Youth 21 Building for Change Stakeholder Meeting & Global Youth Leadership Forum on Inclusive Governance

Ida Ituze, Jacque Koroi & Joy Yakubu (L-R)

By Ida Ituze, from the YWCA of Rwanda and World YWCA Vice President

From March 15 – 18th UNDP and UN-Habitat, with financial support from the Government of Norway, was co-organised “The Youth 21 global initiative”. It gathered over two-hundred and twenty youth representing youth-led organizations and movements from across the globe, as well as UN Member States, members of parliament, private sector, civil society organizations, researchers and UN Agencies. The World YWCA movement was represented with three YWCA member associations attending the event, Ida Ituze, (World YWCA Vice President) from the YWCA of Rwanda, Jacque Koroi from YWCA of Fiji and Joy YAKUBU from YWCA of Nigeria. The presence of YWCA’s members in youth 21 was fruitful in different ways, apart from their powerful intervention they also serve as panelist and member of drafting committee.

The aim of Youth 21 is for youth to engage with the United Nations and support them in working towards democratic governance and sustainable development. The impetus for this meeting was the statement made by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who on January 25th, 2012, announced that youth will be a focus for the next 5 years of the UN, and that he was going to appoint a Special Advisor on Youth. Youth 21 calls for the up-scaling of existing good practices at policy and programming level aimed at strengthening the capacities of young women and men to participate and exercise leadership in democratic governance and sustainable development at all levels in and beyond the UN system.

Youth 21 identified a wide range of opportunities and reflected on the challenges arising out of the current global development context. It reiterated the need to see youth as a solution and not a problem. It noted the willingness of young women and men across the globe to play a more determinative role in democratic governance and sustainable development processes. It called for the removal of social, economic, and political barriers to youth participation, youth leadership and inclusion of youth within and outside the UN system.

Youth 21 has prepared the Nairobi Declaration and its recommendations. The Nairobi declaration follows up on the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s commitment to supporting youth empowerment globally through the appointment of a Special Advisor on Youth. The Statement commends the Secretary General on his commitment to youth and appointment of the Special Advisor. The Statement outlines a series of recommendations that seeks to assure that the Special Advisor has the mandate to fully engage youth globally, requesting that the Special Advisor be a young person who is able to mainstream youth in decision making across the system.

The Nairobi Declaration requests that the Secretary General goes further in engaging youth through establishing a UN Permanent Forum on Youth. The recommendation includes a suggestion that the  Forum  be constituted by different stakeholders including representatives of youth organizations globally, and would be tasked to work with the Special Advisor on assuring that the voices of youth, especially those most marginalized and vulnerable, be heard.

My Visit to Malaysia

By Nelly Lukale World YWCA Programme Associate

My visit to the YWCA Malaysia on the March 8-10, 2012 was a great experience for me. I visited the Klang branch of the YWCA, where they have two major projects; a children’s home and the a centre for young women and girls who are mentally challenged.

Nelly Lukale

This is a joint project by the National Council of Women’s Organisations and the YWCA of Malaysia. It was set up in 1996. It provides holistic help for women, children and teenagers in crisis situations, including victims of domestic violence, single mothers, rape survivors, abused children and run away teens. Their clients are always referred to them by the government and NGOs. Some of the children and young women at this centre are unable to leave and live independently as they have no family support and  are unable to earn an adequate income.

Its aims include:

  • Empowering women to take control of their lives and learn to make decisions as well as solve conflicts intelligently.
  • Provide temporary shelter for girls and women and their children in crisis situation.
  • Provide an opportunity to discuss their problems, either face to face or by telephone
  • Arrange for necessary support services such as medical, legal, childcare and job placement, where possible, either when at the shelter or after leaving the shelter.

