Raising awareness at Munster TU

White Ribbon Ireland and Men’s Development Network (as lead agent for the campaign nationally) were delighted to be part of ceremonies in Bishopstown and Tralee on April 27th 2022 as signal flag-raisings were held at all six Munster Technological University campuses in Cork and Kerry.

Speaking at the ceremony, MDN’s Head of Programmes and Advocacy Colm Kelly Ryan, commended MTU’s collective vision and unwavering commitment to White Ribbon “as we step forward together in promoting gender equality and ending gender-based violence.”

He thanked MTU President, Professor Maggie Cusack, Professor Margaret Linehan, Siobhán Kangataran, Ellen O’Shea, and all the team at the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion office for leading the way towards becoming Ireland’s first White Ribbon University.

Colm referenced our focus on advancing gender equality and ending gender-based violence “in an innovative way – through transforming masculinities and engaging men and boys as allies”, as well as building allyship with women and girls.

Joyce O’Sullivan, who is a member of our Client Support team based in the Southwest, represented White Ribbon Ireland at a similar ceremony at the MTU Campus in Tralee, Co Kerry.

Thank you for this warm welcome and invitation. Good afternoon MTU, Ireland’s first White Ribbon University – doesn’t that have a ring to it?!

I am honoured to be here with you today at the beginning of our White Ribbon journey together. My name is Colm Kelly Ryan and I am Head of Programmes & Advocacy with Men’s Development Network and White Ribbon Ireland.

Today, we take a step together in promoting gender equality and in ending gender-based violence, but we do it in an innovative way – through transforming masculinities and engaging men and boys as allies. On behalf of the Board of Men’s Development Network, our CEO Seán Cooke and from everyone at the Network… thank you for taking this step.

Our work at MDN and White Ribbon is about transforming masculinities – changing the norms, behaviours and attitudes in relation to men and masculinities: creating spaces for personal development and to become one’s most authentic self. Our work is underpinned by intersectional feminism and this stems across our National Health and Development Programme and our Client Support Services. We are the only organisation in Ireland to work with both male perpetrators and victims/survivors of domestic violence and abuse through our MEND and Male Advice Line programmes.

The concept of engaging men and boys as allies for gender equality, gender justice, anti-racism, anti-discrimination, women’s rights, LGBTQI+ rights and ending gender-based violence is not new, but it is for the first time becoming mainstream in Irish society. Through this work, we will become a more equal, diverse and inclusive Ireland for all.

This is a significant day for Ireland as a nation. Engaging men and boys in education, awareness-raising and capacity-building is a significant aspect of the Prevention Pillar under the Istanbul Convention. Our message today is simple… prevention is better than intervention. If we can prevent gender-based violence from happening by changing the norms, challenging patriarchal structures, calling out attitudes which condone discrimination, we will be a better society for all. That’s our collective challenge and responsibility.

With that said, I am pleased to announce publicly for the very first time that Government and Department of Justice have just awarded White Ribbon 70,000 euros for our gender justice and equality work and I wish to thank them for it.

I have a few more ‘thank yous’ to give before I close – President Cussack, Professor Margaret Linehan, Siobhán Kangataran, Ellen O’Shea and all the team at the EDI Office, you are leaders and I cannot thank you enough for your vision and unwavering commitment to White Ribbon and engaging men and boys in ending Gender-Based Violence. I ask you all to please give them a round of applause.

White Ribbon was founded in 1991 in Canada by a group of men who recognised the importance of engaging men and boys from a strengths-based approach, in ending Gender-Based Violence. Their initiative came 2 years after the Montréal University/École Polytehnique Massacre, where 14 women were murdered by a gunman at the Faculty of Engineering what was an anti-feminist attack.

It is with their memory in mind, and every victim/survivor in this country and beyond in our minds and hearts, that we raise this White Ribbon Flag across MTU Campuses in Cork/Kerry today. As we raise our flags today, let us raise our hearts and voices for there is hope that through our White Ribbon work, we will promote substantive equality and we will end Gender-Based Violence — together.

Thank you very much.

Colm Kelly Ryan with MTU President Maggie Cusack and staff members

Five reasons why White Ribbon is important in 2022

  1. Women are the primary victim of Gender-Based Violence and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns, there has been a spike in reports of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.
  2. According to Women’s Aid, 1 in 4 women in Ireland who have been in a relationship have been abused by a current or former partner.
  3. Women’s Aid received 24,893 disclosures of abuse against women.
  4. In light of the #MeToo and #TimesUp Campaigns, there is a need to address the issue of violence and harassment across society and in particular in workplace settings.
  5. To provide spaces for conversations with men and boys on what more men can do to end Violence against Women and Gender-Based Violence.

SLIGO U20s' SLEEVES SHOW THE WAY

A significant tie-in has been launched between Sligo GAA and White Ribbon Ireland in our efforts to engage men in initiatives and conversations around ending gender-based violence.

