MY LIFE WITH THE YWCA

By Hanne Braun, National Office the YWCA of Germany & Former President of the  YWCA of Germany 

Hanne Braun looks back on her lifetime experience with the YWCA:

In 1952, as a ten year old girl, I heard about the YWCA. The head office of the Protestant Girls’ Work based at the Burckardthaus in Berlin reported about Ruth van Hoogevest of the World YWCA in Geneva and her work with German refugees. I also learnt about a woman from the Madras YWCA, who did an internship in Geneva. In 1993 I met this Indian lady then 75 years old at the Madras YWCA.

Hanne Braun

These very first experiences revealed to me the worldwide solidarity of the YWCA family. Ecumenical belief was put into practice and disclosed to girls and young women the chances and possibilities of participating and playing an active part in society and politics.

I became a social worker at the Association for International Youth Work/Les amies de la jeune fille, working especially with migrants and refugees, as well as in the prevention of trafficking. In 2005, in cooperation with other women’s association, this association founded the now existing German YWCA.

In 1973 during a seminar “Women in Migration” I learnt about the work of the YWCA of Greece as well as of other European YWCAs. In 1975 I was sent for the first time as a delegate to the World Council in Vancouver. From 1979 to 1987 I served as a member of the World YWCA Executive Committee.  As a European member of the World Executive Committee I was automatically also a member of the European YWCAs’ committee.   As the youngest member in the group I helped to start the European Youth Conferences in Strasbourg over a period of five years.

The years at the World Executive Committee were not always easy, but apart from ecumenical English I learnt a lot about global relationship and how young women and the YWCA can benefit from this network.

I represented Y-interests at Bread for the World /EZE, as well as at the Women’s World Day of Prayer and the Protestant Women’s Work in Germany. When the YWCA work required a new structure in Germany, we founded the German YWCA as an independent women’s association, open for other associations and women interested in establishing contact with ecumenical and international women’s groups.

Up to now, we are only a small but active association. We receive strength for our work from being a part of the largest ecumenical women’s network, but also from personal encounters at the World Councils or through visits from other Y-women to the German YWCA, such as Nelly Hope Lukale from Kenya last month.

World YWCA Pacific Leadership Summit

By Catherine Bateman from the YWCA of Australia

Participants

From the 19th of July to the 29th of July this year I was invited by the World YWCA to join a training team of 6 women from the Pacific region in training and mentoring a group of 16 young women from the nations of Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Samoa.

I’ve been involved in my local YWCA, YWCA Victoria, since I was 15 and attended a one day leadership workshop. In more recent years I’ve worked part time with YWCA Victoria and YWCA Australia on projects as diverse as website design and development, circus programs, homeless employment and job readiness for long term unemployed women. In my time with the Y I’ve been lucky enough to represent Australia in Mongolia, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Turkey and now, Fiji.

So when I was asked if I would like to join the Pacific Training Team to work with 16 young women in Fiji, I jumped at the opportunity to continue with my involvement. The Pacific Leadership Summit (PLS) is the first of its kind for the World YWCA. Traditionally, the Y will host Regional Training Institutes (RTI) which focus on a single area (eg: violence against women) and train a large number of women, including a percentage of women under 30, in the specifics of that issue in their region. The PLS was very different as it was exclusively open to women under the age of 30 who are already acting as leaders in their communities and the end goal was not just greater knowledge but the development of new leadership programs to be funded by the World YWCAs Power to Change Fund.

For five days we worked 8:30am to 7pm with sessions on models of young women’s leadership, cultural issues facing young women across the region, program design, human rights and budgeting. The participants were required to pitch their program ideas to local funders such as UNFPA and AusAID and then present them to their association presidents for approval. As a member of the training team and the person in charge of all communications I was working long days every day, interviewing the participants for World YWCA project, mentoring the Fijian team and teaching circus skills. It was an utterly exhausting experience but as always, working with young people fills me with energy and enthusiasm. In the next months I will continue to work with the Fijian young women to implement their program, visiting Fiji at least once more before the end of the year and again in 2013. Then in March we will all reconvene with the young women involved in the Asian YWCAs version of this program in Thailand where we will reflect, evaluate and plan for the future.

