Tag Archives: 1st December

Guest blog by Paula McGovern, Sonas Housing Association

Christmas is a time for family, home, gifts, fun and festivity. The shops are full with busy shoppers buying presents for loved ones, cheerful twinkly lights adorn every street and TV and magazines are bursting with information from how to cook brussel sprouts like Nigella to ‘best gift guides’ for that someone special in your life.

 So far; so idyllic. But it’s not such a fun and joyous experience for many people. The family, the central figure of the story of Christmas, is not always a happy place. For some women and children, the four walls that surround them do not keep them secure but instead keep them trapped within the prison of abuse. At Christmas, a time when the family is most idealised, the torture of what goes on behind closed doors can be devastating for many women and children. With heightened emotions, it can also be a dangerous time for many.

To raise awareness of domestic violence at Christmas, this year Sonas produced its own stock of Christmas cards, with images designed by the children in the Sonas service. These cute and endearing cards are a reminder to those of us lucky enough to have a good home life, that there are children out there who have already suffered homelessness in their young lives because of domestic violence. When drafting the cards, I originally put the following quote on the back of the card:

“She was all covered in blood and there were clumps of hair all over the place and the baby was crying… I remember picking up mammy’s clumps of hair that day and ringing the guards.” Catherine, 13, Listening to Children’s Stories of Domestic Violence, WIT, 2007

However a peer review concluded that it was too strong and too off-putting for a general audience. Domestic violence is never a light-hearted subject, least of all at Christmas when people prefer to focus on the more positive things in life. It’s a time when people want to think about presents, music and fun not mental torture, crushed bones, picking up clumps of your Mam’s hair from the floor and having no place to call home.

However silence is compliance. It is essential awareness is raised on the issue of domestic violence and it’s highlighted time and time again that domestic violence, in any form, is unacceptable. It’s time a clear, strong light was shone into the dark shadows of family life in Ireland. 

Paula McGovern is policy and communications officer with Sonas Housing Association. Sonas Housing Association provides supported housing to women and children made homeless because of domestic and all gender-based violence.

You can purchase packs of 10 cards (5×2 designs) for €3 (excl postage). Check out their website www.sonashousing.ie for more information.


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Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, Master of The Rotunda Hospital, Supports the 16 Days Campaign

For many women, pregnancy is a time when they are cared for and nurtured by their partner. Research and experience shows us that for some women, pregnancy is no protection against physical, verbal, emotional and sexual violence at the hands of their intimate partner.  In fact domestic violence often begins in pregnancy and is more common than gestational diabetes or hypertension and poses a significant health risk for the mother and baby with increased risk of pregnancy loss, pre-term delivery, low birth weight and foetal injury. It is also associated with anxiety and depression and can lead to post natal depression. It is vital therefore that we are aware of those women who are at risk so that supports can be put in place for them.

We are aware that disclosure of abuse is difficult for a woman.  Feelings of fear, shame, exhaustion and isolation prevent women from seeking help.  In the maternity hospitals, we are ready and willing to listen, to offer non-judgemental support and to work with women to make their own decisions. We will in the near future, routinely ask all patients about their concerns regarding issues relating to domestic abuse.

As a society, we need to talk about these issues openly and confront abusers who use threats and physical violence to control their partners.  Like other forms of abuse (eg clerical, child, institutional), exposure to the light of public debate will help reduce the isolation and stigma felt by those who are abused.

Click here to read “Expecting Abuse”, Fiona Gartland, featured in The Irish Times Health Supplement (Tuesday 1st December 2009)

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Day 7 of the 16 Days of Action Campaign

Today is Day 7 of the Campaign, World Aids Day, and here are some of the events taking place:

Women’s Aid Events:

  • 16 Facts for 16 Days email campaign (email 16days@womensaid.ie or phone 01-8684721 to sign up)
  • 16 Books for 16 Days in Chapters
  • Women’s Aid Public Awareness Campaign
  • Media Briefing Notes

In Ireland:

  • Dublin AIDS Alliance Open Day
  • “Everlasting Moments” Film Night in Waterford
  • Near 90 FM’s “A Woman’s Voice” Broadcast
  • Violence Against Women 365 International Poster Exhibition continues in Wexford
  • Displays at various venues around Mayo
  • Human Rights in Ireland continue their 16 Days Campaign daily Blog
  • “In Her Shoes” exhibition in Longford, and also in the Mid-West
  • Information Stands are placed around Sligo and Leitrim
  • Aoighneas Refuge is urging us all to “Step Out of the Shadows”
  • Clare Women’s Network is running a powerful daily poster campaign
  • Galway Rape Crisis Network is running a daily fact campaign
  • Donegal has a poetry and art display


  • Kenya North Rift Women Voices training events in Kenya
  • FemLINKpacific Community Radio Broadcasts in Figi Islands

There are also several messages of support for the Campaign from a range of important Irish people and organisations, explaining why the 16 Days Campaign is important to each of them.

Use any of these events and campaigns as a way to get involved yourself, and share the information with your friends and family!

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Day 7: World Aids Day

World AIDS Day is observed every year on December 1st. This day marks the beginning of an annual campaign designed to encourage public support for and development of programs to prevent the spread of HIV infection and provide education and promote awareness of issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. It was first observed in 1988 after a summit of health ministers from around the world called for a spirit of social tolerance and a greater exchange of information on HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day serves to strengthen the global effort to face the challenges of the AIDS pandemic.

