by Michael McGlade
Nine AM. A cloudy Monday morning. But the windows are trembling. Oscillating. The floorboards reverberate. Over 50 women are joined together in sing-song. Their collective voices pulsing through Small Wonders in Belfast.
Three community groups have come together in celebration of Woman Making Peace.
On 16 September 2019, I was seated at a table with four women: Ann and Geraldine from the Women’s Institute; Rosaleen and Martina – two friends from West Belfast.
Breakfast had been served and karaoke was underway. Soon the tables would be cleared and only then would table clothes be added. The idea: everyone writes, draws, doodles, and scribbles on the tablecloth.
Three questions would be posed around themes of power, agency and change.
In the end, the table clothes will be gathered together for transformation into an artwork.
A celebration of ideas and community.
And the opening event of Good Relations Week 2019 – a series of events curated by the Community Relations Council.
The community groups involved were:
- Falls Women’s Centre
- Shankill Women’s Centre
- Community relations forum
At my table, Rosaleen and Martina had never before met Ann and Geraldine. Yet now they worked together at the given task. They questioned, supported and challenged each other. For example, Rosaleen believed she had no power within her everyday life. A discussion ensued in which the women sought to find positive examples of power, such as family, education, and faith.
In the round-up at the end of the event, wherein each table took to the microphone to report what had been written on the tablecloth – Geraldine spoke passionately about how everyone getting together was a sign of true power, how coming together makes everyone stronger.
Quotes from the tablecloth:
- Women have been working and talking together all through the Troubles.
- More women working together can make a difference.
- Who would have thought Newtownabbey, Shankill and the Falls altogether in one room?
- She thought she couldn't but she could.
- We have the power to do cross-community.
- Everyone has an opinion and everyone has a right to be heard collectively. Women can make a change in society.
The event was organised by Eileen Weir, alongside Nancy Graham and Kathy Wolff, as way to share resources and join together for a shared goal.
We wanted to celebrate all the women involved in good relations work, who’ve come to our classes and workshops throughout the year – and bring them all together. This is the first Good Relations Week event we organised that had women from three different areas, and we wanted it to be fun, to be a celebration of all the hard work these women have put in throughout the year.”
Eileen Weir, Shankill Women’s Centre
Sometimes women feel that they have been brushed to the side of the peace process but today, in this room, it is very clear that these ladies will not let that happen. Community activists from three very different areas all coming together for peace. I am very proud of them all and proud to have been part of the day along with my colleagues from Shankill Women’s Centre and Falls Women’s Centre.”
Kathy Wolff, Community Relations Forum
We decided to make our shared event a celebration of how far we’ve come in 20 years. Our participants were women from both communities who have overcome many barriers to work together to build peace and a better future for their children and grandchildren. It’s a long journey, so we wanted this day to be laidback and enjoyable. Hence the singing, artwork, good food and much laughter!”
Nancy Graham, Good Relations Training and Education Worker, Falls Women’s Centre
The Community Relations Council provides core funding for groups and organisations involved in peace building and good community relations. Learn more about our core funded groups.
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