As part of the partnership, the white ribbon is appearing on the sleeves of the Yeats County’s Under-20 playing kit this season and is already in evidence on its training gear. They scored a first ever Connacht U20 championship title success by beating Mayo in a dramatic decider.

Colm Kelly Ryan, Head of Programmes and Advocacy with The Men’s Development Network – which is the lead organisation for White Ribbon nationally – says: “The White Ribbon Campaign is about men being aware, taking a lead, being an ally, and encouraging and facilitating change.

“Sport is very visible in society, and we are very pleased to support this group of young sportsmen who are prepared to look beyond just their immediate sporting interest and take such a public stance on a topic of such significance.

“We look forward to engaging with the players as we roll out training workshops and other educational initiatives to build their capacity to support and deliver the objectives of the campaign and we hope to learn too from what they are experiencing as active figures in their communities,” Colm added.

Full details of the link-up can be read here

Over 16 Days, as many notable names added their voices to the White Ribbon campaign

The annual International White Ribbon Day (Nov 25) also coincides with the first day of the United Nations 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. In 2021, the White Ribbon Ireland and MDN social media pages featured a very special campaign.

Sixteen speakers from across sport, music, politics and civil society came together to support our White Ribbon Ireland Campaign. They included the likes of Taoiseach Micheál Martin (day one, see above), Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, and fourteen other notable contributors.

Taoiseach gave his endorsement

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee making the Pledge in support of White Ribbon Ireland

Oireachtas lobby

The White Ribbon Ireland Campaign sent a letter to every single TD and Senator in the country: asking them to wear the White Ribbon on International White Ribbon Day, to take the White Ribbon Pledge, and post it on their social media. The Taoiseach, Tanaiste and Minister for Justice were among those who answered the call.

Critically, the letter also called on them to urge Government to ratify ILO Convention No. 190 on Violence and harassment in the workplace. It was co-signed by MDN/White Ribbon Ireland, ActionAid Ireland, the Munster Technological University and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Colm Kelly Ryan's video message for TDs and Senators ahead of International White Ribbon Day 2021. Each member of the Oireachtas received a letter and white ribbon

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar wearing his White Ribbon during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil

Quick links

Our submission to the draft Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (March 2022). Click image to read it.

POSITIVE ROLE MODELS

Welcome to the White Ribbon Ireland Campaign page for 2022. White Ribbon is a campaign in over 60 countries worldwide which seeks to engage with men and boys on ending Violence against Women and Gender-Based Violence. 

The White Ribbon Campaign in Ireland is led by Men’s Development Network and this is your portal for all information about White Ribbon Ireland, how to get involved in the campaign and all our latest information and activities.

On November 24th 2021, the eve of White Ribbon Day 2021, Men’s Development Network and the White Ribbon Campaign Ribbon held a hugely successful online Panel Discussion, in partnership with Munster Technological University. Long-time White Ribbon ambassador, RTE’s Miriam O’Callaghan, was an excellent and enthusiastic moderator.

This marked a huge development as MTU will be the first White Ribbon University on the island of Ireland and starting a 3-year project with us on ending Gender-Based Violence and Violence against Women and embedding principles of equality, diversity and inclusion across their structures. More information here.

Men urged to reflect on their behaviours
and engage in allyship with women

The head of the White Ribbon Ireland campaign has called for a broader rethinking of masculinities and behaviours and what it means to be a male role model in Ireland in 2021.

On International White Ribbon Day (Nov 25), Seán Cooke, CEO of Men’s Development Network, says “a significant cultural shift is needed” to support men in ending gender-based violence. He was commenting after Wednesday’s online panel discussion held in conjunction with Munster Technological University and hosted by RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan. 

The event marked the first step towards MTU becoming the first White Ribbon University on the island of Ireland. This is seen as a major advance in making gender-based violence part of the broader education curriculum and informing the wider social and cultural change required to make Ireland a safer place for women, girls, and diverse gender identities.

To achieve this landmark status, a three-year programme of work has been laid out by the University and MDN’s Head of Advocacy, International Human Rights Lawyer, Colm Kelly Ryan. This will involve initiatives by staff, students and stakeholders that demonstrate a commitment to gender equality, consent, and creating universally safe workplaces. 

Lead role

MDN has acted as the lead organisation nationally on the global male-led White Ribbon movement since 2010. Colm says it remains a vital vehicle for change in Ireland. 

“Women are the primary victims of Gender-Based Violence and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns, there has been a spike in reports of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence. According to Women’s Aid, which received 24,893 disclosures of abuse against women, one in four women in Ireland who have been in a relationship have been abused by a current or former partner.”

A recent report from Safe Ireland showed 3,450 women and 589 children who had never contacted a domestic violence service sought support and refuge from abuse and coercive control during the first six months of the pandemic.

