Monday 23 September 2019

Connecting Through Conversation

The importance of extending a hand of friendship has never been so relevant says Mary McEneaney

"For our Community Project here in Monaghan we have chosen to embark on a series of events focusing on the theme 'Women Connecting through Conversation',” explained Mary McEneaney, Next Chapter participant and member of the Monaghan Chapter. "So far, after just two events, approximately 30 women have come together to share their stories, offer opinions and discuss topics of interest.
As members of The Next Chapter in the Monaghan area, we aim to provide a safe, relaxing, supportive and friendly forum where all voices are heard and the Monaghan Chapter is particularly determined to give a voice to women who are isolated or suppressed.  The integration of marginalized women into the community is at the heart of this community project and the feedback from the first two events has served to strengthen the determination of those in the Monaghan hub to reach out to women whose lives are enriched by simply feeling wanted and valued in the community. To date, it has been a humbling experience for all involved and it has served to highlight the many benefits of simply reaching out to people and talking!
Our first event took place on Wednesday 12 June and the topic for discussion was 'Using our past to create our future'. A number of women, representing 11 nationalities were invited and attended the event. Together with Next Chapter Monaghan participants, they spoke about how influential their mothers and mother figures where, in shaping their lives and shared stories from their various cultures.

Event 1 'Using our past to create our future'

"It was revealed that maternal influence is something than transcends nationality & culture and it provided an ideal opportunity for the assembled women to identify strongly with each other. There was empathy, laughter and comfort in the common ground that developed throughout the evening.

Event 1 'Using our past to create our future'

"Having forged friendships and a sense of trust, the second event, held on 28 August, focused on how to recognise and respond to domestic abuse. Siobhan from Tearmann Domestic Abuse Services gave a presentation on how to recognise and how to respond to domestic abuse. Those in attendance were also given details of the supports available. The presentation was very informative and thought provoking and it was followed by a question and answer session.

Event 2 - A presentation from Tearmann Domestic Abuse Services

"There was a general feeling that domestic abuse, in its many different forms, is often not recognized by the victims’ relatives & close  friends. It is often well hidden. Many were shocked at the statistic that one in three women suffer or have suffered domestic abuse. Like the discussion on maternal influences at the first event, this second event reinforced the similarities between cultures. Although there were nine nationalities represented, the comments made and the experiences shared, on the night, showed that domestic abuse is the same, regardless of culture.

Encouraged by the success of the first two events, the Next Chapter Monaghan participants are currently planning three more events to take place in the coming months.

If anything, the project so far has highlighted the fact that there are numerous women living in circumstances where they are isolated and excluded from local communities and the very genuine appreciation shown by the women who have attended these events has really had an impact.

The recognition of basic human needs and the importance of extending a hand of friendship has never been so relevant."

Mary McEneaney (far left) at 'Using our past to create our future'
Thanks to Next Chapter member Mary McEneaney for taking the time write this article.
The Next Chapter project is run by Politics Plus, working in partnership with the Northern Ireland Community and Voluntary Association and Irish Rural Link. This project is funded by the European Union’s Peace IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Match-funding for The Next Chapter project is provided by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.