Currently the home has 27 children from one to 16 years old. After 17, the girls join the Kuala Lumpur VTOC. The centre gets its food, clothes and furniture from well wishers and different donors. The home has volunteers who help take care of the children and the older girls also help take care of the younger ones. The youngest at the centre is one year old Baby Daniel who was abandoned by his Mother and was brought to the centre by his Aunty. The girls at the centre are thankful to God for giving them such a nice home and someone to take care of them and take them through school. They also appreciate the small group of dedicated women who are service oriented and ever willing to care for the need of girls, women and children in crisis situation.

 Pusat Kasih Sayang (centre for the mentally challenged)

This is a residential and day training centre for intellectually different women and girls. Types of disabilities Served:  Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome & Other Learning Difficulties This project was set up in 1993 and its aims are to:

  • Advocate for the recognition of these women as an integral part of society, who need attention, acceptance and protection.
  • To develop in them self worth and dignity and give them a sense of security and of being loved
  • To give each person the training suitable to their ability so as to enable them to reach their maximum potential
  • To assist, train and support them to lead as independent a life as possible.
  • To enhance their physical, mental, emotional, social, psychological and spiritual areas of life, so as to provide them with holistic development.

Currently the centre has 20 young women and girls. Food, clothes and furniture come from well wishers and various donors. The home has volunteers who help take care of the women during the day and matrons who take care of them at night. The biggest challenge faced by this centre is to find volunteer willing to come and take care of the women, even though they get very good support from the communities around who donate lots of food and furniture.. They recently acquired a home which is 95% complete and a van was donated to them, so now they can take the young women to participate in different activities. At the centre the young women are assigned different duties every day to keep them busy and make them feel useful. They are also taught different skills such as counting, using the toilet, praying and making their beds. Ms. Olivia Sia (Chairperson) is greatful to those who have helped sustain the centre and hopes to expand the project to cater for the elderly as well. It was a good experirnce to see how these young women have different talents and skills. The were also so excited to see me and wanted to be around me all the time, touching my skin, my hair and just staring at me because they cannot talk .

My visit to the YWCA Malaysia

By Nelly Lukale, World YWCA Programme Associate

Nelly Lukale and Ms. Bhaupalan Rajendram (Left to right)

My visit to the YWCA Malaysia on the March 8-10, 2012 was a great experience for me. This was the first time I visited a YWCA association out of Africa and my expectation was to see different projects from those we carry out in Africa. I first visited the Kuala Lumpur branch, which was created in 1913. The branch has a Vocational Training Opportunity centre that was started in 1998 and up to now has trained over 1,000 girls. The main aim of the centre is to empower economically disadvantaged young women and girls in Malaysia through skills training.

Courses offered include:

–          Computer science, Secretarial tools and Basic Accounting

–          Kindergarten Teacher Training

–          Sewing and Tailoring

–          Health Worker

–          Culinary and Bakery

–          Hair and Beauty

Trainees are attached to different kindergartens, nursing homes, beauty shops and restaurants to do their practical work, before they complete the one year course. Classes in Bahasa Malaysia (Malay national Language) and English are given to the girls to improve their skills as few of those girls who have never been to school are taught how to read, write and speak in Bahasa Malaysia and English. The centre brings girls aged 16 and above from churches, welfare associations and mosques. They come from disadvantaged homes and must commit themselves to the one year training and comply with the VTOC rules and regulations.

I had a great time with the girls. We did a self evaluation and each girl told her story and why she decided to join the centre. Most girls had lost hope in life because their parents/guardians could not pay school fees. They were so grateful to the YWCA movement for giving them this opportunity as now they have the self confidence that they can make it in life. With the skills they are gaining at the centre and the strong relationship they build with each other, they are confident of becoming independent and respected young women who will achieve their goals in life. Some of the girls wanted to continue with the diploma course immediately after the one year course, but the majority want to first set up their own business and later continue their education. These young women and girls also have access to co-curricular activities organized by the staff and volunteers of the centre. Job placements are also carried out wherever possible. The girls are prepared to face the employment market with practical help given on resume preparation and interview skills.

