Delegates from Egypt and Israel Attend International Women Leaders’ Summit on Security through Economic and Social Development

A delegation of outstanding women leaders from Egypt and Israel joined others from from Colombia, 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 Salomon, University of Haifa, 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.”

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.

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 from the Middle East 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. 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, 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.

  • Gila Svirsky of Israel, founding member of the Coalition of Women for Peace, a group of eight Israeli and Palestinian organizations.