FemFest: Young women to speak about sexual violence and harassment

FemFest: Young women to speak about sexual violence and harassment

Women aged 16-25 will gather on Saturday to discuss topics important to them, particularly sexual violence, body diversity, and bystander culture – ie the need for everyone to play their part in addressing sexual violence and promoting zero tolerance. FemFest is organised by the National Women’s Council (NWC) and follows on from a series of workshops with organisations and secondary schools where young women identified key issues for them.

NWC Director Orla O’Connor said:

“Despite recent advances, it is still not easy being a young woman today. Young women face many challenges including sexual abuse and misogyny, body image pressures, and intersectional discrimination which can have an impact on their full and equal participation.”

Research has shown that one in five young women have suffered intimate relationship abuse, and 27% have  experienced rape. The root causes of sexual and domestic violence persist, and in particular the younger women NWC met expressed a real need  for more effective  education in this area.

Caitlin Faye Maniti, president of the Irish Secondary Schools Union, said:

“Having safe spaces like FemFest is really important. Young women want to learn what healthy relationships look like but due to the general lack of education on sex and relationships many young women simply aren’t being educated about these issues in school. Unfortunately, the society we live in means we are surrounded by the toxic, misogynist attitudes that underlie sexual violence and we must be able to understand and tackle this, head on. Most importantly, our society needs to properly educate young men and boys so they know that misogyny is not acceptable anymore and that it’s never ok to engage in sexual violence or domestic abuse.”

Georgia Grogan, lone parent and student activist, said:

“We need to move past this idea that the onus is on women to safeguard themselves from unwanted advances and inappropriate remarks. It’s time for men to step up and start playing their part. This means challenging misogynist ‘banter’, intervening against sexual  harassment, and standing up for the women in their lives.”

During the workshops, young women also spoke to NWC about their concerns around body image and social media, with a clear link made between unrealistic body standards and poor mental health. Many young women expressed a desire that a diversity of bodies – including trans, disabled, and fat bodies – be celebrated in the public realm.

FemFest will be facilitated by Dil Wickremasinghe and will feature a host of diverse women who are driving change in Irish society. FemFest is sponsored by Aviva.