Survive, Thrive and Transform!

Blog written by: Vanessa Anyoti, SRHR and GBV Program Coordinator at YWCA of Tanzania

“Every Woman Every Child. This focus is long overdue. With the launch of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, we have an opportunity to improve the health of hundreds of millions of women and children around the world, and in so doing, to improve the lives of all people.”

— United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

July 27th – 29th, 2015 I attended the UN Secretary Generals Global Strategy on Women’s Children and Adolescents (Every Woman Every Child) Health Adolescents Work stream Meeting hosted by UNFPA HQ, in New York. After a delayed flight, and spending two days in Amsterdam as a result, I arrived in sunny New York and ready to participate in the meeting.

The Every Woman Every Child initiative was launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the United Nations MDG’s Summit in September 2010. The Every Woman Every Child initiative is a global movement that mobilizes and intensifies international and national action by governments, multilaterals, the private sector and civil society to address the major health challenges facing women and children around the world.

The meeting was focused on placing – by being able to account for – adolescents at center of the Global Strategy of the Secretary General on Women’s and Children’s Health. The inclusion of adolescent health in the Global Strategy of the Secretary General on Women’s and Children’s Health, represents a unique opportunity to place adolescents on the political agenda beyond 2015.  Ensuring that every adolescent has the knowledge, skills, and opportunities for a healthy, productive life and enjoyment of all human rights is essential for achieving improved health, social justice, gender equality and other development goals.

Participants of the meeting included Youth, representatives form WHO, UNFPA, UNAIDS, The World Bank, Lancet, UNICEF and the like as it was agreed at the meeting of the adolescent work stream on 4th   June 2015 that moving forward, there is a need to support all stakeholders, including governments and youth networks, to make commitments on adolescent health with the aim of strengthening investments at the national level in adolescents.vanessavanessa

We know too well the fate and reality of our adolescents and young women. Far too many are burdened by child and early forced marriage, teenage pregnancies, illiteracy, sexual and gender based violence, HIV/AIDS, etc. Participating in the meeting and representing young women and adolescent voices was both inspiring and saddening. Saddening because more adolescents and youth need to be involved in such processes, and they ought to be able to represent themselves in their diversity. Inspiring, because including adolescents in the Every Women Every Child initiative will help ensure that adolescents will be counted, and being counted shows relevance.

The meeting also focused on providing governments with an evidence base for adolescent health priorities, developing advocacy strategies for country commitments on adolescent health and developing strategies for mobilization and participation of adolescents and youth.

So what can we do next? Keep advocating and lobbying governments about the importance of adolescent health. Strengthen community and local capabilities to scale up implementation of the most appropriate interventions and advocate for increased attention to women’s and children’s health and increased investment in it.

Supporting a commitment on adolescent health will ensure that we create a better future for our youth, where young people can realise their full potential.

I would like to extend my gratitude to UNFPA for inviting me to participate in this meeting, and to the World YWCA and YWCA of Tanzania for nurturing me and allowing for me to participate in this meeting. Your mentorship is admirable.

 

En stage à la YWCA Mondiale – une réflexion sur mon expérience par Lucrèce Falolou, YWCA Bénin

Le 15 juin 2015 a débuté la 29ème session du Conseil des droits de l’Homme à Genève. Ce Conseil des droits de l’homme est un organe intergouvernemental du système des Nations Unies, composé de 47 états qui ont la responsabilité de renforcer la promotion et la protection des droits de l’homme autour du globe. Et comme l’a dit Ban Ki-moon, Secrétaire général des Nations Unies, “Toutes les victimes de violations des droits de l’homme devraient être en mesure de se tourner vers le Conseil des droits de l’homme comme un forum et un tremplin pour l’action.” Ainsi, Plusieurs débats ont rythmé les travaux de cette session, en particulier les débats sur :

– les droits de l’Homme des migrants ;
– La lutte contre les inégalités et les droits de l’Homme ;
– le droit à la santé, le droit à l’éducation ;
– les droits des femmes et des filles, les violations et les discriminations faites à leur égard ;
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Il faut noter que tout au long du conseil, qu’un accent particulier a été porté sur les droits, l’autonomisation, le leadership des femmes et leur participation à des instances de prise de décisions politique et économique ; avec la tenue d’une journée entière le 19 juin sur ces questions.