For me personally, being involved in a program like this brings to life what I find most meaningful in my work with young people, not just filling them with information but valuing their own life experience as genuine and important and giving them the tools to be masters of their own futures and the futures of their peers. In communities like Fiji, giving this sort of power to young people is culturally problematic, however with good planning, support and respect I hope that young women’s leadership can be a concept that flourishes across the region.

It was an incredibly pleasure and privilege to be involved in this training and I while I expect the coming months to be incredibly challenging, I also hope that I will gain much from the experience that I can implement in my other work. I work with young people in the community on issues of health and wellbeing, particularly sexuality, mental health and body image. My greatest passion is spending time with young people and hearing their stories of their lives. In the Pacific YWCAs we have a leadership strategy that states young women need five things in order to become leaders in their communities. These are to be Safe, Respected, Included, Connected and Skilled. This might be a Pacific specific strategy but I think we can all agree that it’s a universal concept.

 

My experience at the YWCA of Germany

By Nelly Lukale, World YWCA Programme Associate

My short trip to the YWCA of Germany made a great impact in my life as I learnt so many things. Most of the staff members are volunteers who offer their time and energy to serve the community especially young women and girls. I was privileged to be hosted by Hanne Braun the former President of the YWCA of Germany and who has been a member of the YWCA movement for more than 30 years including serving as an Executive Board member of the World YWCA.

Nelly Lukale

Some of the programmes that they run for young women are just fantastic and so empowering. The first programme that really inspired me was the Banoff Mission which is run by the YWCA of Germany and Lutheran mission; it stands at the Stuttgart train station. It is open for information exchange for the young and old people who arrive at the train station and need assistance on how to get around Stuttgart. They provide travel assistance, information, counseling, referral and emergency crisis. They also give special support to different kinds of people with difficulties in travel such as people in social distress like: migrants, homeless families, women and children who have experienced violence, disabled people, those suffering with mental health problems and drug abuse. They work closely with special institutions like social workers, Federal Railways and the Federal Border Guard. They also cooperate with institutions for the youth, the homeless, women’s shelters, and mental health counseling centers, offices and senior services for people with an immigrant background.

The other programme is the Women’s Information Centre in Stuttgart (FIZ) which is a counseling service for migrants from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe. Its work focuses on the psycho-social counseling and support for women who have come as marriage migrants to Germany. The second target group is the actual or potential victims and witnesses of human trafficking and forced prostitution. This includes crisis intervention, follow-up of court cases, help in developing and implementing a self-determined life planning and support for women returning to their home countries. This is funded by the state of Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Württemberg and various foundations and donations.

Migration is a major focus of the YWCA of Germany specifically local branches in Cologne and Stuttgart. Many young Women from Africa, Eastern Europe and other parts of the world see the migration to Germany as a way to escape poverty, unemployment, inadequate access to education, traditional gender roles, discrimination and corruption. These young women also have high hopes of being able to support their families or themselves. Due to false information and sufficient language barriers, these women are at risk of being exploited or forced into prostitution. This project helps such people by providing Information about labour exploitation and human trafficking, volunteer services, internships, study visits and Au Pair opportunities. They are also advised about their stay in Germany and where to seek help in a crisis or emergency situation. Illegal immigrates   who are willing to return to their home countries are also assisted to do so.

During my visit, my host Hanne Braun took me around Stuttgart to see different places and scenes and also meet the sex workers who are mainly young women who do this not because they want to but because they want to support their families and are unable to get jobs. The YWCA of Germany also has a Programme with the sex workers where they are taken through counseling sessions and helped to get alternative jobs. It was a life time experience, to learn all that they do and to go to Germany for the first time was so great.

 

 

 

 

Owed something for nothing?

By Marcia Banasko, World YWCA Programme Associate from the YWCA of Great Britain

David Cameron British Prime Minister

The recent announcement by the UK government to axe housing benefit for under 25’s reinstates the government’s lack of touch with reality. The plan goes as follows low-paid and unemployed young Britons shall be required to live with their parents if they cannot afford market rents because this will save the national budget 2 Billion pounds a year. Since, David Cameron took power the coalition’s major focus has been reducing Britain’s budget deficit, which peaked at over 156 billion pounds in 2009/10 or 11 percent of GDP.

