As part of the Women Organising for Change in Bosnia and Syria initiative’s on-going activities to provide the necessary information as to how to organise on specific issues and across nationalist divides, we organised a workshop that introduced the approach women from Northern Ireland took, in regards to the negotiations of the Good Friday Peace Agreement and their subsequent involvement in politics.
Our guests from Northern Ireland were Bronagh Hinds, Avila Kilmurray, and Monica McWilliams. The three of them were co-founders of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, a cross-community political party elected to the Multi-Party Peace Negotiations that lead to the Good Friday Peace Agreement in 1998. They have since then been working with women’s and civil rights movements, in conflict transformation and peace building initiatives, with transitional justice issues and on different aspects of the peace agreement such as community relations, re-integration of political ex-prisoners, human rights etc.
The workshop was organized for women from BiH that had expressed an interest in participating in a study tour to Northern Ireland planned to take place later this year. The participants came different parts of BiH, and were representatives of formal organizations as well as informal initiatives, political parties and individual activists.
At the workshop we looked at how peace-building and activism looked like in Northern Ireland, what strategies were used by women in order to become a party to the negotiations, what strategies they applied in regards to activism at community level working across nationalistic divides and what Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition meant for peace negotiations and the peace agreement itself.
The experiences shared by our Northern Ireland colleagues triggered important discussions among the participants in terms of strategies and activities needed to be applied in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order for women, not just to participate and be represented in decision making bodies, without real means to exert influence over the situation in the country, but to transform and shape the space for women in politics so that it is meaningful and influential.
The discussions we started were only the beginning and we are looking forward new meetings and workshops where we can continue to develop and shape our discussions into important strategies for meaningful and influential participation of women in politics with the ultimate aim of creating a just society grounded in the principles of solidarity and equality.
You can download the report from the workshop, here.