Activist and Writer Gina Martin inspires Next Chapter participants at Final Project Closing Event
Over 140 women and invited guests from across Northern Ireland and the border counties gathered in Belfast on Wednesday 26 February to celebrate the success of The Next Chapter project. The CELEBRATE event was opened by the First Minister and deputy First Minister. The audience also heard from activist and writer Gina Martin and from members of the Chapters themselves.
Photo: The First Minister and deputy First Minister were joined on the stage by Next Chapter participants speaking at the event.
The Next Chapter project aims to contribute towards bringing about lasting peace building and societal change through the empowerment and greater involvement of women in community, public and political life and is delivered by Politics Plus, the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action and Irish Rural Link.
Photo: ((L-R) Geoff Nuttall from Partner Organisation NICVA, Sinead Dooley from Partner organisation Irish Rural Link, First Minister Rt Hon Arlene Foster, Gareth MCGrath from Politics Plus, deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, Gina McIntyre CEO of Funding Body SEUPB and Keynote Speaker Gina Martin.
Since launching in 2018, The Next Chapter project has facilitated ten Chapters of over 300 women in total from around Northern Ireland and the border counties to meet, network and collaborate on various projects. The Chapter members were also able to attend a capacity building training programme, receive individual coaching support and meet up at various events including visits to the Dáil and Stormont.
Photo: Keynote Speaker Gina Martin with Next Chapter participants from across NI and the border counties of ROI.
The event celebrated the success of the journey that the women from all ten Chapters have been on over the last two years. The Next Chapter Reserach and Evaluation Report, available on the day, revealed the project has met and exceeded all targets on facilitating meaningful and sustained contact between women from different backgrounds and improving the role of women in community, public and political life. Many Chapter members have already stood for elections, taking on new roles in community groups, undertaken campaigning on local and national issues, and have begun planning for the next generation of female activists in their areas.
Photo: In her speech First Minister Rt Hon Arlene Foster said: “We are committed to ensuring full and equal political participation and to increase the representation of women in public life. Building peaceful and prosperous communities needs a diversity of voices to be heard – both at a local and national level. We know that stepping forward to be heard is not easy. That is why projects such as Next Chapter are so important. I have been really encouraged to see the number of women participating in this programme and have been inspired by their stories of success as they have taken on leadership roles within their communities.”
Photo: Speaking at the event deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “Women are key to building a stronger society and creating safe, united communities where everyone can thrive. Yet we know that women continue to have a tough time in politics. It’s up to everyone across society to ensure equality by removing barriers and challenging attitudes. We have made some good progress; not least having two women in the joint office of First Minister and deputy First Minister. But there is still a long way to go to bring about equality in the representation of women. The Next Chapter project is a great example of supporting women to take on active roles in community, public and political life. I congratulate all the women who have taken the leap into politics or other public roles to bring about a better future for all our people.”
Photo: Mirjam Bader, Head of Programmes at Politics Plus, who manages The Next Chapter, said “We are so proud our women both in terms of how much they have invested in the project and how much they have achieved. The success of The Next Chapter is built upon the strength and commitment of all the women involved in the project, and we can be sure that in the future we will see these women lead change in their community and in public and political life, thereby making significant contributions to peacebuilding and gender-equality in Northern Ireland and the Border Counties.”
Photo: Gina McIntyre, Chief Executive of the Special EU Programmes Body, said: “This EU PEACE IV-funded project has helped many women in communities, public and political life, on both sides of the border, to become involved in work which is helping to create a more peaceful, cohesive and forward thinking society. A society in which female voices are heard and respected. Through its various chapter hubs it has equipped hundreds of women with the skills, confidence and contacts they need to take on new leadership roles and make a real difference within their community.”
Photo: Nine Next Chapter participants from across the region shared the story of their Next Chapter Journey
Top Row (L-R) Rebecca McNamee from Co Donegal Chapter, Catherine Leonard from Belfast, Lisburn & Castlereagh Chapter and Andrea Burns from Newry Chapter.
Middle Row (L-R) Lori Gatsi-Barnett from from Belfast, Lisburn & Castlereagh Chapter, Danielle Flood from Foyle Chapter and Agata Sobieraj from Mid Ulster.
Bottom Row (L-R) Mary Roche from Cavan Chapter, Vanda Brady from Cavan Chapter and Susanna Olatjunij Komolafe from Cavan Chapter
The audience also watched 10 X 90 second Vodcasts created by participants from each Chapter.
To view each vodcast click on the map available on the Homepage of Next Chapter website.
Photo: Inspirational Keynote speaker Gina Martin said, “I am an accidental activist. After men took non-consensual pictures up my skirt I, for the first time, decided not to brush off an experience of sexual harassment and did some research. When I found out upskirting was not a specific offence in England and Wales I decided to stand up and change it. I'm so excited to share my story candidly with the women of The Next Chapter, and encourage them to stand up too.”
Photo: Members of Northern Ireland Youth Forum who have experienced homelessness attended the event and met activist Gina Martin before they introduced a film they made about the difficulties they have faced as young women. This film will be shown to the Northern Ireland Assembly Women's Caucus later this year.
Photo: Members of Northern Ireland Youth Forum met members of the Northern Ireland Assembly Women's Caucus at The Next Chapter Final Closing Event.
Photo: In Closing Remarks Kellie Armstrong MLA and member of the Northern Ireland Assembly Women's Caucus thanked the funders, partners and staff at Politics Plus for meeting and exceeding all targets with The Next Chapter project. Kellie congratuated participants from the Next Chapter for taking steps into community life, public life and political life and said she was looking forward to arguing with them in the Chamber. In closing Kellie said "Our community deserves something better. Be the person that you want the next generation to look up to."
Click here to download The Next Chapter Evaluation Report
|The Next Chapter is funded through the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Match-funding for the project has also been provided by the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland and the Executive Office in Northern Ireland.