In my second week as an attendee at the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women, I tried to focus on the art-related inputs although I found myself pulled to parallel events such as Gender Data and Economic Power , or Young Women’s Voices on Gender Equality.

The Amoyo Performing Arts Foundation in South Africa was running an event tackling post-apartheid gender inequality through arts facilitation. 

South Africa has one of the world’s highest rates of gender-based violence against females, especially in its impoverished townships.

Kim Worrall, co-founder and CEO of Amoyo Performing Arts Foundation, explained its policy of using dance and performance along with gender awareness, healthy relationships and sex education to allow the young women and men who come to them to make professional careers in the arts or other areas.

She spoke about a dance performance that a group of the young women developed, after another young women had been badly assaulted, which was performed at their annual showcase. The father of one of the performers came up to her afterwards and spoke of how he had been really touched by the performance and he realised that many men including him, need to shift their attitudes to young women.  "The joy was I did not have to have a conversation with him, he simply needed to see the performance or view an art piece to feel this way," said Kim.

Alex Tilman, co-founder of Baz-Art in South Africa and a representative from Jazzart Dance Theatre spoke of how simply being with a dance group that cared about them as individuals transformed their lives.

I am aware of a number of buildings in Belfast who received support to have dance studios built into them, that have never really been used effectively  it would be great to see this art form given more space.

The amazing team at Northern Ireland Women's European Platform with speakers Aniesaka fal-Dutra Santos from the Golbal Network of Women Peacebuilders and Funeki Munzi from a South African Human Rights organisation. Caitlín Higgins Ní Chinnéide from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said this was the  20th anniversary of UN1325 resolution on Women Peace and Security. Despite this, from 1992-2019 only 6 per cent of Peace mediators, 6 per cent of signatories and just 13 per cent of negotiators  of peace processes have been women.

She spoke of Rasha Jarhem from Yemen and Bronagh Hinds from Democrashe recently pulling the UN up about this, stating at the very least they should insure UN Peace talks should have a much higher percentage.

It was the young women in the second half that really spoke strongly to me. Saorla Boyle from Derry spoke of discovering as a youth worker attitudes she hoped would have shifted in the 15 years since she was the same age. The young women found the older generations were not talking about their experiences and as a result the young women were "carrying the burden of their history without fully being able to understand it”.

Yara Alogha a young Muslim women and parliamentary researcher for a civil engagement group at Seanad Éireann, spoke of "growing up in Ireland and being treated differently as Arab/ Irish with two parents of the Palestine diaspora". She said she came up against "compounded intersectional injustices".

Tara Grace Connolly from Belfast is one of two UN youth delegates for Ireland representing the 1.3 million young adults in the country. It is the first time one of these young people has been from the North. They work alongside the Department of Foreign Affairs, National Youth Council of Ireland and the permanent mission of Ireland in New York to inform their youth agenda at the UN and to give the perspective of young people in Ireland. She spoke eloquently about the loss her family had suffered.  She is the first generation to attend university and graduated with Law and Politics before completing an MA in International Relations.

Tara said women’s issues were being forgotten under green and orange issues. I suspect she will be doing a lot more about this in the future.

Aroha Philipson, a UN youth delegate and Young Women’s Alliance chair, said the majority in society was moving from the ‘not now, love attitude’ of being spoken over to shifting to people listening to young women. She’s also one to watch.


Back in the art world, many exhibitions are now living longer in cyberspace than they would have in situ. Rachel McManus from County Clare is one artist who hasn't been sopped by Covid.

CHILDREN AS INSPIRATION: The drawings of Rachel McManus

CHILDREN AS INSPIRATION: The drawings of Rachel McManus

Although at home with her three children, she continues to pursue her passion for art. After completing a degree with distance learning, she’s making her own future by connecting online. Her exhibition with Niamh Clarke, ‘Line of Thought', showed  some amazing drawings she has completed during lockdown which are inspired by the distorted faces of her children she finds on digital devices around the house as they play with them to try and pass the boredom of being so confined to home.

The video of the exhibition with an authentic voiceover brings the daily reality into focus. Rachel has an interesting blog about her work on her website. She is also a trained fitness instructor. I had the novel experience of doing an online fitness and art workshop with her that certainly got my heart rate going in many different ways.

Niamh Clarke speaks of the lockdown being a very productive time for her. As time seems to slow down and as she was grieving, it seemed to suit her mood. 

The Royal Ulster Academy virtual exhibition is also still online which has enabled them to offer virtual talks to schools.

Schools. Does anyone remember what they are?

I think everyone is appreciating schools more over this last year and it’s nice to see pupils getting back out of the house.

Congratulations are in order for painter Ted PIm, originally from Andersonstown, who is part of a group exhibition in the Artron Art centre, Shenhen, China.

Finally, and if anyone fancies trying their hand at being Sky Arts landscape artist of the year, applications are open and first prize is a cool £10,000.