By Isabella Stanley
March was a month teeming with excitement and collaborative energy as Creators of Peace UK partnered with Initiatives of Change (IofC) UK and others to deliver four lunchtime discussions in celebration of International Women’s Day 2021. The sessions, from 8 to 11 March, featured an impressive array of guest panellists who spoke about pressing challenges facing our society – focusing particularly on how we can all Choose To Challenge gender bias and inequality. The issues of youth activism; domestic abuse, mental health and resilience; food poverty; and building trust between migrants/refugees and host communities were addressed.
On the Monday, the first event introduced 20-year-old biomedical student Jasmine Godden Melendez (UK) and 15-year-old Lina Kacimi Aitmalek (UK/Algeria). Hosting the conversation was Miranda Shaw, Co-Coordinator of CoP UK and a long-standing animal rights and environmental campaigner. Jasmine explained how youth activism and perspectives around current social justice issues are ‘super important in generating new alternatives’. Lisa said that youth activism could be disheartening: ‘We need to show through our actions that we have strength. Hope is solidarity.’ Particularly inspiring was Jasmine’s conviction that ‘when we connect with our community, those who are like-minded and those who hold differing opinions, we get a sense of hope that together we can move past barriers.’
The next day’s session centred around ‘Building Ourselves Back Better.’ Roberta Pagliarulo (Italy), director of Innavision, and Sandra Crathern (UK), focused on pathways that lead from trauma to self-repair. As an experienced business coach, Roberta explored her experiences of overcoming trauma and resentment: ‘When I found the courage to share, I found connection, and in connection with other human beings, I found strength.’ Sandra highlighted the importance of proactive self-prioritising care which leads to resilient mental health, sharing that her own self-repair journey ‘had to start with me’.
During the session on Wednesday 10 March, three speakers offered a collaborative exploration of how mutual aid is addressing food poverty across the UK. Amina Khalid (UK), from IofC and the founder of Peace Begins at Home, and a Trustee for Somali Initiatives for Dialogue and Democracy (SIDD), spoke of the need for ‘more dialogue between policy makers, community members, and practitioners’, especially when looking ahead to implement post-COVID systems for communities. Also joining the discussion was Muireann Meehan Speed (UK), director of Oxford Human Aid which currently supports 257 households (800 people) with regular food parcels. With her intimate knowledge of food poverty and vulnerability, Muireann explored how the government problematises the individual or the family, even though ‘it is the system itself that creates barriers to people accessing support, using services, and being able to maintain basic dignity.’ Pauline Wilson (UK), who works for FARE Scotland agreed: ‘People get that feeling of guilt, of shame, of not being able to provide for their family. And it’s about finding ways to break that stigma down, and creating a universal system that includes everyone.’
The final lunchtime session explored building trust between refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and host communities. Jacqui Daukes, Partnering Manager for IofC UK, hosted the conversation with Amina Khalid (UK), and journalist Amanda Figueras (Spain). ‘Once you are conscious of the reality of the people going through such an experience as migration, you have to take action,’ Amanda said.
These stimulating discussions showcased the power and value of collaborations and were a fitting celebratory marker for IWD 2021.