The theme for World AIDS Day 2009-2010 is “Universal Access and Human Rights”.

Understanding HIV and AIDS from a human rights perspective can be difficult.

Human rights are often misunderstood – and can sometimes be seen as abstract ideals with not much practical relevance for real people.  With “Universal Access and Human Rights” being the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day, the key slogans are:

  • I am accepted.
  • I am safe.
  • I am getting treatment.
  • I am well.
  • I am living my rights.
  • Everyone deserves to live their rights.
  • Right to Live.
  • Right to Health.
  • Access for all to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is a critical part of human rights.




  • Since the beginning of the epidemic, almost 60 million people have been infected with HIV and 25 million people have died of HIV-related causes.
  • In 2008, some 33.4 million [31.1 million-35.8 million] people living with HIV, 2.7 million [2.4 million-3.0 million] new infections and 2 million [1.7 million-2.4 million] AIDS-related deaths.
  • It is estimated that 15.7million women are living with HV and AIDS in 2008.
  • According to UNAIDS estimates, around 2.3 million people were living with HIV in Europe at the end of 2008.
  • In 2008, around 430 000 [240 000-610 000] children were born with HIV, bringing to 2.1million [1.2 million-2.9 million] the total number of children under 15 living with HIV.

At the end of 2008 it was estimated that out of the 31.3 million adults worldwide living with HIV and AIDS, around half are women. It is suggested that 98 percent of these women live in developing countries. The AIDS epidemic has had a unique impact on women, which has been exacerbated by their role within society and their biological vulnerability to HIV infection. 


Generally women are at a greater risk of heterosexual transmission of HIV. Biologically women are twice more likely to become infected with HIV through unprotected heterosexual intercourse than men. In many countries women are less likely to be able to negotiate condom use and are more likely to be subjected to non-consensual sex.

Additionally, millions of women have been indirectly affected by the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Women’s childbearing role means that they have to contend with issues such as mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The responsibility of caring for AIDS patients and orphans is also an issue that has a greater effect on women.

There are a number of things that can be done in order to reduce the burden of the epidemic among women. These include promoting and protecting women’s human rights, increasing education and awareness among women and encouraging the development of new preventative technologies such as post-exposure prophylaxis and microbicides.

For more information go to:

Dublin Aids Alliance



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Rebecca Miller, Writer, Director, and Actor supports the 16 Days Campaign

“My only first hand experience of domestic violence was volunteering at a women’s shelter in Dublin for several months in 1996/97. I worked in the children’s day care. The children that came in and out of the  place ranged from babies to teenagers.  Often the women would arrive in the middle of the night, carrying a garbage bag filled with clothes, little children clinging to their legs. In the days that followed they would walk up and down the halls in their slippers, tending their children, or talk a little in their dining /common area, and try to make plans of escape from their lives. The staff was wonderfully dedicated. Sometimes women and children would move on to live violence free and happy lives but some women would often have to return home to their abusers, because they had no other means of financial survival, or felt they had no other options.

Though many of us cannot imagine being in a violent relationship, domestic violence is so common that one in five women experience domestic violence in their lifetime. In Ireland alone, Women’s Aid responds to over 11,000 calls a year, and over 15,000 incidents of physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse were disclosed to the Women’s Aid Helpline in 2008. Imagine the terror that not only these women, but their children, live through, every day of their lives.

Violence begets violence, and we all need to do whatever we can to stem the tide.”

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“Everlasting Moments” Film Night

Waterford Local Area Network (LAN) on Violence Against Women, in conjunction with Waterford Film for All present “Everlasting Moments” (15A).  The film will be shown in the Storm Cinema on Tuesday 1st December at 8.30pm. (Adults €9.50, students €7, seniors €6.50). “Violence against women is everybody’s business” – please join the organisers at this event to show your support for women who are or have been victims of violence.

For more information contact: Breda  at Waterford Women’s Centre (051 351 918), Veronica at Independent Mothers Project (051 352 866), Oasis House (051 370 367) or John at S.E.D.V.I.P. (051 844 260).

The LAN is a network made up of statutory, community and voluntary groups that provide services to women who are or have been victims of violence. The LAN aims to raise awareness of the issue of violence against women, improve communication between service providers and to  help more women access those services.

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Dublin AIDS Alliance has Open Day

Open Day at Dublin AIDS Alliance (DAA) on World AIDS Day (Tuesday, 1st December 2009)

 Venue: 53 Parnell Square West, Dublin 1

Time: 11am to 3pm

 Suitable for youth groups and other individuals interested in the area of HIV and sexual health. Activities on the day will include:

  • Interactive games to increase your knowledge of HIV
  • Information stand on other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
  • Finding out more about condom use
  • Your sexual health questions answered by our experienced team
  • DVD screening of ‘Positive Youth’ on HIV in Ireland and Zambia (for group bookings only)
  • Learning more about the services provided by the DAA team

Individuals interested in attending can walk-in on the day. Groups must book in advance – contact Peig or Niamh on 01-8733799 or email admin@dublinaidsalliance.ie

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