People of the Commonwealth: Critical Conversations

Reimagining ‘Women, Peace and Security’

Jump to Guests
Guests
Avila Kilmurray, Northern Ireland
Hannah Bond, United Kingdom
Helen Kezie-Nwoha, Uganda
Ruth Ochieng, Uganda
Shreen Saroor, Sri Lanka
Monica Mary McWilliams, Northern Ireland
Maria Hadjipavlou, Cyprus
Biran Mertan, Cyprus
Emma Johnston, Northern Ireland
Nomathamsanqa Masiko-Mpaka, South Africa
Date & Time
11:00am, 25 November 2020 - 12:30pm, 25 November 2020
Location
About the event

Join leading women peace advocates from across the Commonwealth as they reimagine what ‘women, peace and security’ might mean for our future.

Twenty years ago, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, part of a global effort to highlight the impact of conflict on women and the need to bring the voice of women into peace processes.

After two decades, it is clear that much remains to be done. In this second event in the Commonwealth Foundation’s Critical Conversations series, peace advocates will ask how Resolution 1325 can be reimagined to better serve the needs and aspirations of women and communities across the Commonwealth. Are mainstream approaches to women’s leadership in conflict resolution actually working? How can women’s participation in peace processes be made more meaningful? How can women peace advocates secure better access to the forums and institutions where decisions are being made?

Speakers will draw on their front-line experience to tackle these questions; sharing concrete examples of what has worked well and their perspectives on what needs to be done differently.

This event has taken place. You can watch it here:

Guests
Avila Kilmurray, Northern Ireland Moderator
Hannah Bond, United Kingdom Speaker
Helen Kezie-Nwoha, Uganda Speaker
Ruth Ochieng, Uganda Speaker
Shreen Saroor, Sri Lanka Speaker
Monica Mary McWilliams, Northern Ireland Speaker
Maria Hadjipavlou, Cyprus Speaker
Biran Mertan, Cyprus Contributor
Emma Johnston, Northern Ireland Contributor
Nomathamsanqa Masiko-Mpaka, South Africa Contributor
Moderator
Avila Kilmurray, Northern Ireland

Avila Kilmurray has worked in Northern Ireland since 1975.  

From 1994-2014, Avila was Director of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, managing EU funding programmes that supported political ex-prisoners, victims/survivors of violence and grassroots community activism. The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland was a founder member of the Foundations for Peace Network, a peer network of independent indigenous funders working in contested societies. Avila has long been active in the Women’s Movement and was a founder member of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, joining its negotiating team for the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. She has written extensively on community development, women’s issues, conflict transformation and philanthropy. 

Avila is currently working as a consultant with The Social Change Initiative, an international NGO working to strengthen civil society activism and advocacy in the areas of human rights, migration/refugee Rights and community-based peacebuilding. She is a member of the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice & Peace. Avila was appointed Honorary Professor in the Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University and remains actively involved in philanthropy and peacebuilding. She has a PhD from the Institute of Governance, Queens University Belfast. 

Speaker
Hannah Bond, United Kingdom

Hannah Bond is Director of Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS), the UK’s Women, Peace and Security civil society network. Hannah has worked with CSOs and government in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa. In the early stages of her career, Hannah worked for the UK’s Women’s National Commission, focusing on Violence against Women and Girls. She has since worked for humanitarian and development NGOs in the in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa and for the British Embassy in Addis Ababa where she worked on Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somaliland. Hannah lived and worked for six years in Ethiopia, where she specialised in conflict, gender, human rights, community-based development, humanitarian programming and economic empowerment. Hannah focused on conflict and gender in her Master’s degree at King’s College London.

Speaker
Helen Kezie-Nwoha, Uganda

Helen Kezie-Nwoha is a feminist peace activist and women’s human rights defender. She is the Executive Director at The Women’s International Peace Centre in Uganda. The Centre is a feminist organisation that focuses on promoting women’s rights in conflict and post-conflict settings.

Helen has an academic background in gender and international development with over 20 years of experience working on women’s rights, gender, peacebuilding, conflict resolution and governance in West, East and Central Africa. She has led peace advocacy efforts at international, regional and national levels specifically in Africa and Asia.

Helen is a member of FEMWISE Africa, Uganda Technical Working Group on the National Action Plan for the implementation of UNSCR1325 and a Board Member of the Women Human Rights Defenders Network, Uganda.

Speaker
Ruth Ochieng, Uganda

Ruth is a human rights defender who has worked to advance women’s rights and to promote peace across Africa, building vibrant support networks of women activists across borders. She played a key role in the development of a Ugandan women’s peace coalition that successfully mobilized women to intervene in peace talks between Uganda’s government and the Lord’s Resistance Army. After the collapse of the Ugandan peace agreement, Ruth helped mobilize women to support and review the development of a Gender Responsive Peace and Recovery Programme, bringing women’s voices into the peace process. Ruth headed the Kampala-based women’s organisation Isis-WICCE for women fleeing conflict for 15 years. She has been a member of several global policy groups, including the high-level advisory board for the review of the implementation of the UNSCR1325.

She is an expert in research and documentation, particularly on women’s experiences of armed conflict in Uganda, Liberia, Nepal and South Sudan, and currently works as an independent consultant on Women, Peace and Security. In October 2020, Ruth was nominated as one of 15 Eminent Women in Uganda, to oversee peace during the elections, through an African women’s mechanism known as the Women Situation Room.

Speaker
Shreen Saroor, Sri Lanka

Shreen is a prominent Sri Lankan women’s rights activist working for peace, human rights and reconciliation. In 1998, she gave up a successful business career in order to put all her energy into campaigning for peace and understanding between the different ethnic groups.

