The page gave a voice to those directly affected by the 8th, and may just have helped to repeal it.
In the months leading up to the referendum on the 8th Amendment, you probably saw more than a few posts from In Her Shoes shared on your Facebook timeline.
The page invites people to ‘take a walk in the shoes’ of women affected by the 8th, and shares stories of the heartbreaking journeys and unnecessary pain so many have had to go through over the past three decades.
It was founded by Erin Darcy, who was inspired to set it up after chatting to a man at a Repeal stall in her town. She tells STELLAR:
He was a No voter, but was interested in engaging in conversation. As we spoke about the vast and various reasons women and girls need access to safe termination services at home, he started to give more consideration to his stance. I just knew that if he could understand these realities, he would have the compassion within his heart to vote Yes.
Erin has been married to an Irish man for 12 years and is raising their three children here, but she is not an Irish citizen – this made her “determined” to find an undecided voter to be her Yes.
And it’s clear she has achieved her goal of speaking to the undecided. The page is followed by over 100,000 people, and reaches some 4 million with no ads behind it to target audiences or boost views – now, it is managed by a team of seven women: Erin, Mary Lalor, Jac Sinnott, Emer Smith, Cara Shank, Kate, and Nat Kunachowicz.
What started as a few stories from Erin’s friends and acquaintances turned into an avalanche of messages from women asking to share their experiences. Why does she think the page took off like it did?
It resonated because everyone has a story. Because people are empathetic and understanding. Because people care. Because with politics pushed aside and the focus being re-centred to the women, no one wants this reality for their daughters, their friends, themselves.
“It was obvious that the telling of these intimate secrets was healing to the women sharing, but also healing to society reading,” she says. “It sparked an extra initiative for change. When we know better, we do better.”
In April, the page was bombarded with one-star reviews from a group of trolls hoping to shut it down – but its supporters sprung to action and fought back.
It lead instead to supporters standing by and protecting the page as their own, filling it with five star and personal reviews about the impact the page has had on them.
For the most part, the support for the page has been “overwhelming and beautiful”. “The gratitude for having a platform to share on, letting me know that sharing has suddenly lifted the veil of secrecy in their own lives,” Erin says. “Sharing anonymously has given them to space to find healing, and own what they experienced.”
Even though we have #repealedthe8th, the page’s work is far from done. Erin is still receiving messages from women affected by the Amendment, and has over 900 stories waiting to be shared.
She’s also hoping to support women fighting for reproductive rights in Northern Ireland, and is setting up an In Her Shoes platform for women in Poland, where abortion laws are similarly restrictive.
“What we know is that women’s stories are necessary, not only for ourselves to heal – but also for society to understand, to shift, and to learn from,” she adds.
Erin says she is “so grateful” to have been able to play a part in this historic moment, and to bring home the reality of what Irish women and girls have been facing.
I’m proud of the women of Ireland. I’m proud to be here, to be mothering my children here. I’m proud of the people that shared their stories with me. I’m proud of the people that voted for a better, safer future for us all. I’m grateful to know that my daughters will not need to fight this fight.
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