Anthology breaks the silence for Londonderry women affected by the Troubles

A ground-breaking anthology that captures 28 lost stories from women directly or indirectly affected by the Troubles, will be launched in Londonderry today (March 8 '“ International Women's Day).

Edited by award-winning writer, Julieann Campbell, ‘Beyond the Silence’ is the first publication to focus exclusively on the experiences of women who have suffered through the conflict but have been forgotten in the Peace Process.

The emotionally charged collection evolved from a unique oral history programme, Unheard Voices, with support from Creggan Enterprises and the International Fund for Ireland.

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Since 2013, Unheard Voices has engaged with more than 1,500 women with the aim of providing a new space for participants to voice and come to terms with painful experiences that have shaped their lives and those of their families and communities. Working with trauma professionals, Unheard Voices supported participants as they began dealing with decades of lingering hurt by telling their stories for the first time.

Dr Adrian Johnston Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland said: “There is no doubt that women in Ireland have been the catalyst for a lasting peace, nor the important role that women must play to secure a better future.

“Yet, the reality is that many women from both sides of the divide are not being heard and are at risk of being forgotten. ‘Beyond the Silence’ is compelling, raw and often challenging. These are brave stories of incredible quality and personal honesty. They deserve to be heard.

“Women were so often the very people that held communities together throughout the very worst of the Troubles. While so often demonstrating strength, these women should now be supported in healing the pain suffered through years of silence. If we are to reinforce progress towards a peaceful and stable society, we simply cannot afford to lose women’s voices on the urgent challenges that still exist.”

Anne Molloy, Chairperson of Creggan Enterprises, said: “These stories, many hidden for decades, reflect the real impact of the politics of violence on the lives of women, children and communities during the last forty years. They are evidence of the immense courage of the group of women – from very diverse community backgrounds – who took part in the Unheard Voices Programme.

“If we are to honour these women’s stories, and the countless other untold stories, we must ensure that we don’t go back to the political failures and the resultant violent conflict of the past. It is time now to build a more inclusive, peaceful and equal society for the next generation – a society that seeks to address the trauma caused by the conflict and that respects and values the voice of women as fundamental to building community cohesion.”

Project Coordinator Carol Cunningham said: “There have been many attempts to record stories of the Troubles. But because this project focuses solely on the unheard voices of women – those who felt ready to share their intensely personal stories with the wider world – the resulting anthology ‘Beyond the Silence’ is one of honest, raw emotion.

“It has been both a very humbling and rewarding two years. As strangers in many instances, we were welcomed into homes and invited to listen as women spoke candidly of their personal experiences. Indeed, some of the following stories have been buried so deeply, they have yet to be shared with other family members. Many of the women we interviewed are resilient. However, others remain fragile and we found it necessary to refer many participants to support to manage the traumas that are still very raw and evident today. I feel honoured that the women entrusted us with their stories and we hope we have done them justice.”

‘Beyond the Silence’ is published by Guildhall Press in Londonderry.