I was also able to meet other staff, volunteers and board members of the Kuala Lumpur branch of the YWCA. My highlight was meeting Mrs. Rasammah Naomi Bhupalan Rajendram, one of the oldest members of the movement. She is 84 years old but very strong and comes to the office every day to help run errands. She joined YWCA as a teenager and helped her mother who was then a YWCA member to pack gifts for the less fortunate and also organised Christmas parties for them. Mrs. Bhupalan is one of the first women involved in the fight for Malaysian (then Malaya) independence. She joined the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, the women’s wing of the Indian National Army, to fight the British and served in Burma during World War II. Mrs. Bhupalan was a teacher in the Methodist Boys School Kuala Lumpur (MBSSKL) from 1959 to 1964 and was the principal of the Methodist Girls School Kuala Lumpur (MGSKL) for 13 years from 1970 until she retired in 1982. She always kept her membership to the YWCA, an association which is growing stronger each day.

My visit to the Kuala Lumpur branch was concluded by a sweet poem written by Alice Aruthan, the General Secretary of the branch.

Through the years of toil and care, we now admire the YWCA everywhere, what good efforts we had put in has bound us as women in need. To care, share and love to everyone we meet. There is no greater joy than to have my community’s needs. May God continue to give us strength in the work we do. God bless all, not only for now but for the years ahead too. So let us live up to our motto: “By love serve one another” to everyone we know.


Alice Aruthan, General Secretary, YWCA Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

March 9. 2012

Reflections on the Commission on the Status of Women

By YWCA of Canberra Executive Director, Rebecca Vassarotti

Advocacy Team Convenes for Resolutions

CSW is a forum for learning for YWCA delegates, with eight Y women coming together to work on text for resolutions that are being developed as part of the session.

We worked on the resolution around women and the impacts of HIV and AIDs. This was something that none of the participants had done before and we used this as an opportunity to understand the process of how to develop language for UN documents.  We worked through the document, noting areas where key issues for the YWCA had been missed and making suggestions on language – noting places where we needed to look at agreements that the UN had already made on this issue to ensure that Governments could agree to our suggestions. We have cross cultural perspectives, with Sweden, Zambia, Japan, Sri Lanka and Australia represented in the discussion. YWCA women with experience and an interest in climate change, sexual and reproductive health and post conflict situation. This was a fantastic opportunity to ensure that the views of young women were represented in the advocacy work of the YWCA.

These young women now have skills around the development of advocacy positions in the United Nations, they have had their views heard here. They have given voice to women, young women and girls impacted by HIV and AIDs and ensured that nation members listen to these.  Pretty Exciting hey!!

Brooklyn Family Justice Centre

Thanks to the wonderful Martha, CEO of YWCA of Brooklyn we arranged a tour of the Brooklyn District Attorney General’s Family Justice Centre which was attended by Australian delegates including Elizabeth Brodrick, the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner.  We were able to tour this fantastic site, which integrates support services and criminal justice services for victims of domestic violence.  This program has come about because of a personal commitment by the District Attorney. He has devoted part of his budget to these services, often to significant criticism due to a belief that supporting victims should be placed first, and then legal ramifications of this crime addressed.  The physical space was beautiful. A significant security process (akin to going to an airport) and a non descript office space hid a beautiful welcoming space. Childcare facilities, internet access, resources and support offices are provided. The space where clients work with the prosecutors is in direct line sight to where children are being provided care. Police officers are on hand for clients who need to file incident reports but these police officers are plain clothed. Over 20 community organisations are provided space for free so that they can provide additional support. This was an amazing example of what can happen when someone has a vision, when clients are placed in the centre of services and when a dedicated group of people come together to make things better for those who have suffered violence. It was inspiring and proved that we can do things better.

