Launch of YWCA Pacific Young Women’s Leadership Strategy at CHOGM

By Caroline Lambert, Executive Director YWCA Australia

Caroline Lambert represented the YWCA at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October. Every two years Commonwealth leaders meet to discuss global and Commonwealth issues, and agree collective policies and initiatives. CHOGMs act as the principal policy and decision-making forum to guide the strategic direction of the association. They are organised by the host nation in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat. Caroline writes about the launching of the YWCA Pacific Young Women’s Leadership Strategy.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was held in Perth, Western Australia, from October 28-30, 2011. The theme was “Building National Resilience, Building Global Resilience”.

On October 27, YWCA members joined a roomful of CHOGM side-event participants to launch the YWCA Pacific Young Women’s Leadership Strategy. The Strategy will help develop the current generation of Pacific women leaders. It sets out action areas that will support young women to be safe, respected, included, connected and skilled. In a highlight of the evening, young women from Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Kiriabti and Fiji brought to life the issues affecting young women’s leadership development in the Pacific – starkly reminding us of the violence that many young women experience and challenging us to ensure that we work with young women rather than “at” young women.

Introducing Australia’s newly appointed Global Ambassador for Women and Girls, YWCA Australia Vice President Roslyn Dundas, reflected on the importance of leadership positions which bring a focus to the issues of women and girls. Ambassador Penny Williams spoke of her recent visit to Vanuatu, where she spent time with women and men working for gender equality in urban and regional areas of the community, and learnt first-hand of the challenges of geography in transforming the cultural practices that inhibit women’s leadership in the Pacific. Reflecting on her position, Ambassador Williams acknowledged the importance of high-level political commitment to women’s leadership in ensuring that the impacts of policies on women and girls are considered. As we enjoyed the hospitality of our hosts, RSM Bird Cameron, we discussed the importance of moving conversations on gender equality into more resistant environments. We talked of using a range of arguments – from those which put forward the social justice and fairness principles to those which count the economic costs of failing to recognise women as equal partners. And we talked of recognising that our success measures might be different when we work in contexts that don’t value gender equality – and that what we might count as a failure at the time could, ten years on, prove to be a turning point in an individual or institution.