Bold Voices participant Fabienne Joseph, from the Corrymeela Community, makes herself heard at the Empowering Voices - Creating Change conference.
Hidden VOICES ring loud at conference
Hidden VOICES in our society were heard loud and clear at a packed Community Foundation conference on Thursday, June 30.
Empowering Voices – Creating Change heard from advocates and groups representing those most marginalised, who showcased their issues and received guidance on how to have their voices heard by those who influence change.
Hosted at Grosvenor House on Belfast’s Glengall Street, over 100 delegates attended the conference, organised by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, under its VOICES-Participation for Social Justice Programme, which encourages groups representing those on the fringes of society to pursue social justice.
Organisations participating in the event included Telling it like it is!, an advocacy group for patients marooned at the Muckamore Abbey health facility, some of whom have been residents there for decades despite a desire to be re-integrated with wider society.
Members of the group quip that they have ‘the longest waiting list in the NHS!” and their contribution to the debate was powerful and a damning indictment on health authorities who have not responded to their wishes.
Kinship Care NI, which is committed to helping and supporting family members who are principal carers for children from within their extended families, also participated and spokesperson Jacqui Williamson later took a seat on the BBC Newsline sofa, with presenter Sarah Travers, to discuss the issue of kinship care and the conference itself.
Youth Action’s ‘Safe and Sound’ group, which tackles issues related to domestic violence in young relationships, put on a powerful drama performance, delivered by amateur actors from the group.
Justice for Magdalenes, the group which advocates for the survivors of the industrial institutions operated by the Catholic Church in Ireland, also featured at the conference.
Dr. Mary McAuliffe gave an outline of the Justice for Magdalenes activities to date and relayed details of the Irish government's latest decision to establish an investigative panel into the laundry system, described by survivors as 'slavery'.
A special panel, of experts, directed by Broadcaster Linda Bryans, advised a huge range of interested parties on how to get their messages across and what support is avaialble for advocacy groups.
Jude McCann, VOICES Co-ordinator at the Community Foundation said; “Empowering those most marginalised in our society to have their voices heard is a key goal for the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland.
"This conference gave an opportunity for a diverse range of groups to present their issues and we had a great variety of speakers and panelists to help advise groups on how to get their messages across.”
Keynote addresses were made by Niall Crowley, former Chief Executive of Ireland’s Equality Authority and Grainne Teggart, a local campaigner for Amnesty International.
Also showcased was BoldVoices: Films for Impact, a group of short films made earlier this year by first time film makers from youth groups across Northern Ireland.
These films, supported through the VOICES Programme, raise awareness of issues such as youth suicide, homelessness and the challenges faced by young people in the Travelling community.