Belfast Telegraph

Course proves a huge benefit to women constrained by our Troubles-hit society

By Cate McCurry

Hundreds of women affected by the Troubles, criminality and organised crime have been recognised in their bid to transform their lives.

As part of the Fresh Start Agreement, almost 500 women took part in a programme aimed at increasing the participation and influence of women in communities.

Over the past six months the participants, from across Northern Ireland, have taken part in training modules, including leadership and mentoring, women in the justice system, peace-building, citizenship, personal development and wellbeing.

Those who took part marked their achievements at an event at Titanic Belfast last night.

Rosie Doherty, who grew up in the Creggan area of Londonderry, has been working in a Galliagh women's centre for over 20 years.

The mother-of-four said the programme had allowed her to open up about her experience of the Troubles.

"Somebody belonging to me was killed in the Troubles and I have never spoken about it before. I felt so secure here," she said.

"These women have built up a lot of trust and opened up about things we have never talked about.

"I felt very privileged to be in the room. There are women here who hadn't been out of their homes in years and now they have a lot confidence." Charlene Anderson (52), from north Belfast, grew up on an interface and has been a community volunteer for over 20 years.

The grandmother said the programme has led the foundation for women in Northern Ireland "to talk".

"Women were the backbone of this country during the Troubles, keeping families together and now they are the glue that keeps everything together.

"This programme has switched all women on, there's a hunger for more.

"We are doing okay without the politicians. It might not be working for the people in Stormont but it's working for us as we know what we can and can't do and we are making the best of it."

Nikki Weir, from east Belfast, is a single mother who raised her children near a peace line.

The 40-year-old said the programme had given her the confidence to return to education.

She said: "I'm a single mum and haven't had the chance to leave home much so this is a chance to do something for me.

"We used to live on the peace line and my kids grew up fearing they were going to be attacked by other communities. I tried to keep them away from seeing trouble but they were affected by it.

"Doing this has given me a lot of confidence and I feel better in myself and know I can do things for myself."

Kristyene Boreland, a general nurse from Bangor, said: "This has been a brilliant course for women who want to make a difference. I got to meet women I would never have met and heard their stories."

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