Hot Topics: Women in diaspora & peace

18:30 - 21:30
Oct 10th 2017

Join us for an intimate and lively participatory dialogue event exploring the experiences of women from diaspora communities living in the UK as peacebuilders, with opportunities for networking afterwards.

For more information contact us.

“When a woman tells the truth, she creates the possibility for more truth around her.”

– Adrienne Rich

As diaspora communities carry with them the pain of conflict and violence from the past, women have a unique role to play in building peace both within the diaspora and reaching back into their countries of origin.

Learning from the two year Community Reconciliation programme here at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, we invite you to join us for an evening of coming together in dialogue where we will ask:

  • What is the unique role and contribution women are making to peace within diaspora communities?
  • How is that role acknowledged and supported or sometimes suppressed?
  • What are the obstacles women face as peace builders, and how can these be challenged and overcome?

We’ll hear from our panel of women peacebuilders including: Lajeel Abdirahman, working for peace among the Somali diaspora in London and training girls and women in conflict resolution skills in Mogadishu; Sham Selvaratnam, working as an art psychotherapist with families of the disappeared in Sri Lanka; and Amina Dikedi, founder and Chair of the international women’s peacebuilding network, Creators of Peace.  Further details are available in the “Panel Bios” below.

Bring your personal stories of the pains and joys of working for peace, and listen to the shared experience and new perspectives from others.  We warmly invite community and faith leaders and organisers, women working in peace building, people from diaspora communities, and anyone with an interest in this topic for an evening of honest and inspiring conversation where we can encourage one another in our work for peace, from the grassroots in families and communities through to contributing to formal peace processes.

Lizzie Nelson, UK Director of international peacebuilding charity Search for Common Ground, who partners our Community Reconciliation programme, will facilitate an open and participatory dialogue where we learn from the experience of everyone in the room, with opportunities for networking afterwards.

Lajeel Abdirahman (Panelist) was born in Merka, Somalia and has been working as a Somali/Italian interpreter for Social Services and in the mental health sector.  She graduated from high school and went on to study Language and Literature at La Sapienza University in Rome.  When war broke out in her home country she was displaced, ending up in the Utango refugee camp in Kenya.  She eventually settled in the UK and has since made it her home.

Witnessing first-hand the problems her community faces motivates Lajeel’s active commitment to volunteering.  Through participation in courses provided by groups such as Somali Initiative for Democracy and Dialogue and Initiatives of Change, Lajeel traveled to Mogadishu, Somalia in 2017 and delivered workshops on Dialogue Facilitation.  In May of the same year, she shared the findings of her trip at Ankara, Turkey for the Erasmus project Refugees as Rebuilders.


Sham Selvaratnam (Panelist) is an art psychotherapist and campaigner, with experience working with homeless women, refugee women and those sectioned under the Mental Health Act.  She has additionally worked in schools as a support worker, therapist and advocate for inclusion and wellbeing practices.  Since 2009 after the war in Sri Lanka came to an end, Sham has been trying to find appropriate ways to connect with the situation as a member of the Sri Lankan diaspora.

Sham is currently based in Sri Lanka, where she is learning more about the situation and working with war affected communities. She is currently organising with local communities around concerns for the safety and dignity of women and girls in public spaces, public transport, the university and work places.  Sham integrates approaches such as meditation and Compassionate Listening towards increasing conscious ways of organising and campaigning.


Amina Dikedi-Ajakaiye (Panelist) has been actively involved in the work of the Initiatives of Change (IofC) since 1982 when she met the work in her native country Nigeria. Originally a teacher, Amina decided to change her profession and run a fashion business in Lagos, during which she remained involved with IofC volunteer work.

In 2000, during her time as a member of the IofC International Coordination Group, Amina ran international pan-African ethical leadership programmes. From 1994 to 2013 Amina served as International Coordinator to the Creators of Peace (CoP), a global network of women in 47 countries using Creators of Peace Circles, workshops, personal encounters, community building activities and international conferences to effect change. In 2013, Amina was contracted as Project Leader to support the South Sudan Initiative for Peace and National Reconciliation. Last month, Amina was elected President of CoP International.

Through her work, her caring and ‘stateswomanly’ approach Amina has earned the respect, trust and friendship of a large network of individuals throughout Africa and many countries beyond, from Presidents, and politicians, senior civil servants, traditional leaders, educators, business people and ordinary citizens. She has an ongoing involvement through these friendships in many countries, including the Great Lakes Region, Sierra Leone, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, to name but a few. Amina is married and lives in UK.


Profile of Lizzie Nelson, Director of Search for Common Ground UK, smilingLizzie Nelson (Facilitator) has worked in the House of Commons, the European Parliament and the Home Office, before joining the Restorative Justice Council (RJC) as Director in 2009. At the RJC Lizzie both trained in a wide variety of approaches to restorative practice (mediation, conferencing etc) and their application to a wide range of crime and conflict. Lizzie joined international peacebuilding organisation Search for Common Ground as UK Director in 2013. In this role she co-led a series of training and dialogues, in partnership with St Ethelburga’s Community Reconciliation Programme, working with diaspora communities in London. Lizzie is also Chair of the Forgiveness Project.

“Imagine a world in which everyone could take the perspective of everyone else. Of course agreeing with each other about everything is neither possible nor ideal. But being able to understand, at least to some extent, what each other thinks, feels, and believes about something, and why, is the foundation of a world without war. However, agreeing with each other about everything always is not the root of peace. Rather, learning to live with our differences, and deeply hear and understand them, is.”

– Jay Rothman

When differences deepen and escalate into polarised social division, it gets more difficult to disagree constructively and engage sincerely.  We get stuck in patterns, only engaging diverse views in adversarial debate or speaking into echo chambers.  How can we come together in ways that open up understanding and empathy, rather than increasing blame, anger and resentment?  What are the gritty and difficult conversations we collectively need to begin?

At St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, we’re creating spaces for participatory community dialogue where conflict can become cooperation, and separation can be come collaboration.  We’re exploring new ways to meet complexity and diversity constructively in an increasingly divided world.

This fall, we’re bringing in community facilitators to crack open hot topics from their communities and bring us together for intimate evenings of personal sharing and creative dialogue.  Join us in bringing disparate groups together in dialogue to confront urgent and pressing questions.

October 3rd         Race & Faith

October 10th       Women in diaspora & peace