On 24 October 2017 Politics Plus in partnership with NICVA and Irish Rural Link announced their success in securing almost €1.5million for The Next Chapter project, which is supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).
Politics Plus, was established to enhance the capacity of elected Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and representatives of political parties; to strengthen the role of women and young people in political and public life; and deliver international development and exchange programmes for elected representatives and public officials in states affected by conflict and instability.
It is widely accepted that there has been insufficient representation of women in peace negotiations and in engagement in community reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border regions of the Republic of Ireland. It is difficult for women to have their voices heard and to participate fully in initiatives intended to support the transition out of conflict. Therefore, in further development of the work of Politics Plus, in partnership with Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) and Irish Rural Link, we have developed an innovative project seeking to help address this issue: The Next Chapter.
The Next Chapter project will lead the charge for equitable representation in sustainable peacebuilding and aims to improve the representation of women in public and political life and contribute to a more gender-sensitive society. This will, in turn, create positive working relationships between people from different communities. This project will include the creation of a network of people working together to support peace and reconciliation, mobilising social change in their own communities and throughout the entire region. The Next Chapter will contribute to SEUPB’s overarching programme output of regional level projects that result in meaningful, purposeful and sustained contact between persons from different communities.
Politics Plus, in partnership with NICVA and Irish Rural link will implement this project on a cross-community and cross-border basis. 10 Chapters will be set up across constituency areas in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; across the border regions, on a cross-community basis and will be inclusive of participants from all communities. The Chapters will make up a network of participants brought together with the collective goal of mobilising social change in their areas, through building their capacity and networks and working together towards a better future.
Dr Gareth McGrath, Executive Director of Politics Plus, said "Since 2010 Politics Plus has invested significant resources in order to promote the role of women in politics and public life. I am delighted that, with the support of PEACE IV funding, this important work will continue through ‘The Next Chapter’. It is important that we all share responsibility for ensuring the equality of women and men."
Geoff Nuttal, Head of Policy & Public Affairs in NICVA stated that “NICVA is delighted to be part of the Next Chapter project, which offers an exciting opportunity to increase the participation of women in public and political life and forge new and productive relationships, North and South, for a stronger society and better outcomes for all.”
Seamus Boland, CEO Irish Rural Link commented, "Since their establishment in 1992 Irish Rural Link have been committed to all forms of equality. This initiative which allows the continuance of strong relationships between rural communities North and South will significantly increase participation levels of women in leadership roles in business, public and political life."