Suzy Byrne is a woman living with a disability in Dublin and is known for her work speaking and campaigning on disability and equality issues. Suzy has worked and campaigned in the area of equality and community development in paid and unpaid roles over the past twenty years and currently works as Senior Advocate with the National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities. She has blogged about news and current affairs at Maman Poulet since 2006 and has won a number of awards for her work. The blog covers political, equality issues and media analysis. Suzy has an interest in technology and how ordinary people use it to connect with each other and exchange information. She regularly appears on TV and radio providing political commentary and analysis and information on the role of social media in politics.
I would preface this piece saying I used to be a girl but I’ve been a woman for many years.
Because I am a Girl I ask … where are the women? In all areas of life I want to see and hear women’s voices, actions and opinions heard. I really look forward to the day I don’t have to ask or think about this.
Because I am a Girl I believe … in the importance of solidarity, speaking out and helping others. There have been many times I have not been able to physically act on something but I have found other ways to speak out or plan actions or give support. I am grateful to the many women who have helped me in similar ways when I have not been able to speak out for myself or others.
Because I am a Girl I hope … that women with disabilities wherever they live will soon have choices to live where and with whom they want to. Too often women with disabilities do not have the same freedoms extended to men including educational and work opportunities, a choice in who provides them with support and the chance to have friendships and relationships and control over their bodies.
Because I am a Girl I wonder … about the role of technology in all our lives and where it will bring us next. I wonder what we can do to help people communicate particularly those who have difficulties in speaking and thinking clearly or in walking and doing the activities of daily living. I wonder about people who live in countries who may not have access to technology or the power needed to make technology work and what we can do to ensure that they have the same opportunities to communicate and be free to move.
Because I am a Girl I dream … about not having to think about where I go and if it will be accessible for me and others. Will there be steps or uneven surfaces. Will there be chairs for those who need them? Is the transport accessible? Is there a long walk into the room the event is being held in? Can everyone hear what is being said? Is the accessible loo really accessible and not being used as a storage cupboard?
Because I am a Girl I remember … a teacher who believed in me when I often was told by others that I was not able to do anything or was not trying hard enough. This teacher recognised that I had difficulties in expressing myself and she found ways for me to think aloud and in print.
Because I am a Girl I like … men who support women, who remember that women do not automatically have the same choices, wages or rights as they do and who do something to change it.
Because I am a Girl I dislike … the constant pressure placed on girls and women to look, behave or act a certain way. The styling, airbrushing, headlines, commentary, judging and yes I have even been guilty of it myself. This judging is especially experienced by girls and women with disabilities who have ‘different’ bodies. Often they feel pressure to change how they look and experience great pain in doing so.
Because I am a Girl I feel … happy in the company of other women celebrating our humour, shared experiences. struggles and achievements. We need to continue to support each other.
Because I am a Girl I celebrate … being able to vote and the women who fought for the right for me and other women to vote, stand for election and be elected to public office.