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All-Ireland Women’s Forum discusses working across difference & informing work through a trauma lens

Published: Thursday, August 26, 2021

The National Women’s Council (NWC) was delighted to hold the second meeting of the All-Island Women’s Forum today, focusing on working across difference and informing work through a trauma lens.

Led by the NWC, the Women’s Forum aims to address underrepresentation of women and further develop women’s role in peacebuilding and civic society. The Women’s Forum will also support building sustainable North South links, provide a space for marginalised communities, and build better understanding and inter-community links.

During today’s private session, Forum members heard from key experts including Colette Kelleher, Co-Founder, Kelleher O’Meara, Professor Siobhan O’Neill, Mental Health Champion and Professor of Mental Health, Ulster University and Andrée Murphy, Deputy Director, Relatives for Justice.

Emma DeSouza, NWC Women’s Leadership Coordinator and All-Ireland Women’s Forum Chairperson said,

“Northern Ireland is a post-conflict society suffering from intergenerational trauma, as such it is essential that the work of the forum is informed through a trauma lens. In this important second session forum members will take the necessary steps in building a strong foundation based on inclusivity, respect for diversity, and understanding.”

Orla O’Connor, NWC Director said,

“We welcome the additional insights and knowledge that our external experts bring to informing the work of the forum. We will continue to include a broad range of women’s voices to incorporate the breadth of diversity across this island.”

Emma DeSouza concluded,

“Women continue to be underrepresented in peacebuilding structures across this island. The All-island Women’s forum will seek to address this underrepresentation by establishing and embedding women’s voices in peacebuilding.”

The forum meeting takes place at 11am today and is not open to the public.


For more information, please contact Laura Pakenham, Digital Communications Officer, NWC, Tel. 085 861 9087, email: laurap@nwci.ie

Notes to the Editor:

About the Women’s Forum

Led by the National Women’s Council (NWC), the forum consists of 14 members from the South and 14 members from Northern Ireland. The Women’s Forum aims to address underrepresentation of women and further develop women’s role in peacebuilding and civic society. The Women’s Forum will also support building sustainable North South links, provide a space for marginalised communities and build better understanding and inter-community links. The forum will meet virtually on a monthly basis to identify areas that can be worked on a collaborative basis.

The objective of the Women’s Forum is to provide a space for women on an all-island basis for cross border cooperation and dialogue.

From the next meeting of the Women’s Forum on Thursday 23rd September, forum sessions will be partially live streamed, with a live evidence session from experts featuring a Q&A session with forum members followed by closed deliberations.

The Forum represents a contribution by the National Women’s Council to the Irish Government’s Shared Island initiative in the Department of an Taoiseach, by enhancing civil society links and supporting engagement by women, across communities and traditions on the island, on issues of common concern.

The Forum successfully applied for a grant through the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Reconciliation Fund.

Chairperson and Facilitator: Emma DeSouza, Women’s Leadership Coordinator, NWC

Encounters program facilitator: Ailbhe Smyth, Academic, Feminist and LGBTQ Activist

In attendance: Louise Lovett, NWC Chair, Margaret Martin, NWC Deputy-Chair

  • Danielle Roberts, Senior Policy Development Officer, Here NI
  • Kendall Bousquet, Migration Justice Advocacy Officer, Migrants Centre NI
  • Kimberly Robertson, Vice-chair, East Belfast GAA
  • Eileen Weir, Community Activist
  • Dr Amanda Slevin, Chairperson, NI Climate Coalition
  • Sipho Sibanda, Human Rights Activist
  • Dr Lisa Wilson, Senior Economist, Nevin Economic Research Institute
  • Elaine Crory, Good Relations Coordinator, Women’s Resource and Development Agency
  • Paula McAliskey, Engagement Officer, Northern Ireland Rural Women’s Network (NIRWN)
  • Tara Grace Connolly, Youth Activist/UN Youth Delegate
  • Avila Kilmurray, Migration and Peacebuilding Executive at The Social Change Initiative, Author, and founding member NI Women’s Coalition
  • Annmarie O’Kane, Information Manager / Border People Project Manager, Centre for Cross Border Studies
  • Jane Morrice, Director Integrated Education Fund, Hon President European Movement NI, founding member NI Women’s Coalition
  • Dr Joanna McMinn, Community Development and Feminist Activist
  • Tara Farrell, CEO, Longford Women’s Link
  • Dr Salome Mbugua, Head of Operations & Strategy, AkiDwa
  • Miriam Holt, National Coordinator, National Collective Community Based Women’s Networks (NCCWN)
  • Jennifer Okeke Campbell, Anti-trafficking Coordinator, Immigrant Council of Ireland
  • Caroline França, Communications Officer, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland
  • Síona Cahill, Campaigner and Radio Contributor, one of the Irish Examiner’s ‘100 women changing Ireland in 2021’
  • Lydia Gratis, Anti-racism Educator & Activist, Black Wellness Content Creator, Deaf Youth Advocate.
  • Dr Mary C. Murphy, Jean Monnet Chair in European Integration, University College Cork
  • Clare Austick, President, Union of Students Ireland (USI)
  • Ethel Buckley, Deputy General Secretary, Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU)
  • Colette O’Regan, Senior Training and Advocacy Coordinator, LGBT Ireland
  • Brigid Quilligan, Project Manager, Kerry Travellers Health and Community Development Project
  • Amina Moustafa, Women's Leadership Programme Manager, Glencree Peace Centre
  • Mary Moynihan, Artistic Director, Smashing Times


Possible areas of cooperation identified are:

Women in leadership
Women’s voices in peacebuilding
The impact of Covid-19 on women
Ethnic minority groups and political participation
Young women in leadership
Climate action
Rural disparity
Violence against women
Encounters program

The encounters program will identify organisations in Northern Ireland and the South, including at local, regional, and national levels, who may have areas of commonality. The objective is to facilitate an information sharing meeting where two chosen organisations can meet to discuss their work and build a relationship. The objectives and preferred outcomes are that these meetings will build greater understanding, encourage increased cooperation, and cross border work, and potentially lead to greater collaboration between civic society organisations on the island. The work of the encounters program operates in tandem with the women’s forum.