Meet The Women Trying To Combat Loneliness In Ireland

"We have become really detached from our sense of community and belonging"

Loneliness is something most people experience from time to time. But in recent years, it has become an epidemic. In June, the European Commission found that Ireland had the highest rate of loneliness in Europe. Over 20% of people living in Ireland said that they feel lonely ‘most or all of the time’. While it’s comforting, perhaps, to know that you’re ironically not alone in feeling lonely, it’s clearly an issue that needs to be solved.

With this being so prevalent, there’s been a rise in people taking matters into their own hands, in a bid to solve this and create community and friendship in their areas. Iman Khamissa is a chiropractor and mother of one, who decided to start up group gatherings with like-minded women. She moved to Ireland two years ago and said that she found connection online.

“I had documented my journey to Ireland from South Africa so lots of my followers from all over the world who were moving to Ireland contacted me.” This inspired Iman to set up her meetup group Style And Connections. “I have been an expat my whole life and I know the struggles of meeting friends and creating new relationships with people that are willing to make the effort. I wanted to use my social media platform to bring women together from all over Ireland to make new friends and create opportunities.”

The ticketed events focus on fashion, business, friendship and networking. “I arrange events with different themes. I have had events at Kildare Village where a stylist gave tips on how to elevate your wardrobe. I also host coffee and lunch events. Everyone introduces themselves and gives a small introduction, and they’re encouraged to mention if they have their own small business.” The majority of Iman’s group is made up of ex-pats from all around the world including Europe, Libya, India, South Africa, Botswana, Egypt, Palestine, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Many of whom are like-minded muslim women.


“My favourite thing is that it links women who are looking for friendship. It also encourages women to come out of their shell and engage with others who are going through the same experiences. Many of these women have actually seen each other in other settings but never got the courage to talk to one another. After meeting each other at the Style and Connections event, they have now become friends!”

While Iman was inspired by being an expat and moving around a lot, Clóda Scanlon’s meet-ups grew from feeling isolated in rural Ireland. “I was living in my childhood home in Tipperary and felt really removed from other young people – my friends lived in different cities and countries. I noticed that so many people’s lives and locations had changed after the pandemic and we all felt more disconnected than ever.”

As a content creator, she explains: “My own loneliness and longing to meet new people in my area inspired me to use my platform to bring my community together so we could all have an opportunity to connect with new people. In July 2022 I arranged my first ever community meet-up in Tipperary.” Since that first event, Clóda has organised numerous events all over Ireland and abroad as part of her group, Make The Connection.

“There have been so many fun meet-ups so far from swims, to coffees and girl dinners to day trips to different locations in Ireland, female business meet-ups, and Christmas parties for freelancers. After a few months of successful meet-ups in 2022, I decided to host the Ultimate Gals Trip to Croatia in 2023. I’ve often solo travelled when I had nobody to go with because I love experiencing new places – but I thought, there had to be more women feeling the same way. You would be surprised how many people out there have nobody to go on holidays with or are at different life stages to their loved ones but would love to go abroad with a group of like-minded gals.”

Clóda adds that everyone is welcome to the meet-ups, though she sometimes tailors events to specific needs or wants. “I quickly get to know some topline information about everyone at the meet-ups and introduce people to each other based on similar interests or location proximity. The average age is typically people in their 20s and 30s, but people from 18 to 50 have attended. All genders, backgrounds, ages and nationalities. Sometimes there are specific meet-ups that may be female only but it’s always disclosed when I make announcements.” Grá Daly attended a Make The Connection meet-up for female entrepreneurs after following Clóda on Instagram.

“I was interested in hearing from other women who worked in a creative space and for themselves. Mainly I wanted to make new connections and friends!” Speaking about the events she says: “I’ve honestly made friends for life. People with the same mindset as me and that is super refreshing.” Her favourite thing about the events is how welcoming everyone is.

“Everyone is just as nervous as you attending for the first time so there’s a unity in that!” Sharing her advice for anyone looking to join a meet-up, Grá shares: “Just do it you will not regret it! People all across the country are desperate to make connections just like you. Stepping out of your comfort zone – while scary is the best thing you will do!” Clóda has been creating content online since 2014, and 10 years on, she’s found a way to make social media more sociable.

“With mass emigration, I feel that community meet-ups have never been needed more and we as content creators have an opportunity to do something really special with our communities.” Sharing her thoughts on whether social media helps or hinders loneliness, Clóda says it can be both.

“We spend an unhealthy amount of time with our heads stuck in devices. So many of us live on social media, which is a virtual reality, not real life. I believe we have become really detached from our sense of community and belonging, and social media definitely fuels that. I’m using the power of social media to reach my community online but connect them offline and it results in friendships! It’s wonderful to see that there are now so many community groups and meet-ups popping up all around Ireland. I hope that this new wave of positive community spirit can help to tackle some of the social issues we face in Ireland and help us all to make more friendships as adults.” 

This article first appeared in the March/April issue of STELLAR