Women And Civil Society Of Ireland

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Question :

Women and civil society What role does civil society in Ireland play in the representation of women’s interests and women’s issues? In your discussion make reference to specific organisations and reflect on how we understand women’s interests and the role of political culture in shaping opportunities for mobilising on women’s issues in Ireland.

Women and civil society

What role does civil society in Ireland play in the representation of women’s interests and women’s issues?  In your discussion make reference to specific organisations and reflect on how we understand women’s interests and the role of political culture in shaping opportunities for mobilising on women’s issues in Ireland.

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Answer :



The ideology of Civil Society Policy of Ireland is founded upon the idea that everyone has a role to play in reducing poverty and the citizens of the society needs to have the right to participate in the democracy and the decisions that influences their lives in some way or the other. The moot objective of the civil society organizations is to broaden the scope for the citizens to come together in order to act collectively in the development of their own communities. In Ireland, civil society has played an integral role in shaping the status of women in the country. Several social and economic policies supported by the Irish civil society partners have influenced the condition of women in the country as well as also functioned in the conditioning of women of the country. This essay attempts to shed light upon the chief executions of Irish Civil Society and in reference to specific organizations under this policy, the study reflects on the understanding of women’s interests and the role of the political culture in mobilizing women’s issues in Ireland. 

Overview of Civil Society in Ireland

The civil society of Ireland works on decreasing the marginalization of different sections of the society in terms of sustainable development. As far as the marginalized section of the society is concerned, poor women of the society are considered to be doubly marginalized as they lack the scope of participating in productivity of the society beyond the biological production (Guerrina and Wright, 2016). The functioning of the civil society emphasizes on the local community and owners in order to meet the needs of the most vulnerable section of the society. 

Experts have several opinions regarding the definition of the civil society. Civil society as opined by majority of the social critics is a space between the household and state where the citizens are arranged to provide necessary services. Along with the NGOs the civil society also focuses on the trade unions, sport and cultural organizations and professional associations (Murphy, 2015). 

The influence of the Irish Civil Society Policy over women is reflected through the policy goal of Irish Aid’ s engagement with civil society that is to strengthen the space and to pave the path for both men and women to come together collectively in participating in the sustainable development processes of the society (Murphy, 2015). Therefore, it is evident that it indicates towards the equality of men and women and the equal importance of women in building a sustainable society that works for the development of the vulnerable and the marginalized section of the society. 

Impact over women of the country

Role of women

The complex and diverse experience of the Irish women is considered due to their active participation in philanthropic organizations. In the Nineteenth century Irish women functioned actively in the formal development of the charitable endeavours from establishing orphanages and schools to working in prisons and workhouses (Murphy, 2015). The voluntary work of women contributed to a great extent in forming the Irish civil society. The chief role of women in developing civil society was to reflecting on their role and the enhancement of their social role as an important citizen of the country. 

Until the advent of Eighteenth century, throughout Europe the role of women was confined to household and in the binary of private and public, women seldom contributed actively in the public domain. Changes in political and ideological stance changed the conditioning of mind of women. Evidently, women revisited their roles and acquainted with their significant participation in the possible positive changes in the society (Murphy, 2015). Their active participation in the movement of change clearly brings forth the changes in their mindset and ideology. Even, several philanthropists agree on the fact that the voluntary work of women facilitated the formal political process of forming Irish Civil Society. 

Women and civil society

In order to understand how women fit into the concept of civil society and social capital it is important to understand the inception of civil society and social capital and their relationship with civil participation and democracy. These theories need to be critiqued in association with gender to understand how this has affected the notions of integration of women.

Several social critics have their individual notions of state and it varies chronologically. While Aristotle defined State as an association, Hobbes noted state as a ‘contract of fear’. However, Locke’s concept of state varies largely from Hobbes’s idea of Leviathan and it saw community to be the supreme power. Civil society as Trentmann noted emerged in the Eighteenth century European society but declined due to the rise of totalitarianism in the Twentieth society (Murphy, 2015). 

The Concept of fraternity that French revolution brought forth can be associated with the concept of Civil Society that emphasizes on enabling the participation of human capital in the development of the society. The collective participation in the development procedure of society is to be monitored by State. If the philosophy of civil society is considered, the relation of democracy with state is a potent dimension (Murphy, 2015). Civil society facilitates the process of mobilising public opinion in generating public policies and the government policies need to reflect potent social researches. 

As per the historical evidences, considering civil society as a favourable arena to women can be an overstatement. However, it is true that Gender is mostly excluded in the notion of social capital. Onyx and Bullen in their research stated that social capital is not related to demographic variables including gender. However, Putnam’s vision that engagement of women in the civil society is limited to affluent to homemakers can be considered problematic because it does not focus on the other identities of women than affluent housewives. It directly indicates that the choice of women of entering the labour market is associated with their identities as housewives and it has a negative impact over society. 

