Lynette Fay: Women are in the spotlight this year

On the way home from the Dublin Womens' Mini Marathon, I had a nosey in my ‘goodie bag': chocolate, a ready meal, a dishwasher tablet and a money-off voucher for laundry detergent. Was this a deliberate act? Was the over-riding message "Hope you had a great day out, ladies. See you next year – now, back to the household chores"? This might be taking things a little too far.

The all-female line-up for the new Ocean's 8 movie is a sign of changing times

I HOSTED my first radio show of 2018 on New Year's morning. I remember referring to this year as ‘the year of the woman'. I did so because I knew that 2018 would see the 100th anniversary of the vote for women (albeit a limited vote) and I knew that Ocean's 8 starring an all female cast would be released this year.

No one could have forecast the extent to which womens' rights would take centre stage during 2018 – socially, politically and in popular culture.

The gender equality discussion is in full swing. There is no doubt about that. We're all online, we watch the news and read the papers. The difference now perhaps is that underlying issues are having their real hearing and women are talking more freely.

Women aren't in this alone, however. Nor should gender equality become a ‘them versus us' scenario. We here in the north know better than most that this gets you nowhere and resolves nothing.

I know that the very mention of ‘women's issues' incites indifference and the reaction can be that the very discussion of anything connected with women's rights is ‘man bashing'.

Men aren't the enemy, but they do have many of the advantages in life. Women would just like a fair crack of the whip!

This weekend, three major events will put gender equality under the spotlight again.

We're at the beginning of Festival Season. Who doesn't love a good music festival? It is depressing to see the odd female artist amongst predominantly male line-ups.

Sadly, this happens a lot – right across the board.

Today is Fairplé Day. Fairplé is a movement spearheaded by traditional singer Karan Casey which endeavours to promote gender balance in the production, performance, promotion and development of traditional and folk music.

'Plé' is the Irish word for discussion: the group wish for fair discussion of the subject matter and have made a huge impact since deciding to highlight this inequality only a number of months ago.

Already, a number of festivals have set the target of achieving 50/50 male and female artists in all line-ups in the next few years. The female musicians involved believe that encouraging young artists is key to the movement's success and that this empowering of female musicians must begin at grass roots level.

On this first Fairplé day, the idea is to encourage women of all ages and musical abilities are invited to go along to one of the locally organised Fairplé Sessions and come back to or enter the fold!

When was the last time you walked into a pub and saw a group of women playing tunes? This could be the start of something great.

There are sessions in The American Bar in Belfast at 5pm, in Randalstown at Marrion's Bar at 5pm and Crawfords in Rostrevor from 2pm. I intend to go along this evening and sing in public for the first time in a long time.

Women's participation at all levels and in all genre of music has for the third year been discussed and celebrated this week at the Women's Work Festival.

There's a 'taster' jam session with the Girls Rock School in the Oh Yeah Centre today from 11am to 1pm (no experience necessary) followed by many panel discussions and an incredible showcase of female musicians on stage tonight featuring punk rock, electronica, folk and crashing guitars.

Already this week, Emma Edgar from Carmoney has returned home to share her experiences as a concert promoter. Emma has toured the world with Placebo and Wolf Alice. Hearing of these experiences can and does inspire others to try something they might not have had the confidence to do before.

Away from music, tomorrow women will take to the streets of the cities of Edinburgh, Cardiff, London and Belfast as part of Processions. The idea is to create an art form which will be a living portrait of women in the 21st century and mark the 100th anniversary of women householders over 30 being given the right to vote.

All women didn't get the vote in 1918. That came later. The tide did change in that regard – and it's changing again.

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