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Empowering the Peace Process: WDN Conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Last week The Women’s Democracy Network (WDN) in partnership with Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO) hosted the “Women, Peace & Security Conference” in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

WDN, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, partnered for this project with NI-CO, a Belfast-based nonprofit dedicated to improving public sector institutions worldwide through training and active consultation. The conference was designed as an educational experience for attendees, who came from all over the globe including, Myanmar, Colombia, and Nigeria, to name just a few.

Sameena Imtiaz came from Pakistan to join this conference. Over the last decade, there has been a large uptick in violence in her country. We know that Pakistani women are well-positioned to help curb the bloodshed- women often come up with creative, nonviolent solutions to prevent and resolve conflict.

Sameena spoke about how she was impressed the way women were ready to aid in the peace process. “Women organized not only during the conflict to help minimize tensions and build better relationships but were also able to secure active participation in peace negotiations and signing of the peace agreement. These courageous women continue to work closely in their communities through establishing the Women's Centers to provide safe spaces to women for better understanding and integration.  They believed that they could help bring peace and so they did!”

The woman shared stories amid roundtable discussions and presentations on strategy they could implement in their own work. They also had the chance to tour various markers of the long and difficult road to peace Northern Ireland has undergone, including the Stormont Parliament buildings and the “peace lines” that were built in the 1970s to divide Catholic and Protestant quarters of the capital. The women also visited the Windsor Women’s Centre, to see firsthand the efforts and impacts of a community-based organization which provides services, education and opportunities for disadvantaged women in the region.

We know the importance of women’s equal and full participation as active agents in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and peacekeeping. It is WDN’s job to empower women so they see the influence they have on the world around them.

Through conferences such as this, we hope that by giving women the information and skills to influence the peace-building process, they may serve not only as a voice for themselves, but as a powerful influence in shaping the future of their families, their communities, and their nations.    

“When women are explicitly included in the peace and recovery, the consequences for human development are more immediate: more children in school, children better-fed, houses repaired, and healthier families.” – Michelle Bachelet, from a contribution entitled “Women as Agents of Peace and Stability: Measuring the Results”