For this week’s edition of Dubliners, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we speak to Meath native, Clodagh, who set up EMPWR.ie as a safe space for women to share art, poetry and more.

“I moved to Dublin from Meath to study radio at Ballyfermot [College of Further Education].

“I was quite a shy person when I started my course, but obviously in radio, you have to talk to people! It really brought me out of my shell a good bit.

“I’m quite an anxious person, so doing radio was a good experience – I got some knowledge of the media and how that worked, learned how to get out there and talk to people, to branch out.

“I’m quite an anxious person, so getting to push myself out of my comfort zone a little bit and take on the challenge of radio was great.

“Last year, in May 2018 – the day of the 8th Amendment referendum, I think it might have been actually – I made the decision to set up EMPWR.ie.

“The idea behind the website is to allow women, non-binary people and others like that to have a place to go, to read and write content that empowers them.

“Obviously there’s an amount of female based sites in Ireland, but there wasn’t really anything before EMPWR that tackled things that were a bit more taboo [in mainstream media], like female masturbation, and periods.

“I wanted to read this content, and I knew if I wanted it, others would too.

“To set up the website, I needed to teach myself everything pretty much. How to buy a domain, how to make a website look good, it was all me essentially, but I was – I am so passionate about the website.

“EMPWR is what I would consider a safe space, and I attempt to keep it that way. We allow people to publish anonymously, with their names, whichever. They can contribute regularly or once off, the choice is theirs, but we’ve gotten such a good response.

“I remember one particular case with the website where a young girl, she was about 17, she submitted this beautiful poem but said she wanted to contribute anonymously, which was fine.

“About a week later she contacted me to say that she was so happy with how the poem was received, she told her mam about it, and the two of them were so moved by the poem’s content that they both cried.

“That was a highlight of having this website for me, for creating this space. That young girl was so scared to put her work out there, to get her name out there, but now she contributes with her real name attached, and I’m so delighted about that.

“We have a segment on our social media as well called ‘Pussy Positivity’, which explores different health issues among women and non-binary and transgender people.

“One woman took over our Instagram a few months ago to anonymously share her story of having a miscarriage, and it was so warmly received.

“We get so many [direct messages] and comments on Instagram when we run ‘Pussy Positivity’, because it isn’t very often that these topics are discussed elsewhere. People felt comfortable asking about miscarriages and their side effects and everything, or even discussing their own.

“We’re slightly different from a traditional website in that we share art, poetry and things a bit more creative. As much as I can, I try to contribute myself – like the other day, I did an Instagram story following me along on my first ever smear test.

“I tried to answer questions about what exactly happens, stuff like that, it was really interesting to do.

“Going forward, I’d love to keep growing EMPWR. It’s great to be behind a website that does for women what we do. You can talk about your experiences of abortion, miscarriage, rape, in ways that I hope are helpful!

“My course in ‘Ballyer’ was helpful when I was setting up EMPWR, as it helped me learn that sometimes it’s alright to break out of your comfort zone sometimes.

“We’re entering the second year of EMPWR soon, and I hope it keeps going.”

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