Seeking a safer society

Supporting projects to end Gender-Based Violence

MDN attends Dublin launch of new Fund

The Freedom From Fear launch featured among the Irish Times 'Images of the Day' on 22-2-22. Photograph: Alan Betson

Men’s Development Network CEO Seán Cooke and Head of Programmes & Advocacy Colm Kelly Ryan attended the launch of Rethink Ireland’s Freedom From Fear Fund on Tuesday, February 22nd. 

The fund — which is a partnership between Rethink Ireland and the National Women’s Council of Ireland — aims to channel money into supportive and preventative initiatives targeting an end to Gender-Based Violence.

Speaking at the event in the National Print Museum in Dublin, Seán said that as a gender equality organisation marking 25 years’ working with men and boys, Men’s Development Network is committed to building solidarity and allyship with women to create a safer society for all, and in encouraging Irish males to become a positive force for change.

Seán reiterated our call for men to: “step in” to the wider conversation in a non-adversarial way; “step up” by disavowing violence and harmful masculinities and adopting positive behaviours and role models; and “step back” by reflecting on their own privilege and showing empathy by listening to the concerns of women and girls in particular.

The Fund will support projects that address the deep-rooted cultural causes of gender-based violence, while also supporting survivors of violence and their families through innovative service provision.

Colm Kelly Ryan said: “We welcome the launch of this Fund at a critical juncture in the battle to end Domestic, Sexual, and Gender-Based Violence. It is crucial that companies across Ireland play their part in supporting projects which seek to end Gender-Based Violence and Violence Against Women.”

Men's Development Network CEO Seán Cooke pictured with a copy of A Proclamation to end violence against women in Ireland which was also launched at the event in the National Print Museum, with a live printing of the document. It is based on the UN and Council of Europe’s Conventions, signed by Ireland, which enshrine the rights of women to live with freedom from fear.

Irish businesses and philanthropists have been called on to help develop the Fund, which aims to raise €100,000 initially and open to applications in the summer. It will work to address the deep-rooted cultural causes of gender-based violence, while also supporting victims/survivors of violence and their families through innovative service provision.

Colm added: “It is our hope that a portion of funds raised will go towards work in the sphere of transforming masculinities, which engages with men and boys in the most appropriate ways and from a strengths-based approach.

“Now is the time to have the conversation on the positive role men and boys can play in ending Gender-Based Violence and working towards changing norms, behaviours, and attitudes which condone such abuses.”

A Proclamation to end violence against women in Ireland was also launched, with a live printing of the document based on the UN and Council of Europe’s Conventions, signed by Ireland, which enshrine the rights of women to live with freedom from fear.

A personal testimony was delivered by Charlene Masterson, a survivor of violent abuse (see right column). Among the others present were Orla O’Connor, Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland; Noeline Blackwell, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre; WorkEqual founder Sonya Lennon (MC); Áine Kerr, co-owner of media company Kinzen, the fund’s first business donor; and Jim Daly and Stephanie Walsh of Rethink Ireland. See below gallery for their respective comments.

For more, including how to Donate, see here.

Jim Daly, Interim CEO of Rethink Ireland: “Our goal is to support projects that work to both prevent violence against women through education, as well as protect women from harm. In Rethink Ireland, we are proud to already be supporting projects working in this space such as The SAOL Project and Active* Consent in NUI Galway, but we want to be able to empower many more organisations like them to carry out their critical work.”

Stephanie Walsh, Business Development Director at Rethink Ireland: “Moved by the public mood for a cultural and societal shift, we created this Fund to address the structural issues in Ireland that can lead to violence against women… Together, we can work to address the fundamental gaps in our society that lead to women being discriminated against and therefore more likely to experience violence.”

Orla O’Connor, Director of the National Women’s Council: “NWC welcomes the opportunity to partner with Rethink Ireland and to provide our expertise in the establishment of this fund, which will provide crucial supports to many organisations working to end gender-based violence. Violence against women is an epidemic in Ireland, it has a devastating impact on the lives of women, girls their families and communities. We are at a critical moment where people want to see change happening, a national conversation has started on how we protect women from men’s violence but crucially, how we prevent gender-based violence from occurring in the first place. This Fund has the potential to be a catalyst in creating a zero-tolerance culture towards misogyny and sexism that permeates our society and creates the context in which gender-based violence occurs.”

Noeline Blackwell, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre: “We want to add our voices to the thousands around the country calling for further measures to stop violence against women for good. In the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, we witness first-hand the traumas inflicted on survivors of sexual violence. The time is long overdue for us as a society to prioritise the rights of women and girls and to eliminate any tolerance to violence against women through properly resourced and accessible education, training and awareness-raising programmes.”

Áine Kerr, Co-Founder and COO of Kinzen: “I think I speak for more than those gathered here today, that we are deeply saddened – but also very angered – at the rate of advancement on women’s equality over the decades. I encourage those in the business community who are in a position to contribute to the Freedom From Fear Fund, to contact Rethink Ireland today and find out how you can become part of the progression.”

Sonya Lennon, Designer and Founder of WorkEqual (MC): “WorkEqual is a current recipient of Rethink Ireland supports, so we have direct experience of the difference it can make to an organisation to be recognised and backed in this way. I would like to echo what others have said here today, that this is an opportunity for business leaders to be part of the solution and to make a meaningful contribution to an issue which touches so many lives across the country.”

At the event in the national Print Museum on February 22 were:

MC Sonya Lennon – CEO, WorkEqual

Stephanie Walsh – Business Development Director, Rethink Ireland

Jim Daly – Interim Managing Director, Rethink Ireland

Orla O’Connor – Director, National Women’s Council

Aine Kerr – Co-Founder and COO, Kinzen

Noeline Blackwell – CEO, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre

Seán Cooke, CEO, Men’s Development Network

Ailbhe Keane – Founder and CEO, Izzy Wheels & Board Director, Rethink Ireland

Charlene Masterson, Survivor of Violent Abuse

MariaElena Costa Sa, Human Rights and Community Development Lead, Irish Network Against Racism


Charlene Masterson, survivor, delivered the following powerful testimony at the launch:

“Speaking out about my experience initially was horrendous for me. The difficulty of disclosing the details of my abuse to strangers, was so daunting. Where do I begin? Would they believe me? I began to have doubts before I even started. I felt physically ill as the memories came flooding back. It was a very painful and long process. I was reliving it all over again talking about things that I had consciously and purposely put to the back of my mind. The embarrassment and shame of having to speak of these horrors of the abuse, out loud caused me to crumble.

“But I no longer feel shame or fear when speaking out about these experiences. I continued for so many years carrying these secrets. I have started to rebuild my life properly. However, I did not make it here by myself. A friend of mine studying social care noticed the signs and essentially saved my life. The DRCC staff were the key to getting me through the court proceedings, the months that followed and I will always know that they are just at the end of the phone if I need them because they were there for me and helped me when I really needed it.

“A life goal for me now, after my journey through abuse, is to develop school programmes to help raise awareness and, also to teach children of all ages the signs of abuse. I want to develop these programmes to help people realise when they’re in an abusive situation, but also to help people identify the signs of an abuse victim so they may spot it in other people who are possibly suffering.”

The proclamation to the People of Ireland, to end Gender-Based Violence, which was live printed @nationalprintmuseum at the #FreedomFromFear launch. It was designed by Dublin letterpress studio One Strong Arm (@itsonestrongarm).
Click image to enlarge.