14 October 2015
A delegation of YWCA Canberra members, Board Directors and staff are currently at the 28th World YWCA Council in Bangkok, Thailand, as part of the YWCA Australia delegation. They will be participating in knowledge sharing, collaborating, and setting the strategic directions for the movement for the next four years. We’ll be sharing their reflections and experiences through our blog. Today we hear from Abby Thevarajah, on her experiences of day three of the Council.
Following a busy Day 2 with a formal evening graced by HRH The Princess of Thailand, the third day of the 28th World Council commenced with the morning business session. Today’s agenda focussed on the World YWCA budget with an emphasis on grants, fixed organisational costs and affiliation fees for member associations.
Feedback from delegates was for more time to be allocated to discussing financial budgets within the context of the forum. The conversation also highlighted the strategic framework for the next quadrennial that encompasses young women, transformative leadership, human rights and sustainability of the YWCA movement.
After a quick morning tea break, participants went in to smaller groups to attend roundtable workshops on learning, sharing and collaborating.
The first workshop I attended was on women’s leadership in conflict resolution and peace building. The three countries facilitating this topic were Sri Lanka, South Sudan and Palestine. The theme was centralised around the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1235) – the first UN resolution to specifically mention women.
In the context of women and girls this resolution focuses on four main pillars – prevention (against sexual and gender based violence in conflict; sexual exploitation and abuse within the peace keeping framework), protection (improving safety, physical and mental health), participation (active in peace negotiations; inclusion in the mediation process and affiliation with women’s organisations) and relief (equal distribution of aid to women and girls).
The presenting nations provided their individual insights in to what they have implemented to actively follow the UNSCR 1325.
Sri Lanka shared their experiences of rebuilding following the country’s civil war. They made the important statement of ‘absence of war is not peace’. Gender inequality was a primary notion in their presentation as women had not been included in the resolutions or decision-making processes. To overcome these barriers they have used creative activism and an interfaith approach, involving all religious leaders and addressed ways to provide economic empowerment of women.
The YWCA of Sri Lanka have promoted women’s leadership and used the global program of “training the trainer”. The “Girls on Wheels” campaign was their biggest operation. This project was aimed at encouraging women to vote at the national election. They did this by riding bicycles (yes, environmentally friendly too!) and giving pink letters to all the people they passed. They also held signs saying “Give space for educated, talented and intelligent youth” which once again supported the idea of young women’s contribution and leadership in these areas. Check out their website for more details!
After lunch, which always presents another great opportunity to mingle and network with many inspiring women from all over the globe, it was time for the day’s second plenary session. This presentation discussed how the World YWCA movement could advance women’s human rights and also an intergenerational approach to leadership within this context.
The speakers all highlighted the importance of having national and international solidarity within the YWCA to achieve these goals. Ms. Diana Ma’ahoro, disability rights activist and member of YWCA Solomon Islands, advocated for the presence of women with disabilities within the movement.
Her statement of “Optimism, Perspective and Persistence” towards a united group in which all women’s voices need to be heard was truly a defining moment in the session.
The speakers acknowledged that women’s presence is increasing across a variety of areas of employment however there needs to be a change of conversation in which women are at the centre of this agenda. Women continue to be marginalised in many communities and although organisations provide assistance they are continually under resourced. Thereby it is the advocacy of members and recognising their needs that will assist with overcoming this obstacle.
Day 3 of World Council concluded with the second workshop. I participated in the important issue of child marriage (check out this website for more information). Presenters from Kenya and Malawi commented that this has been an ongoing issue within the African continent. The group-based discussion looked at advocacy platforms, such as improving communication with families and communities; support services for girls and the importance of tackling the issues from many angles. The intergenerational model was also a consideration and the facilitators emphasised the need to be innovative – to not just think about the presenting problem but also the ongoing effects of it.
YWCA World Council has presented a range of interesting, engaging and above all, important issues women across the world face. It has illustrated the need for solidarity and support on a broader scale as well as structured, implementation strategies. The workshops, plenary sessions, formal and informal discussions continue to highlight the need to collaborate globally and together as sisters unite to overcome these issues.