S1. E27. Helen Henderson

Helen Henderson is a Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), combined with a long history of community education in Derry/Londonderry.

We explored Helen’s work on peacebuilding and non-violence. For instance, how do you build peace between communities that have been in conflict for decades? Two things: spaces to discover common humanity; and growing critical literacy.

My reflection is that I’ve not had to worry about security. But that’s a privilege others haven’t had. And how important that work is, because so much else relies on feeling secure.



Educating the Heart programme from Children in Crossfire, aims to “nurture compassion and emotional literacy alongside critical thinking and critical literacy”.

Ethical and Shared Remembering at The Junction. “Ethical remembering will mean asking critical and ethical questions about violence, change, justice and peace in the context of the present and desired shared future. One hundred years on there will be no ethical remembering without remembering the future, and without an ethical and concrete commitment to building it together.”


0:50 – Q1 What are you doing now? And how did you get there?
3:23 – BONUS QUESTION. Can you give us some examples of the peace-building work you have been involved with?
7:15 – BONUS QUESTION. How do you build peace between people whose families and communities have been in conflict for literally decades?
15:15 – BONUS QUESTION. What does a trauma-informed approach mean?
18:31 – Q2. What is the future you are trying to create, and why?
21:35 – Q3. What are your priorities for the next few years, and why?
24:59 – Q4. If someone was inspired to follow those priorities, what should they do next?
29:30 – Q5. If your younger self was starting their career now, what advice would you give them?
31:45 Q6. Who would you nominate to answer these questions, because you admire their approach?
33:55 Q7. Is there anything else important you feel you have to say?


-“how do you build peace between people who have been they in their families and their community has been in conflict for literally decades?

Yeah. And that’s, it think it’s about two things:

  • I think it’s about common humanity. So people start to see the humanity and other people that will see may be coming from different sides, they actually have a very similar story, because they’ve been impacted in ways that other people haven’t been. So I think that the human connection, when we can see that and see somebody else’s suffering and empathise with that, is that you do find that through, you know, one of the projects at the junction work on us around storytelling, and people sharing their stories. And so, you know, that space, creating those conditions, where that can be done safely, and you can create this, you know, this dialogue is really important.
  • But I also think it’s also about critical literacy, because things aren’t black and white. And if there was ever a human history word, we’re getting these vague, over simplified messages. So the language of war is a very simplistic awesome them winners, losers, you know, so maybe that’s part of the education piece is starting to unpack that and think what is really going on here, who doesn’t make this we’re being told where they come from, who are the winners who are the losers.”

– The role of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is to hold the state to account or duty bearers to count on who they are, they uphold the human rights of people in Northern Ireland.

-Future trying to create:

  • “I am recommitting myself to peace and non violence at this time, not just because of Northern Ireland and Ireland, but what’s going on the world. Feeling that sort of the simplicity and language and binary kind of stuff going on around wars is very much alive.”
  • Also, amplifying some of the hidden voices that haven’t been heard. It’s also time to facilitate the people with the voices that are silent, especially from the woman sector. It has been the woman have been on the ground and in the communities holding the fort. But generally, I’ve heard that voice in an official or political level.

-Q:if someone was was inspired by your work in your priorities on peacebuilding on bringing previously silenced voices to the fore to that sort of regeneration of the combinations, what should they do next think that they listen to this thing or Yes, that’s what I want to be working on, what should they do?

A: I think part of the process that they’ve had to do is like, slowing everything down a little bit. And practice of attunement. And notice some, some hadn’t become less busy. To probably the compensating think there’s something about written yourself, giving you a strong whenever you’re about to cross a threshold that you know that you have, you’ve rooted yourself, whether it be in your place, or your stories.

“One of my reflections amongst many is being born in England and living most of my time in London…For the most part is just the I’ve always been in a relatively secure place and not worrying about security and not worrying about conflict and whether I’m in a peaceful situation. But that’s a privilege that I’ve had that others haven’t had and that you’re working on, have been working in that with people and communities in your own wish you’re rooted in that can’t take that for granted. And how important that work is, because so much else relies on feeling secure. And yes, it’s easy for me to take that for granted sitting here in London. But as we’re talking, there’s a war, an invasion of Russia into Ukraine, there’s a war in Yemen, there’s a war in Ethiopia, Eritrea.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s