But don’t panic!!! Mr Cameron insists that in special cases such as for young people who are victims of domestic violence and need a safe place to live, then the government will provide housing. However, he never listed any other special cases, such as young mums who cannot live with their parents because of lack of space or general economic pressures. What about these special cases Mr Cameron??

There are around 400,000 low-paid and unemployed young people in the UK. This is a significant number of young people, how can the government expect young people to afford market rent and realistically how can they expect their parents to continue to support them when they may too be low-paid, another economic factor is unemployment. Therefore, I believe the government should be concentrating on youth employment creation and developing opportunities for further education and training.

By taking this action of axing housing benefits for under 25’s the government simply further discriminates against under 25’s right to autonomy as young responsible adults. Mr Cameron argued that the current benefits system reduced incentives for people to work. However, most young people I know are desperately seeking employment but unfortunately there are not enough jobs or no jobs out there at all. It’s nothing to do with lack of incentive to work, of course there will be the few who don’t want to work but in these ‘special cases’ it is very much down to lack of confidence and self-esteem as they lack the skills to gain employment or may have left school with no qualifications.

‘For literally millions, the passage to independence is several years living in their childhood bedroom as they save up to move out; while for many others, it’s a trip to the council where they can get housing benefit at 18 or 19, even if they are not actively seeking work,’ said Mr Cameron.

‘It’s a TRIP to the council’, really Mr Cameron a ‘trip’ yes because we all know council housing is heavenly. Probably as majestic as number 10 Downing Street!! Furthermore, it’s difficult to successfully register for council housing. In reality waiting lists can take up to one year if not more. A ‘trip’ like we are all dreaming of the day we can get council housing and skip merrily down the street to the council?!

Society has always discriminated against young people from Socrates to modern day. I believe the solution to creating an independent generation lies in job creation, education and affordable childcare.

An Incredible Place

By Teresa Grandi, World YWCA Volunteer Intern 2012

Teresa Grandi

As a first year undergraduate, when deciding on the best work experience possible at that point in time I could hardly imagine anything other than making coffee and photocopies. I currently study anthropology and modern languages in England and my interest for gender studies and issues concerning human rights worldwide led me to apply for a one month internship at the World YWCA in Geneva, Switzerland. On first impression I found “the Y”, an incredible place to work in, where the working environment is supportive and welcoming. During the month spent interning, the tasks I was assigned varied, but I mainly focused on helping Juli Dugdale, World YWCA Global Programme Manager Women’s Leadership & Movement Building, plan and finalise her training trip to Nepal which took place in the beginning of May. I was happy to discover that the tasks I was asked to carry out often deepened my understanding and interest on issues of gender inequality around the world, particularly with regards to the countries involved in the Nepal training as I was asked to complete each participating countries’ profiles (Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Burma). I was also asked to design one of the exercises to be used in the training about the “Tamar Campaign”, this was one of the tasks I enjoyed the most as it allowed me to carry out personal research and to gain knowledge on a subject I knew close to nothing about beforehand. I would be lying if I said that helping Juli Dugdale plan the trip was an easy task, but the feeling of accomplishment on my last day, after seeing all that we organised, was priceless.

During my month as an intern, one of the things that impressed me the most about the organisation is the support system that the women at the Y have. The staff meetings welcomed everyone to cooperatively discuss and share what work had been carried out and questions from other members would usually follow. I found this aspect of Y life extremely impressive as it allowed for effective communication to happen among everyone and created a positive working environment which made it easy for all new members to integrate. I feel extremely thankful for having had the opportunity to intern (even if briefly) at the World YWCA during the month of April as it broadened my knowledge of gender inequalities around the world, especially with regard to young women in Asia, and it showed me the kind of environment I aspire to work within, in the future.

I want to thank everyone that made my brief internship at the Y a wonderful experience which I hope to repeat soon.

Click here for information on Internship Opportunities

Pacific Leadership Programme

By Veena Singh Bryar from the YWCA of Fiji

Field Trip Day!

