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Priority Questions. - Representation of Women.

Tuesday, 3 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 4

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 75. Mr. Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  if he has satisfied himself with the level of representation of women on the boards of Leader and other programmes. [24725/02]

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív The present representation of women on Leader local action group boards is 27%. While less than might be hoped for, I believe that this is a reasonable achievement on the part of the Leader boards. There is emphasis in the programme on increasing the level of female representation and it is anticipated that a level of 30% female representation on the boards can be attained by the programme mid-term in 2003.

Of the 12 board members of the Western Development Commission, four are women, giving a 33.3% representation.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris What steps does the Minister intend to take to ensure that the promise of 40% representation on the Leader boards will be fulfilled? Does he agree that the level of representation of women reflects an overall failure to provide adequate support for rural women in areas such as child care, transport and access to public meeting places and that the lack of such services in rural communities causes additional isolation for women? Does he further agree that this low level of participation is reflected in the general lack of control and power which is felt by communities and particularly women who are faced with academic, social and structural bar[884] riers? This must be overcome if we are to move towards a society of equality.

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív The situation with regard to Leader boards is that there is great autonomy at local level. We lay down guidelines but each Leader board is elected and nominated by the social partners. I do not have any direct control in this matter. We are trying to fulfil many criteria but this year I tried to ensure that a minimum number of people on each Leader board was elected by the community sector. In addition, the various social interests appointed people to the boards. Nobody seeks to put only men or a majority of men on the boards but each group can ultimately create that effect as a result of each making an individual decision rather than co-ordinating its decision with others.

The situation is different with the Western Development Commission in that the board is appointed by the Minister. Thirty three percent of the board members are women. We tried to fulfil a large number of criteria in appointing the board. We wanted representation from the seven western counties involved in the board as well as representation from the local authority sector, local authority management, industry and so forth. When all the criteria were considered, including ensuring there was adequate representation of women, it proved impossible to reach 40% in that case.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris Does the Minister not agree that we must provide the social conditions which will enhance the position of women? These include child care, transport, the availability of public meeting halls and so forth. This will advance the position of women towards a more equitable situation.

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív The Government is already spending a great deal of money on child care so it is dealing with that issue. I am not sure what the Deputy means with regard to access to halls. We are investing money in the provision of community and resource centres throughout the country. The lack of basic social facilities is a problem for both males and females in rural communities.

The reason more women are not involved is more complex than stated. Some areas have a high representation of women in community activities while others have a lower one. My perception is that many more women are involved in the delegations which meet me than would have been the case heretofore.

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