A cet effet, j’ai eu l’opportunité et le privilège de participer en tant que « Jeune leader » au panel 2 sur « les femmes dans les instances de prise de décisions politique et économique ». Au cours de ce débat, j’ai partagé avec l’assistance, mes expériences acquises à la YWCA et le rôle que les femmes leaders, mes mentors, ont joués dans ma formation de leader. Mais aussi, j’ai mis l’accent sur les multiples obstacles rencontrés par les femmes, les défis à réaliser et enfin j’ai invité toutes les jeunes femmes à «oser la différence» et à prendre des risques, afin de laisser l’espoir triompher de la peur et le courage vaincre la timidité. Oser la différence, c’est forcer à s’ouvrir la porte d’entrée sur le marché du travail ; Ceci à travers l’éducation. Car, l’éducation des femmes est primordiale : c’est la fondation sur laquelle repose tout le reste de l’édifice. Sans une éducation de qualité, on prend le départ avec un lourd handicap.

Par ailleurs, ma participation à cette conférence et à la fois mon stage au bureau mondiale de la YWCA a été pour moi une expérience inoubliable. Car ceci m’a permis en un premier temps de faire la connaissance de plusieurs personnalités, institutions et amis. Ceci m’a permis également de plaider la cause des femmes et des filles aux différentes sessions, réunions et évènements parallèles à la conférence. Comme par exemple ma réunion avec son Excellence Mr Eloi LAOUROU, Ambassadeur du Bénin à Genève.

Ensuite, j’ai acquis de nombreuses expériences notamment sur les stratégies de plaidoyer, le lobbying, un nouveau style de rédaction, les logistics, de nouvelles méthodes de communication à travers les réseaux sociaux, le rôle joué par les différentes institutions de l’ONU et les Organisations de la Société Civile, puis la manière dont les lois sont votés.

De même, j’ai remarqué qu’au bureau de la YWCA mondiale, on ne travaille pas silencieusement, mais on raconte des histoires et on rit beaucoup, sans oublier pour autant le travail à accomplir. L’atmosphère de travail était parfaite, cordiale et surtout fraternelle. J’ai connu des collègues très gentils et j’ai tout de suite été incorporée dans le processus de travail. J’étais impressionnée par l’amabilité et la patience avec laquelle les gens s’armaient à essayer de me comprendre avec mon anglais « maladroit ». Mais ainsi, de jour en jour j’ai pu voir que mes connaissances de langue s’amélioreraient. Aussi, suis-je venu ici pour deux semaines et déjà j’ai eu le sentiment que j’avais travaillé ici pour une éternité ; je me suis senti chez moi. Egalement, les gens se sont donnés beaucoup de mal à m’aider en tous les sens ; ils ont essayés de rendre mon séjour agréable que possible. Il y a tellement encore de choses à découvrir ici, mais dans mon cœur subsistent beaucoup de souvenir de nombreuses personnes merveilleuses que j’ai connues pendant mon séjour : Linnea , Pauline, Caroline, Mandy, July, Rita, Marcia, etc. C’était tout simplement une expérience passionnante, magnifique et mémorable.

Short-term Internship, Long-term Experience

By Oluwadamilola Fagade – YWCA of Nigeria & World YWCA short-term intern 2015

When I missed my connecting flight from Frankfurt to Geneva, a very traditional part of me was thinking ‘if I have started with this, I hope my short stay in Geneva will not be as dramatic’.

IMG_20150619_153138336My experience turned out to be a huge blessing. The first day at the World YWCA office surpassed my expectation. The homely arrangement that gives you this comfortable sense of belonging and the very warm members of staff coupled with the efficiency with which programs were being run had a huge effect on me.

