging they send a very loud, unequivocal and deeply flawed message to girls and young women that who they are and what they think is so much less important than how they look.  And so it perpetuates…

Because I am a Girl I feel…lucky to have grown up in a home, with a loving and supportive family where I was nurtured and supported as a girl and woman. I realise that not everyone is so fortunate and the absence of these two key elements – a home and support – can having a lasting impact. We see it every day in the Simon Communities around the country.

Because I am a Girl I celebrate…having women in my life – my colleagues who bring such colour, diversity and go above and beyond; my friends who so many times have saved my life through love, laughter and open challenging; my sister who just gets me and is the most thoughtful person I know; my nieces Emma, Sarah and Meagan who always remind me to hope, dream and believe; my Nana who refused to vote the same way as my Granddad, unusually for her time (she was born in 1911). And my mother, who I thank for encouraging me to speculate about stereotypes and inequality from an early age rather than accepting the norm and status quo. I can still see the bewildered look on the faces of my little friends as I tried to clumsily share her wisdom on negative gender stereotypes. I didn’t quite know what it all meant but instinctively I knew it was significant. It is because of her I still try to do this. I do hope she knows that!

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