The Opportunity of Equality
Dr Anne Byrne, Global Women’s Studies Research Cluster.
Political Science and Sociology, NUI Galway.
[Published as Foreword to WINDOW Evaluation Report, Roscommon Women’s
Network, March 2014. pp. 3-6.]
The word ‘equality’ may invoke thoughts of well-being and social justice,
based on ideals of political and civic freedom, mutual respect for and
recognition of persons, identifying the conditions for a democratic
society in which to live, love, work, rest and play. Or we may understand
‘equality’ as the outcome of a legal instrument designed for equal
treatment, equal rights, equal status and equal opportunities of all
peoples, regardless of gender, race, class, health or disability, sexual
orientation, age, civil or family status, membership of the Travelling
community and religion. The persistence of stigma, prejudice and
discrimination indicates that equality of opportunity and treatment
remains in some aspects aspirational. State bodies promote an equality
ethos in the public sphere through the provision of information and legal
instruments to actively contest discrimination and unequal treatment.
Nonetheless the everyday consequences of inequality in people’s
experiences of early educational failure or restricted employment
opportunities or lack of choice in career progression, point to the
pervasiveness and invasiveness of inequality, particularly evident in