My fellow short-term intern, Lucrece Falolou from the YWCA of Benin and I proceeded to spending the first day of the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council to learn more about the HRC, its key themes and events and the participation of the World YWCA.

The Human Rights Council is an intergovernmental body within the UN system that has been saddled with the responsibility of promoting and protecting the rights of human around the globe. It consists of 47 member states that are elected every three years and a bureau of 5 persons acting as the President and Vice Presidents. The HRC has 10 specific agendas guiding its operations. The first three items are thematic, fourth and fifth items are country specific, item six is called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and finally items seven to ten are technical assistance.

Throughout the duration of my internship at the World YWCA and participation at the HRC, I had the opportunity of attending various side events and debates and discussions, in particular topics on:

– Harnessing Faith and Culture: Addressing women’s rights and addressing VAW.
– Addressing Child, Early and Forced Marriage: National and Regional perspectives.
– Human Rights of Women: Eliminating and preventing domestic violence against women and the role of Women in economic and political decision making.
– Women and Natural Resources: Realizing Women’s Peacebuilding potential through Inclusive Natural Resource Management.

I also listened to the reports of the Special Rapporteurs on VAW, Right to Health and Right to Education and their emerging interactive dialogues. In addition to my experience, I had the opportunity of working with the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the UN in Geneva and my major responsibility was to draft statements from the UPR of some member states, which I saw as a very great privilege.

Furthermore, I had the privilege to participate as a panellist at a side event organised by the World YWCA together with its partners on “Technology and Economic Empowerment: Limitless possibilities for women and girls’ participation in the domestic sphere”. In this space I shared my experience as a young woman leader, the highs and lows of technology and economic empowerment amongst the young women in Nigeria.

Because of this experience my horizon has been broadened as I now have a wider scope of the works of the YWCA. I learnt how to use a twitter handle efficiently, I had my first webinar and gain and understanding of the importance of having a healthy work-life balance.

I will now return to Nigeria with a wealth of knowledge on new strategies of advocacy, improved communication skills and a better understanding of the operations of the UN. I am sincerely, thankful to the World YWCA for these invaluable experiences and also grateful to all the wonderful women in the office who have made my stay very comfortable and worthwhile.

Taking a bite of Basel – Swiss Exposure

By: World YWCA Programme Associates – Karolin Jogel and Yeuk Ting Chan

Little did we know about this amazing cheese and chocolate country, called Switzerland before visiting Basel for our Swiss Exposure. It was a valuable experience to get an insight of the different institutions and organisations in Switzerland.

We got to observe the parliament council – ‘Rathaus’ whilst issues related to the public society were discussed. Coming from Hong-Kong it was a special experience to observe the civilized process of democratic decision-making. Every citizen could bring their initiatives, proposals of social issues into the parliament council and more importantly, the government bodies will take their voices into consideration. It was really interesting to see the approaches of social policy making which encourages citizens to take more responsibility about their own decisions, which results a greater sense of social involvement.

A very good introduction to Switzerland’s healthcare systems and cantonal structures were given by Dr. Lukas Engelberger from Basel’s Health Department. We also had the opportunity to visit the University Hospital and get an insight into what takes place behind the scenes of running a big hospital.  This included standing on the heliport and walking through the underground facilities were the robots also operate.

In addition to this, we had a city tour organised by the Section on Equal Rights for Women and Men in Basel. The officer introduced us some current phenomena of gender equality in Basel. The most impressive work they have been doing is gender education in school level which is very inspiring. They broaden teenagers’ thinking about their future development possibilities regardless of their gender but their potentials and interests. It is critical to plant the seed to break down the gender stereotypes at an early age within the education system.

Our Swiss Exposure was a truly fruitful learning experience. We highly appreciated the efforts of all organizers and facilitators, especially the World YWCA and Vivian Beetle for all the work for putting the programme together.

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Water pumps under Basel University Hospital

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On the heliport, on top of the University Hospital

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Robot passing by

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City tour organised by the Section on Equal Rights for Women and Men

What is ICT for you?

