Friday 31 May 2019

Update from YOUR Chapters

Round-up from the ten Chapter Hubs across NI and the border counties of the ROI

Reports from the Chapters by the Regional Co-Ordinators, Alex, Adrianne and Claire...

Update from Claire Rushe, Regional Coordinator for Louth, Monaghan and Cavan Chapter Hubs, based at Irish Rural Link

"I was delighted Irish Rural Link hosted the second Women’s Ambassador Forum here, in Monaghan, on Friday 10 May with almost 100 women in attendance, and so thrilled that it was opened by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys TD. A special thank you must go to the four Next Chapter members who stepped up to the challenge of participating in the 'Building our Future' afternoon panel.

I'd like to thank Ola Sobieraj, Stronger Together Network Coordinator, bilingual advocate, trainner and facilitator, who travelled from the Mid Ulster Chapter; Bronagh McAtasney, Twitter diarist and community activist, from Newry Chapter; Cara Duffy and Michelle Mayne from my Chapter Hubs. Cara Duffy is the youngest member of the Louth Chapter and having studied History and Politics she has a particular interest in the role of women in international security and conflict. Michelle Mayne is a member of the Monaghan Chapter, with an interest in social issues she feels that within her role as a teacher she can help young people recognise their potential. Michelle encouraged those in attendance to promote kindness and equality and become an agent of change as she herself hopes to.

And finally, a HUGE thank you to everyone who attended for making it such a memorable event."

Photo: Next Chapter Speakers (L-R) Bronagh McAtasney (Newry Chapter), Cara Duffy (Louth Chapter), Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys TD, Michelle Mayne (Monaghan Chapter) and Ola Sobiera (Mid Ulster Chapter)

"So far this year the Louth Chapter has met five times. In January, Mary Capplis from Louth PPN and Grainne Berrill from Louth Volunteer Centre came along and spoke about the role of the PPN and how the community and voluntary sector engages with the local authority. At the February meeting Noirin Coghlan, Louth Chapter member and Community Development Office for Louth LEADER Partnership gave a presentation of the 2018 - 2022 SICAP (Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme). Also on the night, Marian Finegan gave an overview of Louth Women's Forum. In March all the local female candidates were invited along to the meeting to share their experiences of local politics and share their hopes for the future. French journalist, Manon Deniau who is writing a piece for the feminist Belgian magazine Axelle was present on the night and interviewed three Chapter members. The April and May meetings have been mostly spent working on the Website for the Community Project which will document and preserve stories of women living on both sides of the border."

Photo: Next Chapter Participants from Louth Chapter

"The Monaghan Chapter has also met five times this year. In January Leona McDonald, PPN officer chatted with the women about the role of the PPN and the means by which participants can put themselves forward for seats on Boards such as Monaghan Integrated Development, Monaghan Childcare Committee and Local Link. In February, Bernie Bradley, social inclusion officer with Monaghan County Council spoke about her role and about the impacts that discrimination and inequality can have. Bernie also gave us a trip down memory lane to what is was like to be woman in Monaghan in 1970, two examples were that women could not collect the children’s allowance or couldn’t get a barring order against a violent partner. At the March meeting three local female candidates, who are also Chapter members gave great insight to why it is important to have women on local councils. At the April and May meetings the Chapter have worked hard on the Community Project "Women Connecting Through Conversation" which will be a printed publication sharing customs and traditions of Women from all over the world."

Photo: Monaghan participants at the February meeting with Social Inclusion Officer Bernie Bradley

"Likewise, the Cavan Chapter met five times since January. The first meeting of the year was spent with guest speaker Dr Emer Coveney, Social Inclusion Officer with Cavan County Council, outlined the work of the Social Inclusion office and explained how it carries out the work on the ground that is legislated for at the highest level in the EU and UN.  One of the statistics from the Social Inclusion Plan for Cavan that struck a chord was the fact that there are 5,100 female and only 401 male homemakers in Cavan. In February we spent Valentine’s night together identifying a worthy issue to work on for the community project as well as eating some delicious chocolate Valentine’s cake. As with the Louth and Monaghan Chapters, the local Cavan female candidates came to the March meeting and offered some practical advice and gave great encouragement on how to enter local politics. In April the Cavan Chapter met to discuss the Community Project "Cavan Speaks" which will be a digital publication of personal stories highlighting the importance and many advantages of living within a culturally diverse community. For the May meeting, the Chapter invited along two local film makers who gave great advice on the practicalities and logistics of getting the project underway."

