Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland women’s centre creates symbol of hope for the future

Women from across the religious divide admire the new stained glass window in the Falls Women’s Centre
Women from across the religious divide admire the new stained glass window in the Falls Women’s Centre
(From left) Agnes Milliken, Shahnaaz Khan, Donna Bates and Adejoke Folami
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

A beautiful new stained glass window that is to hang permanently in a Belfast women's centre is intended to be "a shining light for a brighter future", a project worker has said.

It represents the completion of a cross-community art project comprising a group from the east and west of the city who have decided they're "not willing to sit around waiting for change while Stormont stagnates".

All of the women involved are members of the Women in Peacebuilding project, run by Falls Women's Centre, and they have been playing an integral role in cross-community action for a number of years.

Passionately, their central message is: "We all have families - and we believe our children and grandchildren deserve a lasting peace and a better future. For this to happen, people from both communities have to face up to the need for change."

Led by local artist Roberta Larkin, 12 women completed the stained glass window project whose lasting legacy will be to hang in Falls Women's Centre.

And, prior to this art project, members of the group all participated in training courses in three separate women's centres - namely, the Falls, Greenway and Shankill - addressing the legacy of the past, and each of them has also gained qualifications in community development.

Project worker Nancy Graham spoke of her delight at the launch of the window yesterday, adding she was grateful for the "women's dedicated work".

"This art project proves the benefit of investment from our funders and cross-community work with our partners over a number of years," she said.

The innovative project is funded by both the Central Good Relations Fund and Community Relations Council.

Women from across the religious divide and those from ethnic minorities are represented.

Ms Graham, from the Falls Women's Centre, also said the group named the window 'Glas Falls', with Irish word 'glas' meaning 'green' in English.

"This is our fourth year that our three women's centres have worked together on different projects," she said.

"Normally we are dealing with heavy issues such as trauma and loss and this is a nice way for them to work together away from such deep themes and gives them a chance to deal in optimism and hope and focus on what they can achieve together."

Ms Graham said the project "took a long time in the planning", with the idea conceived last summer, while the actual work took 12 weeks.

"A local artist oversaw the project, but the planning came from the 12 women, in terms of the mood type and what they wanted to express," she explained.

"You need to learn very technical skills like glass cutting, grinding the glass, putting copper foil on it, then soldering the glass, so it's quite skilled work.

"They all had to be very committed and take part in it all."

She confirmed that the sessions generally lasted for three hours during the day between 10 and 12 weeks, after an initial two-day induction.

"They felt really proud when they saw the end product - not just because it's a beautiful piece of work, but because they know they built up strong relations with each other," Ms Graham added.

"Everyone involved comes from a background of loss and trauma through the conflict and it's a big deal for them to come together in this way and create a new shared space.

"People that lived through the conflict realise there comes a point when you just have to listen to the other side and accept that it's okay to think differently about something in order to move forward."

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