Belfast Telegraph

Women demand to be seen and heard

By Marie Foy

WOMEN from all over Northern Ireland today called on decision makers to involve them in the peace process.

WOMEN from all over Northern Ireland today called on decision makers to involve them in the peace process.

The call came as a new report asserting the rights of women was unveiled in Belfast.

The 'Women Seen and Heard' document is the result of a year-long project taking in the views of over 300 women's groups in the 12 counties targeted by the Peace and Reconciliaton Programme.

The aim of the project was to empower women to engage in the peace programme and to equip them with information.

It also aimed to involve women, especially the most excluded, in making decisions which affect their daily lives and create possibilities for peace in both parts of Ireland.

The project received messages of support from the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and US first lady Hillary Clinton.

European Commissioner Dr Monika Wulf-Mathies said: 'The findings of this report are both challenging and exciting.'Spokesperson for the project Inez McCormack said: 'The project has shown that if women are given the opportunity to become involved in decision making they will seize it with both hands.

'We can't make decisions for people. We have to make it with them. There are many groups ready to go. Government and other decision makers must match that by opening their doors.

'If you allow women and any other excluded group to become part of decision making you can get to the heart of ending division in our socity. That is the way to get true peace and reconciliation.'Ms McCormack explained that the project had found 1,500 women's groups in Northern Ireland and the border counties and held forums to bring them together.

'If transport was a problem the project solved it. The organisers took on the responsibility to solve problems of access which enabled 300 groups to come together and to obtain the tools to access information.

'We are saying to decision makers, you are going to have to change your structures to enable people who are affected by decisions to get in the door.'

Belfast Telegraph


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