By Muonyelu Adaeze – The YWCA of Nigeria

What is ICT?
Should girls be involved in ICT?
Can girls prove proficiency in ICT?

All these questions cannot be answered if we do not understand the concept of Information Communication Technology (ICT). This is something that is all about the future, and this future has started.adezzee

One cannot survive or attain great heights without information. Information simply means communicable knowledge if a thing. It is only an informed person that can communicate effectively and only a person who has been informed in technology can communicate in technology.

In my opinion young girls should be involved in ICT in any way that they can. Some will say technology is for men, ignoring that!

ICT is even used everywhere such as in the kitchen where we use the microwave, the cooker, the oven, the dishwasher, the washing machine. Is this not ICT?

As the world is advancing, women are needed in the advancement. Let us all rise and embrace ICT.

As you have proved proficient in your kitchen equipment, you can also prove proficient in the world of ICT.

Whatsoever you want to achieve, you should endure till the end. Young girls, technology will take you to places of great achievement. In one accord, let’s all advance with the advancement the world is embarking on.

International Girls in ICT Day is celebrated around the world in April every year. The main goal is to make girls and young women aware of the vast possibilities offered by ICTs and give them confidence to pursue ICT studies and careers. Watch the video of this years celebration made by the U.S. Mission to Geneva.

My Internship Experience at the World YWCA Office

By Anne McNamara – World YWCA Intern

To be completely honest, I knew very little about the World YWCA and its specific mission prior to beginning my internship here in Geneva this past February. While I was drawn to the position as a self-proclaimed feminist, I only understood at a basic level its mandate to promote women’s rights worldwide, and I did not fully realize the breadth of the YWCA’s efforts to advocate for marginalised women and girls across the globe. Moreover, I could not shake an overwhelming sense of self-imposed intimidation, as I questioned what could I, as a 20 year old woman, possibly contribute to the global movement for women’s equality?

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However, in my very first day at the office, my fears immediately dissipated as I was warmly welcomed by some of the most passionate, genuine, and dedicated women I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Immediately, I was treated not as a lowly school girl intern, but as a woman with a unique voice and perspective whose ideas should be valued. This reality was made evident during my first week when I was invited to participate in a meeting to discuss the new Strategic Plan for the movement. While my friends interning with different organisations bemoaned the fact that their days consisted of coffee and cigarette runs for their superiors, I had the opportunity to come into the office every day excited and ready to actively contribute to the movement.

Throughout the duration of my internship, I became increasingly enlightened not only to the unfathomable injustices women face such as early forced marriages, gender based violence, and female genital mutilation, but also to the concrete efforts and campaigns led by the YWCA in order to combat these injustices, both at a grassroots and international level.  Before my time here in the world office, I saw only the obstacles women face— immense and seemingly insurmountable. Nevertheless, after my short time in this office, I now see the concrete efforts, large and small, that have been implemented by regional Y chapters to address these obstacles. Because of this exposure, I will leave Geneva with a renewed sense of hope and optimism of the future of women and girls worldwide, despite the numerous challenges we must overcome.

Furthermore, my experience here at the Y, and in Europe in general, has released me from the perpetual “bubble” I found myself trapped inside back in the United States. I grew up in a very secluded, homogenous town, surrounded only by people who possessed similar experiences to my own. However, my time abroad has exposed me to a multitude of people with different backgrounds, opinions, and cultures—a diversity of perspectives that had been lacking in my life prior to this experience. I am so grateful to the World YWCA office in particular for broadening my perspective.

The personal growth I have experienced due to the time I have spent as an intern at the YWCA is invaluable. I am so thankful for this experience and for the women in the office who have touched my life, for however a short time. I will return to the U.S. ready to spread the YWCA’s message, and confident in my abilities as a young woman leader.

