In further support of this campaign, the Student Councils of Saint Eunan's College and Loreto Convent organised a debate on the matter, with the motion: "Women are not afforded fair opportunities, even in today's society".
The Debate took place on the 30th of January in Loreto Convent and was attended by over one hundred students from St Eunan's College and Loreto Convent. !The debate took a somewhat unorthodox approach, with the boys from St Eunan’s supporting the motion, debating that women are not given fair rights and opportunities; and the Loreto girls opposed the motion, arguing that women are in fact afforded fair rights and opportunities.
The debate teams of Loreto Convent and St Eunan’s College consisted respectively of students from every year group. Michael Kelly, teacher at St Eunan’s College and supporter of the debate remarked that it was great to see the older boys supporting the younger students, and vice versa. “I think the best thing about the debate, was the collaboration between Loreto Convent and St Eunan’s College. It's great to see the two bodies working together in things such as this Debate, this year's musical and Transition Year Media Studies Videos”.
The arguments were strong, thought-provoking and poignant. Shay Halligan, debater at St Eunan’s College who tackled Mental Health shocked the audience when he said that, according to the reputable Mental Health Associations, women are much more likely to be prescribed medication for Mental Illness, while Vanessa, of the opposition argued that this is because men are, from nature, less willing and able to talk about their feelings which contributed to the fact that according to the C.S.O., in 2011 in Ireland 84% of suicides were committed by men, suggesting that it’s not that women have an abnormally high rate of mental illness diagnoses, rather that men have an abnormally low rate.
Other points made varied from our pre-history, education, sport, media perception of women, stereotypes, sexualisation of women in the film industry and many, many more. Adjudicator, Dr Sharon McLaughlin of the Department of Law and Humanities of LYIT agreed that "Gender Equality is undoubtedly a complex issue and it is fantastic to witness young people engaging wholeheartedly with the issue. The students of Loreto and St Eunan's are to be commended for debating the issue in such a competent, articulate and thought-provoking manner". The Student Councils would like to thank Dr McLaughlin, Dr Ramsey and the Department of Law and Humanities in the LYIT for their support and advice regarding the debate.
While the Student Councils agreed that there should be no winner as it would defeat their purpose, the message was heard loud and clear. “There has been very positive feedback from the staff and students of both schools; the topic is extremely strong and envokes a lot of interest and, as Dr McLaughlin said, is so so very complex, but that the debaters did very well to address them as they did”.
“Gender Equality, in my opinion, is a topic which is brushed under the carpet a little bit. We seem to think that it’s not as much of an issue in Ireland as it actually is: statistics can be interpreted in many ways, but, as Emma Watson said, “both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum; not as two opposing sets of ideals,” said Ayrton Kelly on behalf of St Eunan’s Student Council.
“It was our view as a Student Council that we needed to tackle this from a different angle: we needed to dosomething that engaged and excited and envoked interest. This debate is exactly that. But we have a lot more planned too for this Academic Year, so keep an eye out!”
Mr Chris Darby, Principal of St Eunan’s College added that “The HeForShe debate held in the convent last week was a brilliant example of cooperation between our two schools. Students really bought into the project and the level of debate on both sides reflected the huge amount of thought and effort that went into the preparation of the event. The arguments presented by both sides were particularly detailed and intricate and gave us a great insight into the maturity of the students and their commitment and interest to dealing with serious and complex issues. Both schools I think benefited enormously - particularly the debaters themselves and those in attendance - from the experience and I look forward to more debates of this nature in the future. A great learning experience for all. The speakers and audience should be proud of the manner in which they conducted themselves. Finally, thanks to Loreto for hosting the event and making us most welcome. Hopefully we can return the complement and host the next event in this fantastic programme”.
The Student Councils’ support of Gender Equality comes after the launch of the #HeForShe Campaign which was launched at the UN Headquarters back in September 2014. “HeForShe is a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all.”