Explaining ‘It was amazing!’: reflections from World Council and looking to what’s next

16 November 2015

WORLD COUNCIL laura 1No matter how prepared I was, World Council was an incredible whirlwind, and on return when friends and family asked me how it was, my answer was a boring but heart felt ‘Amazing!’ Now I’ve had a little more time to think and a few opportunities to debrief with Y Canberra sisters, and in this blog I’m picking apart why it was ‘amazing’ and most importantly, what comes next.

Young Women’s Forum

The Young Women’s Forum was just the right start to World Council. It gave us the opportunity to REALLY engage with big questions around the movement and Envisioning 2035: Membership, sustainability and young women’s leadership – all in a safe space with time for problems AND solutions. There were invaluable regional breakouts – listening to and learning from our Pacific sisters – and energising intergenerational guest speakers. The Young Women’s Forum also increased my confidence going into the main stage of World Council, as we had already started the dialogue and knew some friendly faces. As World Council progressed, young women continued to join together to advocate for increased leadership, and we were welcomed and acknowledged throughout including through the adoption of the Young Women’s Policy.

The Australian delegation

Before going to World Council the message was… ‘We are a big delegation, remain mindful of the Australian voice and experience and how this fits within the broader context of the movement, to ensure we contribute respectfully’. I feel really proud of how well we did at this, despite needing a few reminders (it’s exciting and there’s just so much to talk about!). I came to draw on the Australian delegation for support: Meeting life members; hearing about different programs and meeting volunteers from across Australia – especially regionally; meeting executive staff and directors as just normal, lovely people; being reminded of how far we have to go partnering with Australian Indigenous women in the Y; and putting names to faces. Within the Australian delegation, strategising, socialising and support within the Canberra delegation was also particularly energising. I loved that we were a big delegation: it showed that we are a strong, proud and enthusiastic movement and also acted as a valuable reminder of our well-resourced position in the global context.

Networking and podcasting

Not only did World Council provide the opportunity to meet women from across our own movement, it also meant meeting people from across the globe including candidates for election, movement leaders and activists, and recipients of our ‘this is what a feminist fridge looks like’ magnets. Helping the communications team to record audio from World Council gave me the added excuse of meeting new people – including asking volunteer favourite Panna about his experience working with so many women at World Council – ‘It is very amazing for me, I never have met a lot of girls like this’. And recording audio of the poetry and singing as the South African delegation welcomed us to World Council 2019, and their excitement at showcasing the issues faced in South Africa.

Resolutions

The Business Meetings of World Council were insightful and educational: I learnt so much more about how the World Y works. They were also incredibly frustrating and slow moving in parts, when processes didn’t go as smoothly as expected. I feel very privileged for the opportunity to be a member of the Voting Delegation. Besides exercising the right to vote which is always exhilarating and empowering – both with the electronic pad in the Business Meeting and in the voting booth, it was most enjoyable to listen to Associations passionately propose their resolution, engage in the subsequent conversation, and see these voted on. The collaboration and meaning behind these resolutions was eye-opening, and while the decisions, definitions and debates were not always clear-cut and sometimes confronting, seeing the resolutions so well defended and adopted was a highlight.

Workshops

At World Council the spirit of collaboration was on show from the outset, with Member Associations from across the World joining together to deliver workshops on a range of relevant topics, both showcasing the work of their associations and encouraging us to think about how we might re-shape these ideas for our own contexts and in light of Envisioning 2035. I participated in exceptional workshops on how we can use ICT to achieve our goals of empowering women, and how Associations fund programs through social enterprise. The most impressive component of workshops was the depth of knowledge-sharing and adoption of ideas between associations with such different resources and contexts, and the excellent facilitation skills on show, including amongst our own Canberran and Australian delegation.

Challenges

One of the very reasons World Council was so rewarding, was that at times I also felt very tired and very challenged! It encouraged me to think about my own communication, collaboration and leadership styles; tested my concentration and strategic skills; and reminded me of the importance of coping skills (from supporting each other – to aqua aerobics in the morning – to joining the World Council’s own social program – to a massage at the hotel spa).

Singing & dancing

A conga train to the YWCA Power to Change song; a moving flash mob about  Violence Against Women; young Korean women highlighting issues of conflict and refugees in the region through dance and music; 400 people singing about mangos and other tropical fruits in round and with actions as part of a Y Scout-led energiser/breakout; singing ‘This little light of mine’ together and hearing young Thai women from Indigenous tribes sing in worship; enjoying the cultural singing and dancing spectaculars at nights like the Young Women’s cultural evening, dinner with the Thai Princess, our off-campus theatre experience, and closing dinner. These experiences were so joyful!

Next steps

The most exciting thing for me is that World Council was an opportunity to become more familiar with the Y movement locally, nationally, regionally and globally. I heard and have many ideas about the strengths of the movement, areas we can explore and areas that we can focus on improving in the coming four years. Particularly in the context of continuing to build relationships with our Pacific Sisters and continuing the work of the Pacific Working Group, with people who also built these connections. After World Council I feel even more connected to the spirit of the YWCA sisterhood and can’t wait to engage in work at all levels.

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