NI Peace Heroines Go Global with New Interactive Digital Exhibition

NI Peace Heroines Go Global with New Interactive Digital Exhibition

As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, the new interactive digital exhibition is launching to tell the story of the pivotal role that women played in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Since the printed Peace Heroines exhibition launched in September 2022, it has toured the world opening hearts and minds, from the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast to the US Congress, Áras an Uachtaráin, Leinster House, United Nations in New York, Derry Tower Museum, Linen Hall Library, Dundalk County Museum, Enniskillen Castle, and more. On Brigid’s Day 2024, Ambassador Fiona Flood launched the South American tour at the Irish Embassy in Brazil. Our peace activists are truly making waves worldwide.

UN officials cite the role played by women in the Northern Ireland Peace Process as a leading example for other peace processes around the world.

"For the Secretary-General it is clear that the women of Northern Ireland were trailblazers and visionaries who put gender equality and integrated social development at the heart of the Good Friday agreement," a spokesperson for the Secretary General, António Guterres, told RTÉ News watch here. 

Many of the NI peace heroines continue their activism today, not just in Northern Ireland but around the world, bringing their wisdom and experience to women and peace movements in Bosnia, Georgia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Cyprus, Congo, Columbia, Palestine, Israel, the Philippines, Guatemala, Kenya, United Nations and more.

Curator Melanie Lynch explains:Evidently these remarkable women are awe-inspiring role models for young people today. In a world that is increasingly polarised, the peace heroines offer lessons in how to move from domination to partnership models of power, strategic problem solving, conflict resolution and reconciliation. It was paramount that we create a version of the project that was accessible for all and online for free, with school lesson plans that are designed to integrate with the official curriculum. There’s also an invitation to nominate your local peace heroine, upload her portrait and share her story, creating a living archive and legacy education resource for future generations.”

This new interactive digital exhibition is a collaboration between the Herstory Education Trust, with the Nerve Centre and National Museums NI. The project is funded by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund, the Irish Department of Culture's Co-Operation with Northern Ireland Scheme, the Ireland Funds of Great Britain, and the Integrated Education Fund.

Niall Kerr, Head of Heritage and Community Relations at Nerve Centre, said: "Peace Heroines shines a light on the extraordinary ordinary women who have had an impact on our shared society. It's been an exciting opportunity to work with the Herstory team to create this digital exhibition, to help further amplify these important stories, and to encourage everyone to contribute – particularly through a set of curriculum linked tasks for students that encourages discussion, debate and creativity."

The project was sparked by a timely conversation at the United Nations back in 2019.

The then Irish Ambassador to the UN Geraldine Nason-Byrne, revealed to Herstory Founder Melanie Lynch that the pivotal role of women in the Northern Ireland Peace Process is a key United Nations case study.

Melanie explains;I returned home and reached out to our school contacts and they confirmed that this essential story is not taught on the official school curriculum in Northern Ireland or the Republic. Our new Peace Heroines project aims to change that and introduce students and the public to these legendary activists and inspire the next generation of peace builders. It’s time to write herstory into history.

International peace delegations from Congo to Columbia now examine and refer to the participation of the Women’s Coalition in what is widely considered to be one of the most successful peace processes in the world.

US Senator George Mitchell, Chair of the multi-party talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement, said that “the Women's Coalition in particular focused on reaching an agreement as opposed to focusing on 'can I get this for my community, can I get that...' They understood their role to be to help to bring about peace more than just advancing the cause of one community or another.” — watch here.

"The story of the Women's Coalition is largely not visible, not because women get written out of history..... they never get written in" - Bernadette Devlin McAliskey

The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, hosted a special display of the ‘Peace Heroines’ exhibition, curated by Herstory, at Áras an Uachtaráin to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good
Friday Agreement last year.

In his address, President Higgins said: The Women’s Coalition, in its rejection of traditional partisan sources of division within what was male-dominated politics, played a vital role in the delivery of an alternative context that could carry the Good Friday Agreement. Its founders, drawn from both of the main opposing traditions, sought to work together, transcending the old tribal divides, and focusing instead on creating a common, agreed, shared future, united by the cause of bringing women’s concerns to the negotiating table, and ensuring an inclusive peace accord.”watch here.

At a key crossroads in humanity’s history, Northern Ireland is an inspiration to the Ukraine, Russia, Palestine, Israel and other countries in conflict. As wars continue, causing immeasurable suffering and destabilising Europe and beyond; the miracle of the NI peace process and the pivotal role of women proves the potential for justice, equality, peace and healing in the most challenging circumstances.

Visit and be inspired by these remarkable women.

“When you taste peace and you have the prize of peace, there is no going back.” - Professor Emeritus Monica McWilliams