Photo: Cavan members at the February meeting
Update from Adrainne Peltz, Regional Coordinator for Foyle, Newry, Newtownabbey and Co Donegal Chapter Hubs, based at Politics Plus

"After joining The Next Chapter in January as a Regional Coordinator, I’ve loved supporting each of the Chapters in Newry, Newtownabbey, Co Donegal and Foyle. Chapters have continued to meet on a monthly basis to provide socialising and network development for the women involved, as well as opportunities to hear inspirational speakers at each meeting.

Some of our Chapter participants have continued to engage in the challenging but thoroughly rewarding capacity training, familiarising themselves with the democratic legislative processes both north and south of the border, how policies are created, affected and become law.

As we’re moving towards the Summer and the longer sunny day’s and holidays, each Chapter is working hard to finalise their community project before taking a well-earned break for July and August. With a jam packed calendar of events, networking and Chapter meetings set to recommence in September, the summer will provide a welcome opportunity to reflect on the learning, growing and changes each Chapter participant has gone through. Working with and supporting Newtownabbey, Newry, Foyle and Co Donegal Chapters has been nothing short of an honour and a pleasure, with some of the exciting highlights below."

Photo: Participants from Co Donegal Chapter at the #Balance for Better event in March 2019

"Women from Co Donegal Chapter made the mammoth round trip to Stormont for International Women’s Day 2019, to attend The Next Chapter’s Balance for Better event, together with Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly Women’s Caucus. Co Donegal Chapter members made a significant contribution to the day, asking poignant questions and engaging in important dialogue on women’s rights. Throughout the event, participants were able to meet and speak with members of the Northern Irish Women’s Caucus and discuss issues of concern to women involved in the project. The candid nature of the discussions throughout the event were both powerful and moving, with Co Donegal participants boldly voicing their views on women in public life. Co Donegal Chapter are immersed in designing and planning their exciting community project, which will build on the work already done by Chapter participants to give women a greater stake in their local community."

Photo: Participants from Newry Chapter together with Boardroom Apprentice Director Eileen Mullan in May 2019

"Newry Chapter continues to grow, with new participants joining the group after February’s round of online recruitment. The Chapter has heard from a range of inspiring speakers, including candidate for the 2019 Local Government Election, Jackie Coade. She spoke with the group about her experiences as a candidate in two elections, and how she has overcome barriers to women’s participation in public life. Board roles have played a big part in the Newry Chapter, resulting in many discussions on application processes and competency based person specifications. Recently the Chapter invited Eileen Mullen of Strictly Boardroom, which provides a platform for people who are interested in serving on boards to connect with opportunities that interest them. It also profiles the Boardroom Apprentice, an initiative that bridges the gap between aspiration and reality for those who want to serve on a board and would like some help to get there. Eileen spent the evening with the Chapter discussing her Boardroom Apprentice program and provided one to one coaching advice on applying for positions more broadly, and gave the Chapter tips for preparing for Board interviews. Newry Chapter are focused on their community project, an unwavering plan to become a fully constituted Women’s Group in the Newry, Mourne and Down area. The Chapter has been supported in meetings with the CEO of the Confederation of Community Groups and is developing a long term strategy to become the leading women’s group in the area."

Photo: Newtownabbey Chapter participants together with local election candidate Julie Gilmour

"Newtownabbey Chapter continues to be an inspiring example of cross community relations, with women from across Antrim and Belfast coming together once a month to share their stories, goals and ambitions for the civic future of the area. Chapter participants recently enjoyed attending the Womens Ambassador Forum in Monaghan, with a line-up of speakers that truly reflected the peace process of the past and grass roots voices of the future. Newtownabbey Chapter has enjoyed a range of motivating and stimulating speakers, including Andrea McCauley from Boardroom Apprentice and local election candidate Julie Gilmour. Julie Gilmour spent an evening with the Chapter, describing her journey in politics and what motivates her to strive for change in society. She elaborated on policy priorities and where she sees the future of women in politics. The Chapter will be focussed on their community project which will combine politics with portraits, and create a large wall mural dedicated to women from the community who deserve a spotlight on their achievements.  The mural will be unveiled during a community fun day, which will further highlight women from the area, women’s roles in peace building and create a sense of shared history in the community."

