Warning: file_exists(): open_basedir restriction in effect. File(/usr/www/users/dqsstxppee/embassy/wp-content/uploads/et_temp/FGC-1-1-1280x640-59251_60x60.jpg) is not within the allowed path(s): (/usr/www/wwws/users/embasmafmg:/usr/wwws/users/embasmafmg:/usr/www/users/embasmafmg:/usr/home/embasmafmg:/usr/local/rmagic:/usr/share/php:/usr/local/lib/php:/tmp:/usr/bin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/local/share/www:/usr/www/share/www:/usr/share/misc:/dev/urandom:/var/www/php_profiler/xhgui) in /usr/www/users/embasmafmg/wp-content/themes/Extra/epanel/custom_functions.php on line 1542

Fionnuala Gilsenan is Ambassador of Ireland to the Republic of South Africa. She has worked for the Irish diplomatic service since 2000 when she was appointed to serve as Ireland’s Representative to United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). Prior to working for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ms Gilsenan worked for two Irish based international non- governmental organisations. In the late 1990s, she was active in shaping Ireland’s foreign policy response to self-determination for East Timor.

Following her posting to East Timor, Ambassador Gilsenan served in Ethiopia as DHOM (2006-2008), and as Ambassador in Tanzania (2012-2016). She has worked extensively on African Affairs since joining the Department, most recently as Africa Director from 2016-2019. She presented credentials to HE President Ramaphosa in October 2019.

“South Africa’s full month dedicated to highlighting the successes and achievements of women is a wonderful and unique opportunity. By commemorating the 1956 march of women to Union Buildings, we are reminded that each generation produces heroes and role models for the next. As we celebrate Women’s month, we take this opportunity to reflect on the role of women in diplomacy. Those of us fortunate enough to be in leadership positions today, are deeply aware of those who made our success possible. It is this knowledge that persuades us to mentor and support young women activists and those interested in international relations. Our visibility assures young women that prominent roles in politics and international affairs are theirs for the taking. Achieving a leadership position is not an end in itself, but rather the way in which we use our positions of power and influence is what matters. There is little point in having influence absent an agenda to make space for other women who might not easily have their voices heard. This speaks particularly to the Women, Peace and Security agenda, which Ireland has championed since 2000 when the UN Resolution 1325 (which was birthed in Southern Africa) was adopted. At that time, I was serving as Ireland’s Representative in East Timor. I clearly remember the importance of the resolution for East Timorese women who immediately understood how the resolution could help them assert their right be centrally involved in the building of the new nation state, just as they had been involved in resistance and liberation in the previous decades. The reality is that women of all stripes are still largely excluded from leadership and decision- making. We have certainly made some progress, but more is required to ensure that young women, community leaders, refugee and migrant women, women from the LBGTQ+ are welcomed into all spaces. Their perspective will enrich analysis and decisions-making in a wide variety of policy forums. Many women in diplomacy bring this type of intentionality to their work when they build alternative networks and invite broader participation in existing networks to ensure diversity of opinions and views. In addition to modelling good leadership practice and relationship building, financial resources are also required to support women and women’s movements. Women in diplomacy have been central in spotlighting this need at UN conferences, in regional platforms and country level gender budgeting. The result of this work is visible in government policy and budget planning. There is a distance to travel to ensure that resources are made available on an equal basis, a battle we must continue to fight. My time in South Africa has made me very aware of the importance of intergenerational dialogue. Young women have a new set of concerns and obstacles in their personal and professional lives. Opening space for this dialogue is a personal priority. Conversations between the generations should be marked by sense of solidarity. A conversation where humility and wisdom will allow us to understand the new challenges and barriers that young women face while sharing our wisdom and strategies on what may help to bring change in this new era. Being a woman in diplomacy is a huge privilege, using that privilege well is constant but worthwhile endeavour.” – Fionnuala Gilsenan