Áine Toner is editor of Woman’s Way magazine. When she’s not watching the soaps for WW and Ireland AM, she indulges in her pastimes of books and handbags in equal measure.
Here, she talks equality, education… and wedding cake.
Because I am a Girl I ask… for a safe and secure health system that would make the statistic that 68,000 teenage girls die from unsafe abortions annually just a sad memory. Whatever your opinion is of our own service, surely what we have is incomparable to the experiences of so many naïve and impressionable young women.
Because I am a Girl I believe… in the immediate and complete abolition of female genital mutilation. Approximately 140 million girls have undergone genital cutting and two million are subjected to it every year. This continuance out of respect for tradition, or that the process enhances fertility and child survival, must be rejected as unacceptable motivations.
Because I am a Girl I hope… that I can give my children the same access to education I was awarded. My grandfather always said that education was the lightest burden you’d ever carry, so I often wonder what he’d make of the fact that 62 million girls in the world are not in primary school. Quite simply, education is a right, not a privilege.
Because I am a Girl I wonder… about my dream wedding (dress lengths, veil or no veil and, most importantly, the cake flavour(s)) which I know will happen when I’m ready and not because custom or necessity have implemented it. More than 100 million girls under 18, some as young as 12, are expected to marry over the next decade – I want their big day to be memorable for the right reasons.
Because I am a Girl I dream… of a cure for AIDS. Yes, a very worthy thing to say but let me give you some facts: 62 per cent more young women are living with HIV/AIDS than men AND two thirds of teenagers newly infected with HIV in Sub Saharan Africa are female. Worthy it may be, but this dream is also life changing and the basis for giving young women the chance of a life to live.
Because I am a Girl I remember… what it was like to believe that anything was possible and never to be held back from my goals. As a child I never thought about where money came from, a fact that’s all too important for the 900 million girls and women who live on less than one dollar a day. It’s a fact that humbles me when I’m desperate for my weekly magazine fix; suddenly the phrase ‘I have to have it’ takes on a new perspective.
Because I am a Girl I like… gadgets, in fact, pretty much anything with buttons and glittery lights yet I am horrified that globally, there are more mobile phones than clean toilets. I would like that cyberspace, technology and all its accoutrements can be used to give a voice to those girls who lack one, and not as a way of targeting vulnerable young women. As the digital world expands, there’s a real opportunity to equip girls with the knowledge and skill sets needed to ensure a better and safer future.
Because I am a Girl I dislike… that there remains a gender imbalance throughout Ireland. The CSO’s Women and Men in Ireland 2009 report found that women were ‘under represented in decision-making structures at both national and regional levels.’ In 2009, a mere 14 per cent of TDs in the Dáil were women, while they accounted for 34 per cent of members of state boards, 17 per cent of members of local authorities and just 12 per cent of members of regional authorities. It’s a reminder that equality for women is not a luxury, but a right.
Because I am a Girl I feel… (within just one day) sad, happy, friendly, funny, frustrated, angry, optimistic – and I’m glad to say it is the same for my peers. My feelings are valid and rarely questioned yet many young women around the world are denied the right to express themselves, and have yet to feel what’s it’s like to be truly happy.
Because I am a Girl I… am every bit the equal to my male counterparts yet in the developing world it is prejudice and discrimination that treat girls as less equal and therefore, less important than the menfolk. Consequently, this view also puts young women at most risk but with the right help, we have the chance to change lives.
– Aine Toner