Young women from Friends’ School in Lisburn have had the chance to work alongside six Nobel Peace Laureates this week at the international conference Moving Beyond Militarism and War.
The students have been inspired by the work of the laureates and 100 peace activists and conflict resolution experts at the Nobel Women’s Initiative Conference, now underway at the Culloden Hotel, Co Down.
“I cried when I heard their stories,” said Paula McMenamin (17). “It’s so inspiring to hear what they have achieved. These are women who have made a real change to the world; they didn’t just sit back and let conflict rule their lives.”
“Things are so often glossed over but it’s important for people to understand what is happening in other countries and to take a stand,” she said.
Paula, who is hoping to study conflict resolution when she finishes school, has a keen interest in the Israel/Palestine conflict and hopes one day to follow in the footsteps of the six Nobel laureates at the conference.
The conference is being hosted by Northern Ireland’s peace laureate Mairead Maguire alongside fellow laureates Jody Williams (US), Leymah Gbowee (Liberia), Rigoberta Menchú Tum (Guatemala), Shirin Ebadi (Iran) and Tawakkol Karman (Yemen).
The young women from Friends School have been helping with the conference since Sunday; they greeted the Laureates as they arrived at the airport, assisted in preparations throughout the day and have joined in all the discussions and debates.
Another student, Laura Cushley who is studying AS level French and Spanish, was particularly moved by Rigoberta’s story and how she worked to help the indigenous people of Guatemala.
“I greeted Rigoberta at the airport and it was amazing to speak to her in Spanish and to use what I’m learning in school in the real world. This has just been the most fantastic experience for all of us,” she said.