FALOLOU – Funmilayo Lucrece YWCA Benin

Du mardi 19 au jeudi 21 mai 2015 s’est tenue la réunion mondiale des membres de Girls Not Brides (GNB) qui a rassemblé 295 participants représentant 61 pays différents. L’objectif de cette réunion est de :

  • Renforcer le partenariat mondial par le biais de la collaboration, du développement de réseaux et l’apprentissage mutuel ;
  • Autonomiser et permettre aux organisations membres de renforcer leur capacité à mettre fin au mariage des enfants ;
  • Développer une concordance stratégique au niveau communautaire, national, régional et mondial.cassa 028

En effet, le mariage forcé constitue non seulement une violence faite aux filles mais aussi une violation majeure des droits humains. Cependant, nombreuses filles (15 million) continuent d’être victimes de part le monde entier de ces pratiques traditionnelles (mariage précoce et forcé  et les mutilations génitales qui accroissent leur valeur sur le marché du mariage). Ce phénomène, prive les filles de leur enfance et les oblige à abandonner les études pour une vie sans avenir, avec un risque accru de violences, d’abus, la mauvaise santé ou la mort. Ces pratiques perdurent malgré l’existence de textes de loi spécifiques incriminant les actes de violences perpétrés sur les femmes et les filles et les efforts fournis par les Organisations de la Société Civile (OSC) et autres institutions de défense des droits de la personne.

C’est dans cette optique que, le partenariat mondial GNB a été créé afin de mettre fin au mariage des enfants, avec pour ambition ultime de donner aux filles la possibilité de s’épanouir et de devenir des membres à part entière de la société. Les objectifs stratégiques du partenariat se résument comme suit :

  • Renforcer la sensibilisation aux conséquences néfastes du mariage des enfants à l’échelon local, national et international ;
  • Renforcer le soutien politique et financier (entre autres) en faveur de la fin du mariage des enfants et du soutien aux filles-épouses ;
  • Renforcer l’apprentissage et la coordination au sein des organisations qui œuvrent pour mettre fin au mariage des enfants ;

Cette réunion mondiale est donc la bienvenue, car elle a permis une réelle mobilisation à tous les niveaux (local, national, régional et international) pour la fin du mariage des enfants de manière efficace, efficiente et durable.

Ainsi, en s’appuyant sur les expériences des membres du GNB, les participants à ces assises ont durant ces trois jours, collaborer pour mettre en œuvre  des outils et des stratégies de plaidoyer en vue d’inciter les organismes internationaux et régionaux à agir pour mettre fin au mariage des enfants et également influencé les actions du mouvement mondial.  Cependant, plusieurs canaux de communication pour la vulgarisation des informations ont été identifiés. Nous pouvons citer entre autres : les nombreuses communications dans les médias, les bulletins d’information et les réseaux sociaux.

De même, tout au long de cette réunion, les discussions se sont axées autour de plusieurs thématiques se rapportant, notamment, au partenariat mutuel pour la fin au mariage des enfants, à la nécessité de placer les enfants parmi les priorités sociales, aux approches pour stopper ce phénomène et aux engagements des communautés pour un changement.

Ce fut d’une part, un véritable moment d’échange et de partage d’informations, de bonnes pratiques, de renforcement de capacités et de mise à niveau, d’éveil de conscience et d’autres part une véritable plateforme de débat et de réflexion afin de sensibiliser les sociétés à la nécessité d’éradiquer ce phénomène pour le bien être de nos enfants et pour un monde plus sûr, plus sain et plus prospère pour tous.

Par ailleurs, selon certains intervenants, la volonté politique des dirigeants n’a jamais été aussi importante. Par exemple, nous avons :

  • La campagne de l’Union Africaine ;
  • Le nombre croissant de stratégies nationales mise en place par nos gouvernants ;
  • Le plan d’action régional, etc.

Donc, les progrès réalisés démontrent qu’il est bien possible, avec la volonté, de faire baisser le taux des mariages d’enfants. 

Cependant en tant que membres de GNB, nous devons prendre nos responsabilités pour accompagner cette volonté politique et s’assurer qu’elle se traduise en action.

Alors, tous ensembles, travaillons la main dans la main pour mettre fin au mariage des enfants !!!

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