Inez McCormack Returns to NI After Meryl Streep Portrays Her Life in New York Play

Resource type: News

The Participation and the Practice of Rights Project (The PPR Project) and Vital Voices |

The Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) Project is an Atlantic grantee.

Inez McCormack, the well known trade union, women’s and human rights activist, returns to Northern Ireland today (Monday 15 March) following Meryl Streep’s portrayal of her life in a New York play at the weekend.

Meryl appeared in an ensemble reading of a groundbreaking documentary play, SEVEN, which captures the important work and remarkable lives of a diverse and courageous group of women leaders around the world.

The production was staged on the opening night of The Daily Beast’s ‘Women in the World’ three day summit in New York’s Hudson Theatre.

The SEVEN play was developed several years ago by Vital Voices Global Partnership, an international women’s NGO based in Washington DC, that identifies, trains and connects emerging women leaders around the world.

The organization commissioned seven award-winning playwrights to tell the inspiring personal stories of Inez and six other women who have triumphed over enormous obstacles to bring major changes in their home countries of Northern Ireland, Russia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Guatemala, and Cambodia.

Introducing the SEVEN play US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:

“I can personally attest to the power and example of these women. I know each of them and I am anxious for you to meet with them. You will meet Inez. She and I have worked together since my time as First Lady. She has been an activist on behalf of women’s rights, labour and peace and her efforts to promote human rights and social justice remain an inspiration to me… It’s not just that women’s rights are human rights, but women’s progress is human progress.”

(PHOTO: After portraying Inez McCormack in the Vital Voices play “SEVEN” in New York City in honour of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep is pictured with Hillary Clinton, and Inez, the well known Northern Ireland trade union, women’s and human rights activist. Inez currently chairs the Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) project (www.pprproject.org), an Atlantic grantee that provides local disadvantaged communities on all parts of the island of Ireland support in using a human rights based approach to address the social and economic inequalities and deprivation they face. Photo courtesy of Joshua Cogan, Vital Voices.)

Speaking to Inez McCormack after the play, Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep said that she was “honoured to read Inez’s role”. She mentioned that whilst researching Inez’s life she came across a quote she loved from Inez – “that my greatest achievement is seeing the glint in a woman’s eye who believed she was nobody and now knows she is somebody.”Meryl also said that she would love to come back to visit Belfast.

Speaking after the SEVEN reading Inez said: “It was extremely moving and humbling to watch such a powerful and renowned actress as Meryl Steep portraying my story on the stage. Indeed there was a discussion with the audience after the play and I said I thought Meryl played me much better than I did!”

Following the performance Meryl gave Inez the necklace that she was wearing, Inez adds:

“Meryl’s warm, gentle and understated gesture of friendship and respect in giving me the necklace in the way she did and her perceptive and thoughtful comments affirmed my work that rights are only made real when those who need them assert their dignity through using and owning them to make their own change.”

“I took the opportunity of inviting Meryl when she next comes to Belfast to meet the women from housing and health groups that The Participation and the Practice of Rights Project (The PPR Project) is working with in North Belfast. These women have that “glint in their eye” that I had mentioned in a previous quote and that it would be a wonderful opportunity for her to come to Belfast and meet them for herself.”

“The PPR Project that I chair provides local disadvantaged communities on all parts of the island of Ireland support in using a human rights based approach to address the social and economic inequalities and deprivation they face.”

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN Human Rights Commissioner, has described the PPR project as “…groundbreaking.  They are not just challenging what is wrong, they are creating an inclusive sense of rights and dignity, they are engaged in pioneering work which will command much interest and application elsewhere’.

Originally from Belfast Inez became active in the Northern Ireland civil rights movement in the late 60’s.  She then became a trade union and equality activist, campaigning to organize and revalue the work and contribution of the ‘forgotten’ workers, most of whom were women.  Inez also led major campaigns for strong equality laws and to assert the rights of the most disadvantaged.

In 1998, she led a successful campaign for such inclusive equality and human rights provisions to be included in the Good Friday Agreement.  She was the first woman President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and is a member of the Vital Voices Global Advisory Network.  In 2002 she was honored by Vital Voices with their Global Leadership Award. In 2008 she was named NI Women of the Year for her services to women, human rights and communities.

The six other women portrayed in the SEVEN production are:

Mukhtar Mai, Pakistan: gang raped by four men and forced to walk home almost naked in retribution for an alleged ‘honor crime,’ this harrowing story grabbed headlines across the world. Rather than commit suicide, Mukhtar decided to bring her rapists to justice and improve the condition of women by building schools and becoming an ardent advocate for education in her country.

