“Investing in women's leadership is the way we are going to change a world from one of conflict and violence to one of peace and hope”- Leymah Gbowee.
Change is driven from the ground up by women’s movements and leaders who provide the sparks and the hard work needed to prevent violence and maintain peace every day. Women’s groups and women leaders are often working in resource-poor environments, confronting threats to their own security and communities, and with inadequate opportunities to build trust. Solidarity, support and sisterhood are crucial in these situations. As a Women Peace and Security (WPS) community, we still have a lot to learn about how to build and sustain our collectives and our trust within and across communities and movements.
Apply to the 2023 Sister to Sister Program here!
The Nobel Women's Initiative Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program, produced in collaboration with the Coady International Institute invites young feminist leaders from around the world to participate in 6-weeks of hands-on communications and advocacy training. These women, aged 20-30, are at the forefront of movements to promote peace, justice and equality in their communities. Since 2012 the Sister-to-Sister Mentorship program has supported young women activists from Sudan, South Sudan, Liberia, Burma, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, responding to needs identified by partner organizations for increased advocacy training and hands-on skills building for young women’s rights activists within an international setting.
"When I came to Ottawa, I had a new name: the sisters. This name gave me power." - Muzna Dureid, Syria
Young activists and human rights defenders from Palestine, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Mexico, Liberia, Iran, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia and Burma, and have all participated in the program and returned to their countries more powerful, and more connected. Alumni have been tireless activists for peace and justice within their communities – and work at the grassroots level for women’s rights.
Caption: (l-r) Mairead Magure, Nobel peace laureate; Neesa Medina, Honduras; Htet Htet Aung, Burma; Shirin Ebadi, Nobel peace laureate; Riya William, South Sudan; Jody Williams, Nobel peace laureate in Ottawa, Canada. Sister to Sister Mentorship Program, 2015. Credit: Susanne Ure/Nobel Women's Initiative
In their own words ...
"It felt good connecting with an organization that truly wants to give young activists a chance to learn and excel in their chosen field. We had several sessions on self-care, storytelling and nonviolent communication (NVC) — which was my highlight for the week. Nonviolent communication is based on the principle that underlying all human actions are needs that people are seeking to meet. Therefore, acknowledging and understanding these needs can create a positive social change in our homes, societies, and the world at large. Imagine what the world would look like if we all practiced NVC? - Pamela Okoroigwe, Nigeria, 2018"
"People say activism stays strong with youth. But activism is a daily and long-term struggle. Mairead Maguire has reminded me that activism has no age. Under the name of activism, human rights and democracy, we found similar struggles against institutions of power across the globe. Yet, through those personal sharing and emotional connections, we become the united. I’m extremely humbled and honoured to follow in her example.- Thinzar Shunlei Yi, Burma, 2018"
"When I came to Ottawa, I had a new name: the sisters. This name gave me power and kept me motivated. We are all from the most difficult countries in the world, different situations and levels of conflict, all working toward freedom and peace. We cried, laughed, learned and shared experiences and stories. - Muzna Dureid, Syria, 2016"
"In the course of six weeks I listened, learned, and came up with 3,278 ideas–some of them impossible, others even more impossible. - Neesa Medina, Colombia, 2015"
"My thoughts have changed as a young activist and I can proudly say I am not where I used to be. I am now a great thinker and I will continue to work towards enhancing feminism in South Sudan ... The program gave me so much energy to want to do more ... (it) not only brings young women together from across the globe, but it teaches them the virtue of sisterhood, just as the name suggests. I learnt that although we are from different countries, we have a lot in common, and that is that we want to see that women are happy." Riya William, South Sudan, 2015
"A great thing about the Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program, aside from the intensive trainings and sessions at the Nobel Women’s Initiative, is that we were able to practice what we learned. Nobel Women’s Initiative set up meetings for us with Members of Parliament and other government officials. These meetings were a great opportunity for me to share and reflect on the situation back in my country, Sudan, and the work I carry out as a woman human rights defender. The meetings were also a good opportunity to expand my network in Canada and in New York City and reach out to different NGOs and activists." - Maha Babeker, Sudan, 2014
"One aspect of the program that was very interesting for me was having the opportunity to speak with Canadian Members of Parliament. I shared the stories of Guatemalan women and communities working to protect their environment from Canadian mining companies, and how the Guatemalan government criminalizes them for their efforts. I proposed specific actions that the government of Canada can do to protect women human rights defenders, and influence the actions of Canadian mining companies operating abroad." - Andrea Ixchiu, Guatemala, 2014
"Although there is still much to learn, I feel that as a result of my experience with the Nobel Women’s Initiative, I have the tools necessary to take on any challenge I may face. It is my hope that by continuing my work empowering the women of my community, I can be the catalyst for important social changes in Myanmar." Su Thet San, Myanmar, 2013
"The Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program was a unique and cross-cultural experience, where I learned how to live with people from diverse backgrounds and how to respect their cultural differences. Through this experience, I came to realize that regardless of skin colour, religious beliefs or sexual orientation, everyone has the potential to make a positive impact on the world around them ... The program has given me the tools I need to become an agent of change in my community. I will share what I learned and continue to organize collective action at home." - Josephine Gekpelee, Liberia, 2013