On Friday 2nd December, Politics Plus held its biannual Ambassadors’ Forum. The event began with a festive lunch on arrival which offered guests an opportunity to network. Kellie Armstrong MLA opened the event and stated:
“The Ambassadors’ Forum provides a space to recognise the inspiring achievements of women in our society, and to ensure that established networks develop further. It provides an opportunity for knowledge exchange between politicians, experts and leaders of the public and third sector to support the promotion of women in political and public life and progressing gender equality”.
Kellie also outlined how Politics Plus have worked to develop innovative programmes which help to strengthen the role of women in political and public life, with particular reference to the Women in Public Life Programme and the first Northern Ireland Assembly Women’s Caucus.
Guest speakers at the event included Marie Anderson, Susie Brown and Laura Bates. Marie Anderson is the first Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman appointed under the legislation brought through the Assembly by the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister. Mrs Anderson discussed the challenges in building a career and balancing family-life, which is an issue many women face. She also outlined her personal career challenges and how she perceived a challenge as an opportunity to overcome obstacles.
Susie Brown, Director of Corporate Development at Tourism NI discussed the new initiative “Be Seen Be Heard“. This is a training programme which provides women with the tools and training to provide commentary, analysis and debate in Northern Ireland’s media. Susie discussed the importance of a gender-balanced media so society is accurately reflected.
The final speaker was Laura Bates, founder of the award-winning Everyday Sexism Project– a collection of over 100,000 testimonies of gender inequality. Laura described how the Everyday Sexism Project was developed when she experienced a series of incidents in one week which included harassment on a public bus. When Laura challenged the man’s actions, everyone on the bus ignored her and turned a blind eye to the harassment. This made Laura question whether other people were also facing everyday sexism, but staying silent about their experiences. Laura also provided some hard-hitting facts detailing how sexism does in fact still exist, but society has taught us that it is somewhat normal. She discussed how people stand by and watch sexism occur rather than step up and speak out about the issue. She praised the work of Politics Plus and how more women’s programmes, such as Women in Public Life, need to be established in order to address the issue of gender inequality and sexism.
This was followed by a Speaker’s panel Q+A, which gave the guests the opportunity to discuss issues raised by the speakers and share their own experiences of gender inequality.
The latter half of the event included a celebration of the second Women in Public Life programme. A video was showcased whereby participants outlined the benefits of the programme and how it has encouraged them to apply for promotions and board memberships to enhance their career.
Suzanne Walker, Barrister-at-Law & participant on the second Women in Public Life Programme shared her experiences: “The programme helped me to focus on where I am in my career, and to think about future career aspirations. It has given me time to reflect on my own career and given me the confidence to apply for boards. The programme has been enlightening for me and I have met some really great people”.
Trophies were presented to the second cohort of Women in Public Life participants by Laura Bates, to celebrate their successful completion of the programme and acknowledge their commitment to the programme.
Kellie Armstrong MLA closed the event by congratulating Women in Public Life participants saying: “We hope that this programme has given you the skills and confidence to pursue your dreams and not let any opportunities pass you by. Thank you for your continued support in progressing gender equality in political and public life”.
Please see the link below to the Belfast Telegraph article & video after the Ambassadors’ Forum:
If you missed the event, why not visit our YouTube channel and watch both Laura Bates’ & Susie Brown’s talks:
Susie Brown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDLv0mDZHac