YWCA Australia Presents as part of the Commission for the Status of Women

We were very excited to present our very first parallel event at this year’s Commission for the Status of Women on the fifth day of CSW.  The workshop explored how grass roots organisations can contribute to national reconciliation processes, particularly drawing on the YWCA experience of using reconciliation action plans. Michelle Deshong, an extremely skilled facilitator and Indigenous woman from Queensland facilitated the workshop. We provided information about some of the historical context from which reconciliation has grown. We then shared the story of developing a reconciliation action plan at the YWCA of Canberra, reflecting on the challenges and why we believe this has been a very useful process. Then other delegates from Burma and Sri Lanka shared their experiences coming from post conflict regions about how reconciliation processes could be useful. Key message from these reflections included the need to involve women and ensuring that there was peace with justice.  It was a session where we all learn a lot and shared our different perspectives. We were extremely proud and honoured to have the opportunity to tell our stories in this international context, and particularly proud that we were able to create a space where the voices of Indigenous women were heard.  We are particularly grateful to Michelle who brought an extra dimension to the workshop.  A great way to finish a busy week at CSW!!

On my way home

I am sitting in Los Angeles Airport at a late hour, reflecting on the incredible week we have just had at CSW. We have had incredible achievements and we are very proud of what we have done. Key highlights from my engagement at CSW have included watching the young women delegates develop and shine at this event. They came as shy young women coming from countries with tremendous challenges, and at the end of the first week all of them have presented at workshops confidently and competently. We have also established our reputation as a key advocate at this event.

From a YWCA of Canberra and YWCA Australia perspective we have much to be proud of.  We have made new friends, strengthened old ones and developed ongoing and sustainable relationships with individuals and organisations from Australia and beyond. We have lifted our profile at CSW – presenting parallel events and supporting other YWCA events. We have supported the development of young women across the YWCA movement, contributing to the training program significantly.  We have led the advocacy team, working closely with World YWCA to develop advocacy statements and skilling up the delegation to contribute to the development of the statement and then advocate for the adoption of key themes.

Thoughts on Report from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) 19th Session Human Rights Council

By Hannah Yurkovich, World YWCA volunteer

Before sitting in on this Session organised by Human Rights Watch, I knew very little about the situation of North Koreans in their country and those who chose to escape. They showed a documentary of the human rights situation in the country, focusing on children, women and political prisoners through interviews with North Koreans who were able to leave the country. We also had the privilege of hearing first hand the story of one woman who had recently escaped North Korea, having lived in forced prison labour camps for 28 years.

It was explained to us that in North Korea, the people are trapped in a strict social cast system, where jobs are predetermined to follow the same path as a family member’s parents, where lower and insufficient food rations are passed around, and where the chance to follow higher education is only allotted to the elite cast. The capital city, Pyongyang, is reserved for this class, and its residents are frequently screened for political background tests. Mistakes or anti-government records of a family member will permanently mar his or her relatives across all generations. Hye Sook Kim, the woman who gave her personal testimony about the situation in political prison camps, shared that her family was imprisoned because of a grandfather who had escaped to South Korea long ago during the war. For most marked family members, the crimes that they are arrested for remain unknown, and no one dares to ask guards what they are being accused of, for fear of torture or execution. Kim’s own father was punished severely for this mistake, and her own siblings who are thought to still be in the camps to this day, still do not know of the family history that Kim had discovered just after she had left the prison in 2002.

Even for those who have avoided the fate of the 200,000 political prisoners, survival is almost impossible for those whose ancestry is less fortunate. For children, education is basic, and many lose the motivation to go to school as they know that their future is already written out for them. Schools force manual labour on young students, making them do ‘special assignments’, involving the collection of raw materials, such as animal skins or metal, which are said to provide supplies for their soldiers. Many children choose to beg on the streets, working as ‘Kojebi’, to fight starvation. But many freeze to death, and in the streets of North Korea, corpses are widespread. And since the community is slow to dispose of dead bodies, rats are large and proliferate, especially in the prison camps. For those in the prison camps, long hours of manual labour are assigned with little food, and many are tortured, raped, and live in particularly difficult conditions where bed bugs are numerous, and prisoners consequently all contract skin diseases. Sexual abuse against children is allegedly more socially acceptable in this country where most citizens have never even heard of the term ‘human rights’. After the age of 28, if women in the camps have proven themselves to be hard workers, they are allowed to marry, as Ms Kim did, though in many cases the options of men are much older, and their children are born into these camps, where infanticide, perpetrated by the guards, is not unheard of.

