An Alliance MLA stated the Women’s Coalition (WC)’s efforts before the Good Friday Agreement “broke the mould” for female representation in NI politics.
Lagan Valley MLA Sorcha Eastwood said the party’s 1990s efforts enabled today’s enhanced female representation.
After the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) refused to force parties to submit gender-balanced election lists, the WC was founded in 1996.
Ms. Eastwood said they were crucial to women’s political prominence.
“I remember the 1996 Forum elections,” she told BBC Good Morning Ulster.
“It was drab and one-dimensional, and I remember wondering, ‘Is this it? Is this the best?
The Women’s Coalition broke the mold, and few women in other parties had spoken up at that time.
In some respects, society has gone backwards in the last few years, especially with Covid.
“When we look at topics like childcare, gender wage gap reporting, domestic abuse, and social media.
There was a debate regarding whether social media would have led to the Good Friday Agreement.
“One of the more pertinent questions today is would we have had those inspirational, brave, and incredible women coming forward then if we had social media?”
Ms. Eastwood also suggested younger women were more politically engaged.
“Visibility matters. “Now you have different generations of women coming forward and saying they saw my posters or that I talked about something important to them,” she remarked.
“That’s what it’s about, being visible, having that voice, taking up space around the table, having a tiny sharp elbow here and there if you have to to get your point through and deliver for your citizens.
“Having that visibility and driving forward for your constituents and real, practical change”
Claire Sugden, independent MLA for East Londonderry, said the lack of an Executive was preventing progress on vital matters.
“I’m in politics not necessarily because I’m a woman,” she remarked.
Political problems are important to me. Our lack of a government 25 years after the Good Friday Agreement is my biggest complaint.
Sorcha discussed the concerns that are finally on the agenda, but we don’t have a government to solve them.
That’s Northern Ireland’s worst political disaster for women. Women care about actual, practical outcomes and ways that improve daily life.
Because women are in the arena and talking about these problems, we’re hearing more about childcare, women’s health, and domestic abuse.
“It’s about our leadership and empowering women on the ground to vote for the leadership that will best represent them.”