Our day this morning started quite early compared to the other days. The reason being, that we had to make sure that we were all ready, have had breakfast by 8am to travel to the Pacific Leadership Programme (PLP) office which is situated in the city of Suva.  It took us close to an hour to get to Suva from Pacific Harbour (where we are having the Governance meeting and Young Women’s workshop).

The group consisted of the Governance group which was mainly board members, General Secretary’s, staff members of the YWCA’s here in the Pacific and the World Office, and we had all the young vibrant women of the YWCA from PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia.

The PLP team made presentations in relation to their work, the projects they fund, their recent research work on young women’s leadership models and we also had the opportunity to hear from our YWCA women.

To hear what these young women had to say was very important not only to me but to the rest who were present in the room. Young women’s leadership and empowerment is vital in their participation in all spheres of life, whether it be at a personal, public or political level.

The young women, who spoke, shared their priority areas of concern and their main issues. These women who spoke knew what really mattered to them and why they felt something should be done about it.  I mean, I listened intently and was also saddened because we have these young women who spoke and shared their thoughts and even did a short skit on their issues (violence, cultural barriers, finding strength/empowerment), but they still continue to struggle with claiming their spaces at various levels of society due to the various challenges that make it difficult for these young women to fully own their space.

How do we make our young women feel connected and included? How do we provide them with a safe space so they can gain the strength and get the support to believe that they are leaders in their own right?

This morning’s field trip reassured me that I didn’t have to question where the young women where. Young women are present in most areas of life and work and they are Leaders, we just have to realise it and support them. They are already doing leadership work we just have to acknowledge it. I saw true leaders today, and it was through these amazing young women! These young women of the YWCA are Leaders not for the future but for the NOW!

After the presentations, the Governance team had to return to Pacific Harbour to continue our Governance meeting while the young women had the opportunity to visit some Non- governmental organisations, which included FemlinkPacific and Fiji Women’s Rights Movement. We also stopped over at the Fiji YWCA office in Suva before we headed back to Pacific Harbour.

Our afternoon back in Pacific Harbour involved more governance and finance reporting discussions. This was important for all of us to understand why it is important to have programme activities and reporting to be in line with financial reporting systems.

We ended our evening with a delicious dinner and great conversations with amazing women of the YWCA!

Just in case you missed us on the Fiji National News, yes we did get coverage of our day at PLP and you also get to hear from some of the young women.

Please check this link out: http://www.fijitv.info/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/11.206233124.wmv

The Pacific Leaders Summit

Over the last two weeks the World YWCA held a Pacific Leadership Summit in Fiji. Below Heather shares their impressions of the second day:

By Heather Mcauley from the YWCA of Australia

Day 2 of the summit was our chance to learn about some of the amazing young women’s leadership projects in action across the Pacific Region.

We started the day hearing from the Solomon Island RISE UP peer educators. They are in the process of implementing a programme using drama, public speaking and other activities to help young women understand and access their human rights. One of the strengths of this programme is that the resource manual is designed to be fully self-contained so the peer educators do not have to rely on technology or other additional resources when delivering content in rural and remote settings. I loved the way this programme uses simple examples from lived experience to engage with human rights principals.

Next we shook things up a little and had a taster of the Y Victoria’s Fly Girl program which uses circus to help young women build confidence and to think critically about the world around them.  It was amazing to watch other women as they took on physical challenges that truly scared them. Everyone was so proud when they finally nailed it – inspiring stuff.  And our sumo wall was AWESOME!!

Future Leaders is a four year mentoring programme for young women aged 14 to 18 that we heard about from the YWCA of Aukland. The programme pairs young women with female mentors and gives them the chance to build leadership skills over a sustained period. The programme also uses physical challenges to help build confidence.

In the afternoon we heard from FemLink’s Generation Next and the Fiji Women’s Rights Emerging Leaders Forum (ELF). Generation Next supports young women to produce and present radio shows on issues that are important to them while ELF supports young women leaders to help understand their human rights.

I was inspired by the diversity of ideas, the commitment of the women involved to building the strengths of young women, sometimes using peers and sometimes through intergenerational leadership. My take home message is that there is no ‘right’ answer or ‘one size fits’ all just lots of great ideas being implemented by a lot of passionate women.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 93 other followers