She is a co-founder of the Women’s Action Network (WAN) and Mannar Women’s Development Federation.

Recognizing that the women’s movement in Sri Lanka needs a new generation of leaders after its deadly civil war, Shreen Saroor is creating a cadre of young Muslim, Tamil, and Sinhalese women, groups who don’t typically work together. They bring new solutions to overcome the socio-cultural inequalities that have long prevented women from exercising full citizenship in Sri Lanka.

More recently, Shreen established the Women’s Organization Working for Disability, bringing together women who were injured in the war to fight for justice and reparation. The group is now a nationally registered CSO led by disabled women who have become active in policy reforms and transitional justice.

Speaker
Monica Mary McWilliams, Northern Ireland

Monica Mary McWilliams is a Northern Irish academic, peace activist, human rights defender and former politician.

In 1996, she co-founded the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition political party and was elected as a delegate at the Multi-Party Peace Negotiations, which led to the Good Friday Peace Agreement in 1998.

She served as a member of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly from 1998–2003 and chaired the Implementation Committee on Human Rights on behalf of the British and Irish governments. She was appointed as Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission from 2005–2011 and was the Oversight Commissioner for prison reform in Northern Ireland (2011–2015). She currently sits on the Independent Reporting Commission for the disbandment of paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland.

She is Emeritus Professor in the Transitional Justice Institute at Ulster University and continues her academic research into domestic violence. She also specialises in conflict resolution and working with women in conflict regions.

Speaker
Maria Hadjipavlou, Cyprus

Maria Hadjipavlou is a well-known expert in conflict resolution and feminism, an international pioneer in peace issues and an academic. She co-founded the Center for International Conflict Resolution at Columbia University,  and was a founding member of the first inter-communal  Cypriot Women’s NGO, Hands Across the Divide, of the Gender Advisory Team and of the Cyprus Academic Dialogue NGO.

Maria has been promoting peace and mutual understanding across the divide in Cyprus for over forty years. She is a trainer in conflict resolution and gender awareness and  trained women in Afganistan, Tunisia, Slovenia, Turkey and Greece. She has published widely in academic journals and in edited books in the fields of conflict resolution, Cyprus and gender. Her book ‘Women and Change in Cyprus Feminisms, Gender in Conflict’ I.B.Tauris (2010) became a reference book on women and Cyprus. 

Maria retired as an associate Professor from the Social and Political Science Department of the University of Cyprus and holds a PhD in Comparative Social and Political Change from Boston University (1987). She has been a post-doctoral research fellow at  the Harvard Program in International Conflict Analysis and Resolution (PICAR) She is also a member of the Technical Committee on Gender Equality and a founding member of the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network/Cyprus.  

Contributor
Biran Mertan, Cyprus

Biran Mertan is a professor in developmental psychology at the Bahçeşehir Cyprus University and an active member of various national and international psychology and women rights organizations.

She has coordinated numerous research projects and organized seminars and workshops on enhancing women’s rights, empowering women and gender equality. As a co-founder of the Cyprus Gender Advisory Team, she has presented UNSC Resolution 1325 seminars in the northern part of Cyprus. Currently she is working on ‘Family Needs Assessments of Missing Persons Relatives’, which is an open wound awaiting justice, forgiveness and a process of reconciliation for all Cypriots.

She has published widely on topics such as socio-emotional development, the understanding of concepts such as peace, national identity and gender equality in various scientific journals.

Contributor
Emma Johnston, Northern Ireland

Emma is a young women’s development worker with Youth Action Northern Ireland’s Equality Work with Young Women’s team.  Emma uses informal education and youth work principles to meaningfully engage young women in tailored led programmes which expand their sense of self and wellbeing putting women and girls equality at the core and foundation of the work.

Emma has been a committee member of NIWEP since 2009 and ensures the voices of young women are heard at supported in this very important platform.  In addition, Emma is a member of the steering group on Ireland National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Currently, she is in her fourth year as a committee member of Foyle Pride planning and implementing activities for LGBT awareness week in May and the annual Foyle Pride week of activities and the pride protest itself.

Locally Emma is also a board member of peace and reconciliation organisation St Columbus Park house, the Waterside Women’s centre and is the vice-chair of North West Community Network.

Emma is also an associate lecturer in Community Youth Work with Ulster University.

Contributor
Nomathamsanqa Masiko-Mpaka, South Africa

Nomathamsanqa Masiko-Mpaka is a feminist peace advocate and human rights activist. Her professional work in the civil society space and development sector – spanning nearly a decade – lies in the interface between gender, human rights, women, peace and security and transitional justice projects as they occur in conflict and post-conflict societies. She previously worked as a Senior Advocacy Officer at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Cape Town. She has worked for organisations such as the Institute for Security Studies, the Centre for Conflict Resolution, and the African Leadership Centre, and the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana. Currently she is the Gender, Human Rights and Human SecurityProgramme Manager at the Embassy of Ireland in Pretoria, South Africa where she provides policy support and analysis of gender, human rights and human security issues and trends in South Africa and the Southern Africa region.

Noma holds a Bachelor of Social Science degree with majors in Political Science and Public Policy Administration from the University of Cape Town. She also holds two Master’s degrees: a Master of Arts degree in International Relations with a specialisation in Global Political Economy and Conflict Dynamics from Stellenbosch University, as a well as a Master of Science degree in Security, Leadership and Society (Cum Laude) from King’s College, London.

Between advocating for durable peace, human rights, and gender equality in Africa, she also enjoys the giggles and cuddles of her energetic 14-month-old son, Amani.

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