Her Loyal Voice is a blog which gives a voice to loyalist women. This is Part 1 of a series exploring the findings of their recent Loyalist Women’s Engagement Survey.
What becometh a woman best, and first of all? Silence. What second? Silence. What third? Silence. What fourth? Silence. Yea, if a man should aske me till Domes daie I would still crie silence, silence.
—Thomas Wilson, The Arte of Rhetorique, 1560
The silence of women’s voices endures today. Her Loyal Voice came about from my personal observations on social media. I would describe myself as a quiet listener online and what I witnessed was loyalist women’s voices being repressed, erased and unheard.
I feel extremely passionate about providing a platform for those unspoken words, those loyalist women’s voices which have been excluded from public discourse for so long. Silence does not bring us together, it separates us, it makes us all feel helpless. Being able to share your views, your ideas and have a say on issues important to you can be empowering, it can be liberating, and it can contribute to a positive society.
Towards the end of 2020, I conducted the Loyalist Women’s Engagement Survey. It was my attempt to provide a meaningful platform for those voices which are often marginalised or omitted from meaningful involvement in peacebuilding and policy development.
A total of 532 loyalist women responded to the survey. Women were asked if, over the past 12 months, had their opinion been sought on issues of concern to them. Sixty seven percent said they had never been asked for their opinion. A further 16% said they had been asked for their opinion occasionally, and 17% some of the time.
The results of the survey have yielded important information on how loyalist women feel about their power to influence. Sixty-six percent believed they could not influence change if decisions were made, they didn’t agree with, 23% said they could influence change but with a great deal of difficulty, and 11% with a little difficultly.
All loyalist women do not share the same priorities or perspectives. Therefore, it is critical that they have channels through which their voices and needs can be expressed and mechanisms through which they can influence policies that affect their daily lives.
82% of respondents said they no longer felt Unionist parties represented them. In contrast, 18% said they felt represented by the main Unionist parties.
The concept of empowerment requires an increase in and an improvement of opportunities to engage. Empowerment is not only about one’s ability but the power to make a choice in how and when to engage. One hundred per cent of respondents said they would like more opportunities to have their voice heard.
Loyalist women have a right to participate fully and equally in public and political life. They bring unique experiences and views to public debates and decisions. Their engagement is extremely important, they must be able to shape laws and practices and they must have real influence over decisions that impact upon their lives.
If we are to create an equal future, we need to ensure loyalist women’s voices are heard and inform decisions at every level of society including at the political level.
Part Two of the survey will be released in due course, and will cover the concerns of loyalist women. Part Three will look at the type of Northern Ireland loyalist women would like to see.
You can download Part One of the Loyalist Women’s Engagement Survey here: https://herloyalvoice.com/opinion/loyalist-womens-engagement-survey/
This is a guest slot to give a platform for new writers either as a one off, or a prelude to becoming part of the regular Slugger team.
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