‘Women have key role to play in shaping society’

Pictured at the Leading Ladies event are (l-r): Councillor Noreen McClelland, Vice Chair of the CAN PEACE III Partnership; speaker Anna Lo MLA with Dorothee Wagner, CAN PEACE III Partnership Member; speaker Bernadette McAliskey, STEP, with Kathy Wolff, CAN PEACE III Partnership member. INNT 41-515CON
Pictured at the Leading Ladies event are (l-r): Councillor Noreen McClelland, Vice Chair of the CAN PEACE III Partnership; speaker Anna Lo MLA with Dorothee Wagner, CAN PEACE III Partnership Member; speaker Bernadette McAliskey, STEP, with Kathy Wolff, CAN PEACE III Partnership member. INNT 41-515CON

“There is a place for you as a woman in shaping your society.” That was the message to an audience of more than 65 ladies of all ages and backgrounds, who gathered in the Dunadry Hotel recently to hear from Anna Lo MLA and Bernadette McAliskey, the Co-ordinator of the South Tyrone Empowerment Programme (STEP).

As part of the popular Leading Ladies Programme, which is funded by the CAN PEACE III Partnership, the two speakers had been invited to share their personal and professional journeys and their own understanding of ‘building positive relations’.

Taking responsibility was a common theme, with Anna Lo pointing out that being passionate about an issue drives success and urged people to continue, despite difficulties encountered on the journey. Bernadette McAliskey reminded the audience that there was a place for them as women in shaping society and that the best results come from taking a constructive approach to tackling issues rather than assuming that nothing can be done.

Both speakers have extensive experience of working with migrant workers and ethnic minority residents in Northern Ireland, and both stressed the importance of having curiosity over hostility when it comes to new residents in our communities. It was pointed out that racism in Northern Ireland is often unintentional and often misunderstanding is rooted in a lack of communication.

Speaking after the event, Councillor Noreen McClelland, Vice Chair of the CAN PEACE III Partnership commented: “Throughout this programme I have been delighted with the level of interest in our Leading Ladies events. Again this evening we have been challenged in our thinking and attitudes. I was particularly struck by Bernadette’s comments about collective community solutions to individual problems - if we are to strengthen our communities, we must build relationships neighbour with neighbour and then into the wider community and beyond. This is a challenge for us all to think about.”

For information about the CAN PEACE III initiative contact Alison Keenan, PEACE III Programme Co-ordinator, on 028 9034 0212 or email peace@newtownabbey.gov.uk