On 19 September Ciné-ONU screened Wave Goodbye to Dinosaurs at Cinéma Galeries in Brussels, in partnership with the Irish Embassy, to mark the International Day of Peace.
The film tells the story of Catholic and Protestant women who unite to form an all-female political party, win seats at the negotiating table, and fight to ensure that their policies around human rights, equality, and inclusion are reflected in the Good Friday Agreement. It highlights the important political and trust-building work that the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition was involved in during The Troubles, and how this group of strong women paved the way into politics for their predecessors.
In 2000, the UN’s Security Council adopted Resolution 1325, which reaffirms the need to involve women in conflict prevention and peace negotiations, and this documentary certainly emphasises the benefits of doing so.
The screening was followed by a panel discussion with: Eimhear O’Neill, the Director of Wave Goodbye to Dinosaurs; Jane Morrice, a former member of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition; Charlotte Isaksson, Gender Adviser for the European External Action Service; and Rory Keane, Head of Office for the United Nations Liaison Office for Peace and Security (UNLOPS). The screening was moderated by Carlos Jimenez, from the UN’s Regional Information Centre (UNRIC).
Eimhear O’Neill began the discussion by explaining why she chose to tell the story of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition: “You want to tell a story that’s never been told and it’s a disgrace that the Women’s Coalition story hadn’t been told.”
“In 1996, I was 8-years-old and I’m now 32, and throughout my whole education I was never told about the Women’s Coalition, even though I studied politics. Making this film made me question ‘what is a politician?’ and ‘what is the role of the politician?’ and I think the women in the film changed my answers.”
Jane Morrice, who features in the documentary, remarked that “there’s a new division that’s happened in Northern Ireland since Brexit and it’s shaking things up in Ireland.”
Rory Keane used the film as a basis to highlight the positive contribution that the UN is making to involving women in peacekeeping talks. He said: “There are crises today in Syria, in Yemen and we’re working with our UN mediators to empower women and be involved in the peacekeeping process. We have a board of gender experts who go into a country and support women there to be part of the process. They’re bringing women into the peace negotiations in places like Syria. I want to reference the UN Resolution 1325, which might sound like bureaucracy, but that’s actually the world coming together and us saying that we want women to be involved in the peace process.” Keane also stressed that the UN needs more female peacekeepers as this will increase peacekeeping effectiveness and that europe can plan an important role in this regard.
Jane Morrice added: “You do change the feeling around a table if you’ve got women’s voices.”
After opening the discussion to the audience, one member asked: “This film brought back to me how terrible The Troubles were, and the take away message, to me, is that these messages have to be repeated. How do you promote the importance of maintaining peace?”
Eimhear O’Neill responded: “One of my intentions with the film is to tell the story to people aged 25-years-old and under, and to an international audience. So you have to start from the beginning, which is why I went through the history of The Troubles. When you look back and think, who was in the room when the peace talks were going on? That’s when I realised that the story of the Women’s Coalition is so important, and still relevant today. So, I’m glad this can provoke thoughts and questions and so you can learn about what Jane and her colleagues achieved. It’s screening events like this, which are backed by governments, embassies and organisations like the UN that are able to communicate history, like this, to such a large reach.”
Charlotte Isaksson agreed and said: “Sometimes we think that all of the terrible things are happening far away, so it is important for us to communicate these examples better and I think this film can help us in that way.”
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