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Women Peacemakers from Around the Globe Coming to Summit at UMass Lowell


Delegations from Africa, Egypt, Israel, Northern Ireland, Colombia to Participate

LOWELL, Mass. – Renowned women leaders from around the world will come to UMass Lowell next week for a first-of-its kind summit on advancing social change that will include a special honor for a leader of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement. 

The International Women Leaders’ Summit on Security through Economic and Social Development will bring together delegations from Africa, Colombia, Egypt, Israel and Northern Ireland to discuss their common goal: creating lasting peace and security in their home nations.

The summit – set for Sunday, April 10 through Tuesday, April 12 at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center – will feature a variety of events, including opportunities for the international delegations to share their experiences and best practices, as well as programs where the public can learn more about the challenges the women leaders face in their home nations. Plans also include the launch of a global network of women leaders that will establish international bridges to promote peace and security through supporting economic and social development, as well as foster partnerships with women leaders in Massachusetts.

“At a time when the most vexing challenges threaten world security, it is fitting to bring together other voices that hold up ‘half the sky’ to contribute the wisdom, intellect, insight, experience, diversity, creativity and capacity to address solutions to global security through social and economic development. The women participating in this summit bring perspectives unique in their knowledge, comprehensive in their scope and practical in their execution,” said UMass Senior Vice President Marcellette Williams, who developed the initial idea for the summit with UMass Lowell’s 2010 Greeley Scholar for Peace, Prof. Gavriel Solomon of Israel’s University of Haifa.

For many of the nearly two-dozen delegates, some of whom rarely travel outside their home countries, the summit will provide their only opportunity to meet in person.

“The summit will create a unique space for women leaders from many nations to learn from each other’s experiences in advancing social and economic well-being, the foundation of any viable, peaceful world. Each woman is a story of courage and the summit will allow a community to be born to unite their collective wisdom,” said Prof. Paula Rayman, director of UMass Lowell’s Middle East Center for Peace, Development and Culture and chairwoman of the committee presenting the summit. “Our hope for the summit is to then share this knowledge with others here and abroad and thus move all of us closer to a better future.”

During the summit, UMass Lowell will present an honorary doctoral degree to Barbara Hogan, who has served the people of South Africa for nearly 35 years, first in the anti-apartheid movement with the African National Congress – which saw her arrested, tortured and imprisoned for her activism – and later in the new South African government. Hogan was a member of parliament for more than a decade before holding senior government positions, including minister of public enterprise, until November 2010. She was named to the TIME 100, the annual list of the most influential people in the world, in 2009. The ceremony will be held on Monday, April 11 at 6 p.m. The event is open to the public, but advance registration is required; contact Victoria Denoon at

“We are honored to recognize Barbara Hogan with an honorary doctorate of humane letters for her more than three decades of activism to bring peace and equality to all citizens of South Africa,” said UMass Lowell Executive Vice Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney, who will speak at the summit. 

The other public event during the summit features Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, this year’s UMass Lowell Greeley Scholar for Peace, whose heroic work is the subject of the noted film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.” The documentary will be screened on Sunday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. and will feature a discussion with Gbowee and the filmmaker, renowned Liberian journalist Janet Johnson-Bryant, who is pursuing a graduate degree at UMass Lowell. Admission to this event is free and reservations are not required. The screening will be held at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, 50 Warren St., Lowell.

Summit participants are also scheduled to include:

Mona Makram-Ebeid of Egypt, founding member of the Arab Organization for Human Rights and the Egyptian Council for Foreign Relations, and a former member of parliament in the People’s Assembly of Egypt. 
Amani Kandil of Egypt, a member of the United Nations Sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and executive director of the Arab Network for NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in Cairo. 
Gila Svirsky of Israel, founding member of the Coalition of Women for Peace, a group of eight Israeli and Palestinian organizations. 
Robi Damelin and Seham S.A. Ikhlayel, both of Israel, and members of The Parents’ Circle, a group of bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families supporting reconciliation and peace. Damelin’s son was killed while serving in the Israeli army. Ikhlayel’s brother was killed by an Israeli soldier and her mother imprisoned for political activities. The women travel together to share their message of peace. 
Monica McWilliams of Ireland, chairwoman of the National Irish Human Rights Coalition. 
Margaret Ward of Northern Ireland, director of the Women’s Resource and Development Agency and a founding member of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition. 
Rosa Jiménez Ahumada of Colombia, director of the Center for Internal Displacement at the University of Cartagena and coordinator of the Bolívar chapter of the Caribbean Citizens’ Reconciliation Commission. 
Marta Ines Romero of Colombia, the Latin American and the Caribbean coordinator for Pax Christi International, a Catholic organization for peace.
In addition to the international participants, Massachusetts women leaders will participate in the summit, including: Linda Sou, director of the Lowell Community Health Center’s Teen Coalition and president of the board of the Angkor Dance Troupe; Josefina Vazquez, executive director of the Boston Women’s Fund, which supports community-based groups run by women working to create racial, economic and social justice; Jessica Andors, deputy director of Lawrence Community Works, a $2.5 million community development corporation with more than 3,000 members and more than $30 million invested in affordable housing.

The summit concludes on Monday, April 11 when the delegations will sign the Lowell Declaration, a document that brings together the lessons they have learned and their visions for future efforts. A public, international web site will be launched to sustain interaction and expand the educational outreach to the larger global audience. 

UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. The university offers its 14,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts, Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education.

For more information, contact or 978-934-3224