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Women Peacemakers Conclude Summit with Signing of Lowell Declaration


South African Anti-Apartheid Activist Receives Honorary Degree from University

LOWELL, Mass. – They came from Colombia, Egypt, Israel, Liberia, Northern Ireland and South Africa to meet and learn from each other, forging friendships and building understanding about what it takes to advance democracy and peace.

The delegates from around the world spent three days together at UMass Lowell, presenting on their experiences in their home nations and crafting the Lowell Declaration, a pledge to work jointly and with others on a global network with the common goal of creating non-violent solutions to conflict.

The International Women Leaders’ Summit on Security through Economic and Social Development – held April 10 through April 12 at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center – grew out of an idea formed by the 2010 Greeley Scholar for Peace Prof. Gavriel Solomon and UMass Senior Vice President Marcellette Williams. The event was presented by a committee of UMass Lowell faculty, students and staff led by Prof. Paula Rayman and with the support of Provost Ahmed Abdelal.

“One of the goals of UMass Lowell is to become an international institution with a global vision, a diverse faculty and student body, and academic partnerships with universities around the world. An integral part of that goal is to host events like the International Women Leaders’ Summit,” said Abdelal. “Hearing how distinguished women provided leadership in advancing their countries in economic and societal development is critical to this effort and enriches our awareness of both the solemnity of human life and the fragility of the human condition – necessary elements in fostering a global perspective in our students.”

Among the highlights of the summit was the presentation of an honorary degree to Barbara Hogan for her courage and steadfastness in helping to upend South Africa’s apartheid rule. Hogan, said UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan, “always stood up for what is right, even when she knew she would pay severe consequences.” 

Hogan spoke during the degree presentation about the struggle in South Africa and how she became involved with the outlawed African National Congress (ANC), led by Nelson Mandela, and served eight years in prison for her anti-apartheid activism. Hogan said during her speech that some found it odd a white woman would become so active in the ANC, but it was the tyranny of the system of apartheid they fought, not just the race that enforced it. 

The ceremony included a performance of the South African National Anthem by The Mystic Chorale of Arlington and a video tribute to Hogan narrated by Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman. Speakers included Williams and UMass Board of Trustees Chairman James Karam, and UMass President Jack Wilson officiated at the event, which drew more than 150 people. 

Other events of note during the summit included the screening of the powerful documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” for the public and members of the university community. The film told the story of the women’s peace movement in Liberia led by Leymah Gbowee, one of the summit participants and the 2011 UMass Lowell Greeley Scholar for Peace. Gbowee, as well as Janet Johnson-Bryant, former Liberian journalist and current UMass Lowell graduate student, led thousands of women in protest to force both sides of a bloody civil war that was marked by atrocities against women and children and the use of young boys as soldiers to come to the peace table.

On the final day of the summit, the delegates signed the Lowell Declaration, which reads: “We join together as colleagues to acknowledge the importance of advancing security through economic and social development. Through collaborative efforts, new international partnerships will be born. While we enjoy our success together at the International Women Leaders’ Summit, we look forward to the larger successes of creating change in our own spheres. We resolve to carry on our new understandings into our organizations, our communities, our nations and our global society.”

Plans call for the launch of a global network of women leaders to establish international bridges to promote peace through supporting economic and social development, and foster partnerships with women leaders in Massachusetts. Rayman, the event’s chairwoman, said the lessons of the summit include, “Knowledge without compassion is worthless and knowledge with compassion is wisdom.” 

Participants in the summit included:

  • Salwa Bayoumi El-Magoli of Egypt, a member of the Al-Shura Council, the upper house of Egypt’s Parliament, head of the National Committee for Quality Assurance and Accreditation and a dean at Cairo University; 
  • 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. 
  • Rula Deeb of Israel, director of Kayan, which works to advance the status of women in Israeli-Palestinian society. 
  • 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. 
  • Bronagh Hinds of Northern Ireland, senior associate of DemocraShe, an organization she founded 10 years ago after the Good Friday Agreement to advance women in politics, civic society and peace-building at home and abroad. 
  • Monica McWilliams of Northern Ireland, chairwoman of the National Irish Human Rights Coalition, co-founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition political party and a former member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. 
  • 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. Providing translation for her was Laura Taylor, a doctoral candidate in peace studies and psychology at the University of Notre Dame. 
  • Marta Ines Romero of Colombia, the Latin American and the Caribbean coordinator for Pax Christi International, a Catholic organization for peace. 
  • Linda Sou of Massachusetts, director of the Lowell Community Health Center’s Teen Coalition and president of the board of the Angkor Dance Troupe. 
  • Jessica Andors of Massachusetts, is deputy director of Lawrence Community Works, a nonprofit community development corporation dedicated to the city’s revitalization.
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.
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