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Female Nobel Prize winners gather in Belfast to discuss peace

SIX women Nobel Prize winners will attend a major international conference in Belfast this week that will examine lessons from the Northern Ireland peace process.

The three-day event near Holywood, Co Down, will explore ways of increasing global security by ending war and militarism.

It is the fourth biennial conference of the Nobel Women's Initiative and is taking place in the United Kingdom for the first time.

Attended by a range of conflict resolution experts, it will shine the spotlight on the impact of war on women and communities.

The high profile event comes a month before the world's most powerful political leaders arrive in Northern Ireland for the G8 summit in Co Fermanagh.

The conference is being hosted by Mairead Maguire, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her work with Peace People, an organisation set up to help end the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Ms Maguire will be joined by fellow Laureates Leymah Gbowee from Liberia, Tawakkol Karman from Yemen, Shirin Ebadi from Iran, Rigoberta Menchu Tum from Guatemala and Jody Williams from the USA.

The three-day conference will be held from Tuesday to Thursday at the Culloden Hotel, just outside Belfast.

More than 100 women from all over the world, who have lived through war, will address the event.

Speakers come from nations such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Sudan, Liberia, Iran, Colombia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria.

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Ms Maguire said many of the international participants were drawn to the conference because of the global reputation Northern Ireland has for bringing its own long-standing conflict to an end.

"The peace process in Northern Ireland gives hope and inspiration to the people living in fear of violence today," she said.

"We have a great record of peace making; the rejection of the bomb and bullet and the commitment of people to solve problems are tremendously inspiring to people working in conflict situations."

The Nobel Women's Initiative was formed in 2006.

Its goal is to use the prestige of the Nobel Peace prize and its women laureates to highlight the efforts of women working in countries around the world for peace, justice and equality.

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