Interview with Siobhan McGee, CEO of ActionAid Ireland

Empower women and children to own their futures – Interview with the CEO of ActionAid Ireland

“When you read about people suffering around the world, by war, increasing natural disasters or ongoing poverty, it is easy to feel disheartened.” These are Siobhan McGee’s words. She is the CEO of ActionAid Ireland and is our interviewee of the day.

Today we are honouring women who really want to make a difference, so we invite you to read the article, get to know ActionAid and get involved!

Woman from Uganda. ActionAid Ireland.
Bena Ileuk, 64 from Uganda. Photo by ActionAid. Not so long ago, Bena could only afford one meal a day. She received training and seeds from ActionAid has had a bumper harvest just three months later.

The organisation

ActionAid Ireland is a member of ActionAid International, one of the world’s most respected development organisations working with over 15 million people in more than 45 countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
It was founded in 1983 with the aim of supporting people living in poverty, focusing in particular on women and girls, to combat poverty and injustice.
With the support of the Irish people the lives of thousands of women, children and communities in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Cambodia, Nepal and Vietnam has improved.

We had the wonderful opportunity to talk with Siobhan McGee, the CEO of ActionAid Ireland about their work at the organisation.

Here is what she had shared with Babylon Radio.

1. Who do you help and why?

We work with some of the poorest women and children in the world. We know that supporting women in a community has a powerful effect on everybody, lifting up their children, their families and future generations. And so, our approach is to empower local women to take control over their own lives. In our programmes, women decide what their priorities are and we support them to make a change for themselves. We are funded by the general public and also receive a grant from the Irish government through Irish Aid for a programme to end violence against women.

2. Why should the Irish community support this project?

The Irish community have been supporting ActionAid since we first set-up in Ireland in 1983. Some of our supporters have been donating since the day we opened. They stay with us because they have seen the change their support makes. Our rights-based community approach means that we can make significant long-term change to communities living in poverty. We work in a community for at least ten years and by the time we leave they can sustain their own development. We also respond to emergencies, but in our own, ActionAid, way. When an emergency strikes we support women leaders in their communities to respond, and we prioritise pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and women and girls who are vulnerable to sexual assault. These people are often most vulnerable, and also often overlooked in emergency response.

Sponsored children in Nepal. Photo by Ellie Riley/ActionAid.

3. How does the child sponsorship work?

When you sponsor a child with ActionAid, your donation goes to the child’s community and supports the development of that community. Projects are chosen by members of the community, these could be the agricultural projects, irrigation schemes, campaigns to end child marriage, campaigns to get children back to school, adult literacy classes etc. The projects depend on the needs of that community. You are the child’s only sponsor and you see the benefit of your donation through letters, messages and pictures of the child you sponsor, as well as regular updates on some of the projects your donation is funding. Because of Child Sponsors, communities, where we work, know that they can rely on regular financial support. This allows them to plan ahead and transform their lives in a sustainable way. As soon as you sign up to be a sponsor, ActionAid sends a welcome pack with a photo of the child you’re sponsoring and their story so far. After that, you’ll get two messages a year from your child – they might be letters, drawings, or postcards! And twice a year you will get an update from our staff in their country.

4. Where does the money from donations go to?

With child sponsorship, 72% of the donation goes to the community where you sponsor. 28% is used to campaign, communicate the work, and fundraise in Ireland. Overall, in 2017 of the total expenditure for ActionAid Ireland, was 89% for charitable activities: overseas development work, emergency response activities, overseas support costs and local campaigning and communications. The remaining 11% was spent on the costs of raising funds and on governance.

5. Are there other ways to help other than financially?

Absolutely! We are currently running a campaign to end violence and harassment against women at work. You can sign-up to the campaign on our website and hear more ways of getting involved.

6. What would you say to the people reading this article?

When you read about people suffering around the world, by war, increasing natural disasters or ongoing poverty, it is easy to feel disheartened. Working with ActionAid I have seen first-hand people around the world showing resilience, tenacity and compassion to lift themselves out of poverty. People who seemingly have no hope coming together and transforming their lives for the sake of their children. And the long-term support by Irish people of this work is truly humbling.

 Across the world, women and girls’ rights are affected the most by poverty. From the moment they are born, girls face inequalities and injustice in almost every aspect of their lives.

According to the UNFPA – United Nations Population Fund, in 2019, roughly 140 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, of whom 35 million are women and girls of reproductive age.

Snapshot of Countries Requiring UNFPA Support - map

Snapshot of Countries Requiring
UNFPA Support

If you think the time for a feminist revolution is now, join the organisation in standing behind women living in poverty and exclusion to fight for just economic policies and more equitable distribution of resources and decision-making power.
If you would like to know more about how to ensure women and girls live their lives free of discrimination and violence, click here.

Your generosity enables the world’s poorest people to transform their lives and we hope you will be proud when you see the impact of your kindness on families and communities. Donate, here.

For more information visit the website  or email them at


Andreina Gonzalez
Andreina Gonzalez

I am Andreina from Venezuela, I am a journalist finishing my master's degree in Journalism and Public Relations at Griffith College. I like photography, writing and calligraphy.

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