Friday 19 July 2019

When you educate a woman, you educate her whole family

Incoming TCD SU President Lynn Ruane with Tánaiste Joan Burton and RTÉ broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan at the Shelbourne Hotel for An Cosán International Women’s Day lunch
Incoming TCD SU President Lynn Ruane with Tánaiste Joan Burton and RTÉ broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan at the Shelbourne Hotel for An Cosán International Women’s Day lunch

Lynn Ruane

As a child I was very bright and eager to learn. My Dad would -test my spellings daily and my Mam would read with me each night. I joined the Enid Blyton fan club and was heavily involved in sports. I wanted to be a vet when I grew up.

However, something happens to enthusiastic and aspirational children as they move toward their teen age years. You begin to recognise that your parents and neighbours aren't doctors or pilots and that begins to shape your idea of what is expected of you.

It is not that you have any less potential than anyone else but you are faced with much more barriers than communities of a higher class. As a young child from Tallaght, much similar to my friends, I experienced death, hardship and trauma from a young age. Higher education becomes a faraway dream; a privilege and surviving becomes the norm.

At the age of 15, pregnant, uneducated and unsure of what would happen next I was offered a place in An Cosán's pilot programme for young mothers.

An Cosán had its finger on the pulse and responded to a surge of teenage pregnancy in the west Tallaght area, taking into account of what was needed to support young mothers and their participation. Key in that was Rainbow House where my daughter, Jordanne, started out the early years in her life and I began to heal, learn and believe again.

An Cosán was the beginning and remains the foundation of my journey so far. Somebody created an opportunity for me, met my needs and empowered me to progress.

From An Cosán I went on to study addiction and I was employed in the field by the age of 18, starting out in Tallaght and then on to develop community addiction services in Bluebell.

Although my journey was long and hard and filled with obstacles to be overcome, it is a success story - but a story that shouldn't be so exceptional it captures so many headlines.

We should and we can work towards a society where people with the same social backgrounds as mine have equal opportunity to education and a better life.

There are so many factors at play to ensure the progression of not only women, but the working class.

There are two sets of groups that can contribute to that change. The business and employment sector and the political sector.

A huge barrier for working class women is the level of education attainment needed to access certain levels of employment. If each and every business here today created an opportunity for a graduate of An Cosán that would be over 300 more lives, families and futures changed.

Whether that be through scholarships, work experience or investing in community education.

If our political representatives addressed the huge inequality in communities and education we can begin to change lives. Soon women will lose their Susi maintenance grants and One Parent Family payments, which is a step backwards for education and for greater gender equality.

I firmly believe if you educate a woman, you educate her whole family. Educate her family and you begin to educate generations. I know my daughters Jordanne and Jaelynne know the value of education unlike I did.

I was asked recently in an interview, if I had a super power, what would it be? I said to bring the whole of Tallaght into the world I experience in Trinity. Those hopes and dreams can materialise with adequate support from the appropriate institutions and investment in women and education.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all at An Cosán for investing in me and my future. I hope through my role as President of Trinity Colleges Students' Union I can also create opportunities like that for my community and the students of Trinity College who have placed their belief in me.

Lynn Ruane is the incoming president of Trinity College Dublin Students Union. She was speaking at the annual An Cosán International Women's Day luncheon.

Irish Independent

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