Photo - Participants from the Foyle Chapter sub group involved in planning the Community Project

"Next Chapter participants from the Foyle Chapter have continued to engage in communication training, with Chapter members putting their new skills to use in media interviews with Euractiv and the BBC. The Chapter met to hear from local election candidate Maeve O’Neill, who spoke passionately about climate justice and environmental initiatives. The Chapter have chosen to focus their Community Project on the theme of adult long term carers who have adult dependants or disabled dependents, who due to the nature of their caring roles are unable to access employment. The project will address the needs of carers who are usually women, and find themselves in the double bind of being socially isolated due to not enjoying work place social connections, and financially isolated because of low incomes as a result of being excluded from paid work."

Update from Alex De La Torre, Regional Coordinator for Enniskillen, Mid Ulster and Belfast, Lisburn & Castlereagh Chapter Hubs, based at NICVA

"Halfway through the Next Chapter Project, I am delighted to see participants from Mid Ulster, Enniskillen and Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh Chapter Hubs progressing through the Capacity Building Programme, joining formal politics, running for council elections, becoming directors of voluntary boards, working on community projects and taking part in policy consultations and decision making.

Since January, participants from Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh, Mid Ulster and Enniskillen Chapters have continued meeting once a month where great progress has been made in the planning and development of very exciting community projects.

Members of the Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh Chapter are developing a legacy project about their engagement in the Next Chapter programme to reflect and share their experiences of leadership and roles in public life through the making of a stories book and a photography exhibition."

Photo: Participants from Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh Chapter attending the April meeting

"Participants of the Mid Ulster Chapter hub have also made great progress on planning their community project. They have agreed on an action plan to develop a Women’s Wellbeing programme to address rural women isolation and increase women’s engagement in community life. Their action plan includes a timeframe and strategy to deliver a community consultation, to develop a promotion strategy, to hold a women’s networking event and to launch a programme of wellbeing activities."

Photo: Participants from the Mid Ulster Chapter

"Participants from the Enniskillen Chapter have been working on a Community Project to set the foundations of the establishment of a Women’s Forum for Fermanagh and the border areas. Their action plan includes a strategy or engagement and recruitment of potential members for the forum, a capacity building programme of governance, fundraising, GDPR and organisation management, a promotion and marketing strategy for the forum, and a stakeholders and networking event."

Photo: Members of the Enniskillen Chapter

"At the Enniskillen and Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh Chapter meetings participants also had the opportunity to participate in the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland's Consultation on the policy paper “Equality and Participation in Public Life”, led by Policy Officer Naomi Roberts. Naomi attended the Chapter meetings and explained the purpose and content of the policy paper and also facilitated a consultation session.  
As part of The Next Chapter Capacity Building Programme, over 50 participants of the chapters have also completed Module Two 'Decision Making, Politics and Public Life' and Module Three 'Developing a Powerful Voice' and are currently taking part of Module Four 'Communicating with Impact'. In addition, training participants are also benefiting from the one-to-one coaching sessions which is helping participants to develop a personal development action plan. 

I am celebrating the fact that seven participants from the Mid Ulster and Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh Chapter hubs have joined the board of directors of voluntary organisations in their local communities. I am also delighted to see that seven other NICVA Chapter participants have progressed into formal politics and ran for council elections in Fermanagh, Donegal, Belfast, Ards and North Down and Magherafelt.

As The Next Chapter NICVA Regional Coordinator I am very proud to be part of this project and delighted to work with more than 100 women who are part of the Chapters in Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh, Mid Ulster and Enniskillen. I continue to be inspired by the participants achievements, their commitment to gender equality and their contributions to improve the life of women in their communities." 

Thank you to Alex, Adrianne and Claire for providing a flavour of what is taking place across the region.