Opportunities for women 

Civil society has potently paved the path for women to avail several opportunities. For example, civil society has not only focussed on the issues that are faced exclusively by women but it also encouraged the participation of women in resolving the issues (Murphy, 2015). The first issue evidently ignores the level of participation. Civil society beyond the dinner party culture provided the women the scope of economic independence. Critics have also suggested that the economic independence and occupational satisfaction and alternatives of canonical relationships portray gendered view of the concept. 

It is important to understand that how women are integrated widely into the theory of civil society. As per the reports, women dominated in the community organizations and voluntary services and also 72% of the paid workforce in the voluntary services were comprised of women (Murphy, 2015). Therefore, it can be stated that these organizations constitute the horizontal relationship, which was identified by Putnam as significant for effective social capital. This can be also associated with the community-based capital that is consisted of both the ‘bonding’ capital and the ‘bridging’ capital between the communities based on issues like equality and domestic violence. 

The idea of utilizing the input from civil society has also facilitated the scope for participation of women in the process of constituting a democracy (Dukelow and Considine, 2017). The democratic participation is aligned with equality as it enables women to have equal influence over the policy making of government. It is true that women are being under presented on the particular structure that forms the intersection among government and society. For instance, among a third of the public bodies in Northern Ireland but only 35% of the directors of the voluntary organizations are women (Guerrina and Wright, 2016). The qualities that are mostly associated with the high-level social capital are in accordance with those that are predominantly practiced by women, both in women organizations and community organizations.

Another important factor that needs to be countered is that women are more likely to predominate in horizontal structures of the civil society. These women do not necessarily comprise the prominent positions that are required for influencing either the executive roles in the structure of civil society such as more formal political structures or public bodies including leading political parties and government institutions (Irishaid.ie. 2018). It is evident that the participation of women in the social structure indicates their level of participation in the process of policymaking. It might be considered as accepting the gendered specific realms of policy influence because it reflects leaving men for the traditional political structures for instance policymaking and chief legislative and executive instruments of the State (Murphy, 2015). However, it is also true that high involvement of women in the mentioned social structures represents the opportunity of women to influence the policymaking and also it encourages the involvement of women in the process of policy making through the route of civil engagement. It is important to understand that this can not be considered as an alternative of the equal representation of women in the domain of state and political power. 

In later years Civil society’s participating in the agenda of peace making and peace building also widen several opportunities for women. The Second National Action plan of Ireland reflected upon the peace and security of women (cain.ulst.ac.uk, 2018). Mary Robinson, Former president of Ireland significantly commented on the importance of women’s participation in the prevention an resolution of conflicts in establishing sustainable peace that is one of the driving forces of development of any society. The participation of women in building Irish Civil Society evolved in the current overreaching aim of Irish Foreign Policy that emphasizes on the Women, Peace and Security agenda. 

Mobilization of women’s issues

The year 2000 is the most significant year in terms of reaching the objective of Irish Civil Society as in this year UNSCR 1325 called every member of the state with the agenda of protecting the rights of women (Google Books, 2018). The agenda was to ensure the full participation of women in terms of preventing the conflicts, peace building and post-conflict reconstruction processes. Participation of women in the policy making in order to prevent social conflict and democratic inequalities also helped in bringing forth several issues that are more than domestic issues. The agenda of preventing and responding to the sexual violence against women helped in bringing the issue of domestic violence and mobilization of the issues in making new policies such as advancing national plans, regional action plans and twinning on women and their peace and security.

Irish Civil society gradually helped in the recognition of women issues such as inequality in terms of education and politics. The fact that public domain is generally governed by men, can be seen as male domination in the domain of policymaking, workforce and human capital of a country (Foster, 2015). The identification of women’s issues is possible with full participation of women in resolving the conflicts and it indicates solving of the democratic issues of women. Women’s right of equal participation and their right to choose their domain have been facilitated by such agendas. 

Anne Philips has notably pointed out that feminists generally avoided the concept of civil society because of the primary notion of the concept being a masculine connotation of power politics and State. But both civil society and the aspect of feminist approach are pluralist. Acknowledging the equality is one of the foremost features of both the concepts. There is also a notion that civil society has a tendency to adopt the formation of the existing power structure of the society (Carbone, 2017). 

It can not be denied that there are ample opportunities for women to claim the spheres of influence within civil society and it also focuses on the agenda of growing need for equality. It is important to adjust according to the possible pitfalls in order to juxtapose with the possible gains. 


Over the past fifty years, Irish society has undergone significant changes and it has potently influenced the changing role of women in the society. The societal expectations regarding the role of a woman have significantly changed and they have acquired the position of decision makers. It is true that there is no such stereotypical implication regarding the role of a man and women often have to balance their careers and their family mostly household duty and behind such struggle lays the Irish social ideology of family and relationships. Women being an active participant of the workforce of the country have changed the condition and conditioning of women.  A wide range of situations led women to enter into such treatises and it has been successful in theoretical transformation of women. The eminent factor here is the understanding of the fact that only the active participation of women in the workforce of the country can pave the path of opportunities for women.