Annabella De Leon, Guatemala: raised herself and her family out of poverty by educating herself. She has been a Congresswoman since 1995. Despite death threats (she has 6 bodyguards appointed by Human Rights Watch), she is a fearless fighter against corruption and for the rights of the poor, particularly women and indigenous people.

 Mu Sochua, Cambodia: the former Minister of Women’s Affairs in Cambodia, she was co-nominated in 2005 for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work surrounding sex trafficking in Cambodia. Marina Pisklakova-Parker, Russia: founded ANNA, the first organization in Russia to provide crisis and counseling services for women affected by domestic violence. She is working to engage her government and embassies around the world in educating potential trafficking victims.

Farida Azizi, Afghanistan: a founding member of Afghan Women’s Network and the Corporation for Peace and Unity, she has gained asylum and now lives in the United States with her two children and works on women’s rights and peace-building in Afghanistan.

Hafsat Abiola, Nigeria: from a family of courageous fighters for freedom and justice, founded and directs KIND (Kudirat Initiative for Democracy), an NGO that aids women in their attempts to advance democracy in Africa and has created skills-training opportunities for young women across Nigeria.

Marina Pisklakova-Parker, Russia: founded ANNA, the first organization in Russia to provide crisis and counselling services for women affected by domestic violence.  She is working to engage her government and embassies around the world in educating potential trafficking victims.

 Joining Meryl Streep at the ensemble reading were top-line actresses Shohreh Aghdashloo (The House of Sand and Fog), Tony-nominated Julyana Soelistyo (Golden Child), Lauren Vélez (Dexter), and Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife).

SEVEN is a collaboration by award-winning playwrights Paula Cizmar, Catherine Filloux, Gail Kriegel, Carol K. Mack, Ruth Margraff, Anna Deavere Smith and Susan Yankowitz.

The summit was attended by over 1000 women pioneers in government, media, social activism, business and the arts including Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan; former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright; Chouchou Namegabe, the Congolese anti-rape activist and journalist and; French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.

For further information please contact:
Janet McKay, PR Consultant, Tel: 07968 817514, Email: janet@janetmckaypr.com

About Vital Voices:

Vital Voices Global Partnership, a leading non-governmental organization (NGO) that identifies, trains, and empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe, enabling them to create a better world for us all. Vital Voices provides these women with the capacity, connections, and credibility they need to unlock their leadership potential.

The Vital Voices’ mission is to identify, invest in and bring visibility to extraordinary women around the world by unleashing their leadership potential to transform lives and accelerate peace and prosperity in their communities.

The Vital Voices international staff and team of over 1,000 partners, pro bono experts and leaders, including senior government, corporate and NGO executives, have trained and mentored more than 8,000 emerging women leaders from over 127 countries in Asia, Africa, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East since 1997. These women have returned home to train and mentor more than 500,000 additional women and girls in their communities.

The Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) Project (www.pprproject.org):

The Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) Project was founded by Inez McCormack during her presidency of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Inez, with others, instigated a series of conversations held all over Ireland by diverse groups including human rights organisations, women’s groups, local residents, community groups, trade unions, lawyers, disability groups and international human rights experts who unequivocally supported the need for human rights tools and principles to be put at the service of the most disadvantaged groups.

These discussions took place in the ‘Celtic Tiger’ era which produced unprecedented economic growth across the island of Ireland. Yet, the current systems of economic and social governance did not deliver real benefits of that economic growth to the most excluded and disadvantaged communities.

Since 2006 PPR has supported disadvantaged groups to implement standards of participation and accountability in systems of governance in order to deliver sustainable change. As one female community activist commented, human rights standards were the “best kept secret in the world”. PPR’s work has focused on developing human rights tools that ensure they are no longer secret,  but are put at the service of those who need them most.

The learning from the PPR Project has demonstrated that the meaningful participation of vulnerable groups in social and economic decisions which affect their lives results in the improved effectiveness of public service delivery, resource allocation, and economic growth.

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN Human Rights Commissioner, appeared at a PPR event in Belfast in May 2008 and commented:

“The first thing I would like to say is that you probably underestimate how innovative what you’re doing is. It is very local. It is looking at international standards and trying to make them practical and local.. It is the difference between words and rhetoric and pieces of paper and making change and making change in the right way.”

Videos:

Meryl Streep speaking to Inez McCormack

Hillary Clinton’s speech (mentioning Inez in Part 2) as she introduced the play