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St. Brigid’s Day 2023

February is dedicated to celebrating Ireland’s only woman patron saint – Brigid. Once a goddess of peace, healing and creation, a herald of more fruitful and warmer period of the year, and a face of spring; today, a symbol of female empowerment, an emblem of beauty, strength and power of femininity, a bridge connecting traditional and modern.   

ICOS and the Department of Foreign Affairs held a webinar for Ireland Fellows, alumni and ICOS/DFA staff to celebrate St. Brigid’s Day on Friday February 3rd on Zoom. The webinar was opened by Laura Harmon, Director at Irish Council for International Students, with welcoming words also from Elizabeth Keogh, Deputy Director, Global Programmes and Global Citizenship Education Unit, Department of Foreign Affairs. 

 During the webinar, attendees had the opportunity to hear about St. Brigid in folktales and folklore from Ailbe van der Heide, Library Assistant at the National Folklore Collection, UCD, and from Treacy O’Connor, Board Director of Herstory, an organisation that ran a successful advocacy campaign about marking St. Brigid’s Day as an official holiday in Ireland and that is still spreading Brigid’s message to everyone willing to listen.  

Leading up to the webinar, the Ireland Fellows were given the opportunity to participate and contribute to the celebration. We asked them to share who are the women saints, heroines, figures from myths, legends, religious stories, folklore, history, etc. from their country and culture that are similar to Saint Brigid, women who have a similar meaning, who serve a similar role/purpose, who uphold similar values! Here are some of their herstory heroines: 

  • Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng: Dr. Tlaleng is a South African medical doctor, abortion provider, author, activist, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health.
  • Thulisile Nomkhosi "Thuli" Madonsela: Thulisile Madonsela is a South African lawyer and social justice activist who served as a Public Protector of South Africa from 2009 to 2014. 
  • Gloria Musu Scott: Gloria Musu Scott is a constitutional lawyer and defender of women's rights in Liberia. 
  • Wangari Matu Maathai: Wangari Matu Maathai was the first female professor in Kenya and the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. 
  • Alice Lenshina Mulenga: Lenshina (Regina) was an influential Zambian female religious leader who founded Lumpa Church in 1953. 
  • Mbuya Nehanda: Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana, commonly known as Mbuya Nehanda, is a heroine that led the 1st Chimurenga (war of liberation) of what is now known as Zimbabwe in the 18th century. 

Webinar attendees also had the opportunity to hear from some of the Ireland Fellows who shared their heroines from their own cultures and countries. We heard from Jessica Mandanda, MA in Public Advocacy and Activism at the University of Galway, who spoke about “Finding Your Voice in Activism: Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng”. We heard from Mmonbeydo Joah, LLM in International Justice at Maynooth University, who spoke to us about “Justice Gloria Musu Scott - A Symbol of Equality”. We also heard from David Chisanga, MA in Media Studies at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, who educated us about “Lenshina: An Unsung Heroine of Zambia”. 

The webinar was well attended and enjoyed by all. Thank you to all those who contributed and attended. It was a great way to celebrate St. Brigid’s Day.