MACS Ambassadors to PeaceJam UK Conference 2017 - Reflections
“The most inspiring moment for me was listening to Leymah’s speech. She is such an inspirational person, a strong proud woman. Hearing her talk about feminism was the most eye opening experience I have ever had. I now entirely support female empowerment and believe that young girls should be encouraged to believe in themselves!” - Carrieanne Lougher (Year 10)
“It was an amazing experience! It inspired me to promote peace in our school and community!” - Jade Driscoll (Year 10)
“It was such an inspirational experience. It made me realise how badly we need to help to make a change!” - Georgia Parfitt (Year 10)
“I’ve had such an inspirational weekend! Meeting Leymah was such a life changing experience! She was so empowering, yet at the same time so down to earth!” - Ilayda Waters (Year 10)
(Carrieanne Lougher, Georgia Parfitt, Jade Driscoll and Ilayda Waters with Leymar Gbowee; the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)
Miss. Summers (Religious Studies Department & Co-leader of WAM) commented:
“The four Ambassadors and I had the privilege of attending the PeaceJam conference at Winchester University. PeaceJam is committed to addressing the problem that whilst half of the worlds’ population is under the age of 20, most young people do not identify themselves as someone who can generate greatness in the world. Therefore, PeaceJam’s aim was to inspire us to acquire the spirit, skills and wisdom that is essential in order to become committed to change. This consisted of us having the opportunity to connect with the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate: Leymah Gbowee.
Leymah Gbowee is recognised for her work in leading a women’s peace movement that brought an end to the second Liberian Civil War. Leymah realised the importance for women to have a voice in the peace process. As a result, she led the Liberian Chapter of the Women in Peace building Network (WIPNET) that called for the end of the war. Leymah also started the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace Movement, which brought thousands of Christian and Muslim women to Monrovia wearing white and demanding peace. Whilst also addressing Charles Taylor who led a group of rebels in the war with peace talks and staged a sit-in until an agreement was signed to end the conflict. This helped to pave the way for Liberia to elect the first ever female head of state.
Reflecting upon her experiences made us realise that our MACS ‘WAM’ (We Are More) group share the same moral principles and values as Leymah. It illuminated the potential that such an activist group can have within a community. Within the question and answer sessions with Leymah herself she stated, “It is not what you are called, it is what you respond to.” This quotation from Leymah was invaluable in aiding a deeper understanding of how to respond to hardship and violence and also reinforced WAM’s wish to remove labels within our school community. Following this session, the four Ambassadors and I became reenergised to continue to make a change within MACS through WAM. It further emphasized that name calling and stereotypes that may be used against you are not what defines who you are.
As a result, WAM will continue to try and embed acts of peace against hate within MACS and take a stand against discrimination and stereotypes in a peaceful way, following the footsteps of a Nobel Peace Prize winner who felt a calling for change. Likewise, this calling can be felt within MACS. As members of WAM and also as PeaceJam advocates, our goal is to ensure that it is what we answer to that is heard and that we stand up to make a difference against hate and wider issues in MACS and the community.
(Miss. Summers and the Ambassadors proudly wearing their WAM shirts)
From the opening to the closing ceremony, the weekend was filled with interactive and inspiring sessions that were exiting, informative and fun! These ranged from workshops that allowed us to explore how to challenge violence against women and girls by developing strategies to protect yourself and others from falling victim to such abuse. We also took part in a workshop themed ‘tools for self-reliance’ where we refurbished tools that were to be reused in Africa. Finally, we also took part in an Action project named ‘Rap and Resistance’ which saw us develop key skills in poetry and rapping before writing and preforming a piece that responds to a political or global issue! These projects allowed us to become inspired to inject our own Peace projects within MACS and the wider community that target a wider range of issues. Alongside WAM currently tackling hate, we wish to now tackle issues such as education and community development, alleviating extreme poverty and protecting the environment. Overall, we have realised that to make a change it only takes one act; no matter how big or small to make a difference and tackle the issues affecting our planet and community today.
Finally, we left the PeaceJam conference realising that We Are More than simply young people. We are the keepers of our future generation and it is this thought, along with Leymah’s spirit and determination that we have taken with us to determine that we will make a difference!” Watch this space!!!