Women for Peace is an education project which trains and supports women to become more democratically engaged, active citizens, leading the way in preventing and resolving conflict. The project, which runs for 10 weeks, aims to empower women to confidently tackle extremism and build peace in their communities, showing women the voice they have can make a positive difference. To date, Women for Peace has worked with over 200 women in Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Kirklees, Burnley, Blackburn, Nelson and Oldham.
Women for Peace Liverpool took place in autumn 2017, and four of the participants shared their experiences of the project.
Christine (Chris) Dunne
“I saw this course and it thought it sounded brilliant. It was the content of the course; I’ve never seen a course like that before. The qualification was an added bonus.
It was interesting, and all the things we did were good. I really enjoyed the games we played. Sometimes I didn’t understand them to begin with, but then it clicked once we spoke about them and it made sense. I’d like to do another course similar to this to carry on with similar content, to explore ideas further.
I’ve learnt a lot about conversations, and how to react to people. Not just fly in, but instead be more diplomatic and sort the issue out. I’m no longer like a bull in a china shop. I feel more confident approaching people. I’m often shy, so its taught me to be more willing to talk to people. I wouldn’t have done that before, but now I feel I can just start those conversations. The course is about peace, for women; resolving matters and doing things the right way. Being peaceful, and the mechanisms to do that with, different ways of doing it. The camaraderie of the people in the group, that we got to know each other, it was a nice course. Very informative as you get to learn new things about different situations and different people.”
“Women for Peace is a course where you get more than you bargained for. You do learn about conflict, extremism, terrorism, and you’ve given tips to deal with that. But the way its taught and structured, and the whole group dynamic, means that you actually learn and awful lot more about yourself. It completely blows away preconceptions. And as long as you participate fully and are honest and take part, you come out with a much greater understanding of yourself that helps you then understand other people. And whether you use that professional or in your own life, its fantastically helpful.
When I first sat in the room I thought I didn’t have anything in common with anyone. But the very nature of the way its structured, and the fun games that bring out and address the issues, means that a great relationship develops with the women. It feels like you could say anything and not be judged, no one would look down at you. Everyone has their issues so once other people start talking about it you don’t feel so bad. You don’t feel you’ve got things to hide or apologise for. It was very warm, very welcoming, and very supportive.
What I liked about the course was the variety. I did love the games. I wasn’t sure at first. but you got the point eventually so even if you thought ‘I don’t really like this’ or ‘I don’t understand it’, you got it in the end. And it helped open up and bring things out, and reinforce things that maybe you couldn’t articulate in another way. I liked that we had small group discussions, always in different groups, so there were no cliques. I do think that combination of fun, serious reflection and group discussions made a big impact. You made sure everyone had the opportunity to say something.
I saw some of the changes in people who at the very beginning thought they have no worth or value, and give in for an easy life. And they were actually incredibly complex, dedicated, articulate, brave women. And they had a lot more to offer but no one had ever brought it out of them. This course brings out the best of a lot of people by providing a really safe space, to let people be honest and say things they’ve often kept hidden, and know they’ll be supported.
The group dynamic, with such different characters from such different backgrounds, for us to gel like that I think that’s got to be down to the course. You learn to find that point of contact, and try to get inside the mind of someone, and find that point of connection. That showed it to me, and it was a lightbulb moment.”
“When I saw the Women for Peace course I thought it sounded really interesting. I’m 63, and most of my life I’ve suffered from mental health. I’ve never felt like I fitted in anywhere, so wanted to learn to be myself and not judge people. I really wanted to learn how to have my own opinion and not be forced to take other people’s opinions on board.
I don’t really speak about my problems, but with the group I felt at ease and that I could talk about it. During the sessions you weren’t pushed into taking on other people’s opinions; you could make your own mind up. And the tutors were brilliant – they broke it down so you really understood, and they were patient with us. It was an eye-opener, and I wish other people could take this course, because it really helps you to think about other people before you judge them. I like that we got into groups and then all got together, and everyone was encouraged to think for themselves and really consider other people.
I’ve learnt about listening to people more, and really take notice of what they say – taking on board their views, and putting my own views across clearly. If I think something is wrong I can say so now with more confidence.”
“I heard about Women for Peace and thought the title looked interesting because I am a pacifist. I liked meeting the other women on the course. It was really interesting to find out other people’s points of view, and find out more about myself and how I respond to different situations. It was created to help women to find peaceful solutions within their community and to find out more about themselves too.
We played a lot of games which I thought was interesting, but we also got a lot of opinions on different situations, and we had methods of dealing with those situations and how to find peace. And how to recognise manipulation and emotion – recognising your own emotional states.
We learnt a lot of solutions for conflict situations, and I’m still using those every day. I’ve learnt how to be aware of myself. If someone is stating a view I don’t agree with I go in with a much more reasoned approach, whereas before I would have been much more emotional. I can be quite argumentative and self-righteous at times, so it has helped because I’ve stepped back from that. Now I can reason with myself and take self-criticism.
The course has been more helpful than I thought. If we all looked at ourselves more deeply, rather than looking at others to blame them. I hope to pass it on the skills I have learnt by example to others. It is so rare to have a group of women together like this, and I really enjoyed it.”
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