The Women’s Resource and Development Agency (WRDA) launched the Women’s Charter and a full report into the North Belfast Women’s Voices programme that produced the Charter – as part of Good Relations Week 2019.
The report was launched in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour in Belfast City Council and the Lord Mayor spoke to express his appreciation of the work that the women who participated in this programme put into it.
The programme required a willingness to engage in challenging discussions around some of the most difficult issues that our society faces. Acording to WRDA:
Without the determination of these women to tackle such a tough set of problems this programme would not have been a success."
Methodology was also key to the success of this programme. Taking around two years to complete, it worked first to give the participants a sound understanding of human rights, difference and othering and critical thinking, while also including training around inequalities and issues they faced in common, particularly health and gender inequality and a concern for younger people.
This allowed an openness and a degree of compromise not seen enough in these conversations.
The summary of the Charter is summarised below:
- People want a better future for the next generation but fear this may not happen
- Integration, whatever way that happens, is key
- Understanding and education can help us understand the difficult parts of our history, as well as the reasons for certain traditions
- This understanding enables genuine respect and that must be mutual
- There is a feeling that certain vested interests want to keep us divided and suspicious; what more can be done about that?
- There is a role for women, specifically, who are more willing to engage in cross-community work and healing.
- There is an enormous well of trauma and grief and not enough help available for those who need it.
The WRDA believe that the learning from this programme seems to point the way forward because:
When we truly strive to include communities in these conversations we can foster trust and respect by genuine integration and good faith cross community work.”
The WRDA believe it is especially vital also to include women, as they are key to the long-term success of peacebuilding efforts.