Colm adds that, in light of the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns, “there is a need to address the issue of violence and harassment across society and in particular in workplace settings.” This led MDN to forge an alliance with ActionAid Ireland and ICTU to campaign for Government ratification into law of ILO Convention No. 190, the international instrument designed to guard against workplace violence and harassment. 

Letter Campaign

Just this week, White Ribbon sent letters, co-signed by the above partners, including MTU, to every member of the Oireachtas urging them to lobby the Government to adopt C190, and to wear enclosed White Ribbons today in a show of solidarity.

White Ribbon Day coincided with the start of the annual Global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, ending on International Human Rights Day, December 10.

A special MDN initiative will see sixteen speakers from across sport, politics, civil society and beyond — among them Taoiseach Micheál Martin (see below) and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris — post video messages in support of the White Ribbon Ireland Campaign.

Seán hopes that many men will follow their lead and “take the [White Ribbon] pledge”, if not on White Ribbon Day itself, then in the future, and that positive role models can emerge to encourage men to become active social agents for change, taking up more caring roles in their families and communities.

This remains at the core of MDN’s work. A non-profit organisation celebrating its 25th anniversary next year, the Network engages with men and boys from a strengths-based, transformative approach.

Its varied developmental, health, wellbeing, and behavioural change programmes include intensive intervention with men who are violent in their relationships. While engaging with perpetrators to effect change in their behaviour and attitudes, the overarching objective is to protect women and children from harm.

Conversations

By advocating for gender equality, healthy masculinities, and developing new ideals of manhood, rather than certain societal stereotypes that still prevail, “essentially we work to create opportunities for men to become their most authentic selves,” Seán explains.

Faced with the pressures caused by social conditioning and “the very benign acceptance of violence, per se, across the board, we recognise the need to positively encourage men and boys — through compassion and understanding of the fears they may have — to have a conversation, rather than pointing the finger or talking about ‘fixing’ men. 

“While we want men to step up and confront gender-based violence and abuse, we also want them to step back and reflect on their own privilege, to show empathy and form allyship with women. Collectively as a society, we need to create the conditions that deconstruct those notions that make for harmful masculinities and unlearn often learned behaviours. 

However, “There are certain aspects of the patriarchy that don’t work for men as well,” he acknowledges, “and we need to find a way to allow men into that conversation without a sense of shame or judgement and so that they can actively become allies to the women in our lives and help end gender-based violence.”  

Louth and Carlow get involved

Pledge: Men’s Development Network CEO Seán Cooke, who, on International White Ribbon Day, gave a presentation about the campaign to the White Ribbon secondary school, St. Oliver’s Community College in Drogheda. 

Also on Nov. 25, a small march/gathering was co-organised in Carlow by Colm Kelly Ryan with Carlow-Kilkenny CYPSC and supported by An Garda Síochána (below).

Model County for White Ribbon

Welcoming the support of both influential national figures, regional institutions, and civic-minded local groups, the head of White Ribbon Campaign Ireland has urged men to foster greater allyship with women to further the aims of gender equality and an end to gender-based violence.

Seán Cooke, CEO of Men’s Development Network, was speaking after attending a December 1st photocall (above) at which South West Wexford Family Resource Centre, local hobbyist collective Blokes With Cameras and Ramsgrange Men’s Shed came together to signal their support for the White Ribbon Ireland campaign during the annual United Nations Global #16days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (Nov 25 – Dec 10). 

MDN has been the lead organisation nationally on the 30-year-old global male-led White Ribbon movement since 2010.

Click image to watch our video preview of White Ribbon Day

TAKE THE PLEDGE

Accreditation Programme

2019 initiative

Irish soccer team sport White Ribbons in show of gender solidarity

Seán Cooke, CEO of Men’s Development Network, and Mark Khan, former White Ribbon engagement officer, pictured with then-Ireland manager Mick McCarthy in November 2019 ahead of World Ribbon Day. Irish players wore the WRI campaign emblem during the National Anthem ahead of the Euro qualifier against Denmark at the Aviva Stadium.

2018 event

MDN-White Ribbon & HSE host Gender Equality Seminar

The Men’s Development Network and its White Ribbon Campaign addressed Gender Equality in Society, Health, Law, Advocacy and in men’s conversation, at a seminar hosted by the HSE at Dr. Steeven’s Hospital in November 2018. Then Health Minister Simon Harris was among the speakers.

The late Noel Whelan, Senior Counsel, who was a hugely respected board member of Men’s Development Network at the time, outlined positive changes in the Law in relation to Gender Equality in Ireland, including on Violence Against Women and Men, particularly the SOA and new DV Law.

Current Board member Mia de Faoite, International expert, survivor and activist, also made a significant contribution based on her experiences and studies, while MDN founder and former CEO Alan O’Neill spoke on Gender Equality, a key ingredient in the New Conversation with Men.

White Ribbon Social Media