Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive at Arts Council of Northern Ireland, shared her story with us to raise her voice for women who are still fighting for the right to shelter.
I had the good fortune of growing up in a home where literature, music and politics framed most of the family conversations (along with the inevitable attendant arguments). Whether it was apartheid in South Africa, the Ulster Worker’s Strike, the cross border contraceptive train, the merits of pop music versus classical or jazz, religion and civil rights in Ireland, animal welfare (we had a dog), or what we were going to watch on the television, there was always a topic of discussion on the go.
I was taught to listen and then make your point, there’s always going to be someone more knowledgeable than you and you should learn from them. I was taught to have manners, be generous and kind to others, there’s always someone less fortunate than you and one day you might be one of them; I was taught that injustice was not a natural state of affairs but entirely socially constructed and it was imperative to confront a wrong even if you couldn’t make a right. Girls were just as good as boys and any form of discrimination was wrong. Everybody had potential which should be nurtured and respected. I was told it was more important to be happy in what you do rather than a slave to it.
Home is where I was challenged to think about things and not take for granted what I thought I saw around me and to feel safe about expressing an opinion. It helped shape my core reference points in the world and it gave me some of the values I carry with me to this day.
So it still continues to beggar belief in this world of wealth and plenty that some people don’t have a home, go hungry and lack the basic entitlements to clean water, sanitation, access to medical care and education for their children. When life is an hourly struggle for survival, the good fortune of growing up in a home where literature, music and politics, the environment or whatever, frame family conversations seems like one extraordinary privilege. And all because of an accident of birth.
Habitat is trying to change that and it deserves our support for doing so.
This October, as part of the inaugural One World Festival NI, Habitat will launch a photo exhibition, to highlight the inequalities in housing faced by women around the world.