Religious affiliation will also leave a mark on an individual’s family and, like Hye Sook Kim’s grandfather, escaping North Korea’s borders is considered a crime that affects the individual’s family. The only possible escape route is across the Tumen River that separates North Korea from China, and although this is a deadly route, many who have lost hope of survival choose to take it anyway. Others, especially women and children, seek someone to buy them, and they are then forced into prostitution or other forms of forced labour.

Although escape into China is sometimes possible, those who succeed, risk repatriation back into North Korea, where severe punishment or execution awaits them and their families. This People are trying to put pressure on China to end their stance on considering North Korean refugees as illegal economic migrants, which is against the Refugee Convention of 1951 and the 1967 protocol. This is where the international community can come in. Many refugees seek resettlement in South Korea, where there are currently around 23,000 North Koreans.

For those who have escaped through the long and dangerous routes through China and Thailand, large loans are a common problem, as brokers aid North Koreans in getting to South Korea under the condition of handing them large sums of loaned money. This is another area where the international community can help empower women to find an independent way of supporting themselves, and providing a safe passage for these refugees.

North Korea has signed 4 human rights treaties but continually denies that it is violating human rights. There is also an on-going food crisis that is one of the most serious in the world.

The YWCA of Korea (South Korea) is a member of the World YWCA since 1924. At the World YWCA Council meeting in Zurich, Switzerland in July 2011, the movement adopted a Resolution calling for peace and strengthening the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s women and children’s human rights. More specifically, the Resolution called for the YWCA movement to:

  •  Work together to promote women’s human rights, including implementation of UNSCR 1325, 1820, 1888 and 1889, and to influence policies that would ensure safety and security for all women and girls
  •  Advocate for increased representation of women at all levels of decision-making in times of peace, conflict and post conflict
  • Support and mobilise women, young women and girls to advocate for peace
  • Raise awareness about the situation of women and girls in DPRK and DPRK refugees, and call for immediate action by the international community
  • Support DPRK refugees throughout the Diaspora
  • Lobby for and participate in humanitarian aid to DPRK women and girls
  •  Organise a witness visit to the Korean peninsula DMZ.

So What About the Boys? The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality in Rural Communities

Jenna Lodge

Jenna Lodge

By Jenna L. Lodge, YWCA USA

Sponsored by the Canadian delegation, this session focused on engaging men and boys in gender equality initiatives worldwide.  The majority of discussion was founded on the conclusions of Plan International’s 2011 report.

According to Minister Amboise, “gender equality benefits everyone.  It promotes development and inclusion in providing health and human services.”  Men and boys must be educated about gender equality and sensitized about what it means to their country and community.  Participative, inclusive methodologies must be introduced to men and women, boys and girls to create gender equality.

A prime example of gender inequality and male domination can be found in areas of Pakistan.  To this day, women and girls are still considered secondary to men and boys.  Girls cannot go out of the home unaccompanied by a male.  One in seven girls under 18 is forced into child marriage.  In Cambodia, only one in thirteen girls reach high school level due to male dominated suppression.

Best practices of inclusive gender equality initiatives include creating a place to talk about gender equality, child marriages, and the unacceptable use of dowries (that suppress women’s rights) outside mosques.  This initiative directly engages men and boys where they socialize on a daily basis.  It creates a dialogue around these topics and enables men and boys to participate in finding solutions.  In rural India, designated violence-free zones create an environment for the reversal of gender-based violence and increase gender equality among villagers.  The “Bell Bajao!” (Ring the Bell in Hindi) campaign serves as a leading example for intervention in cases of violence against women in the home.  Bell Bajao has reached over 124 million people around the world.

We must engage men and boys in the gender equality discussion because they serve in most decision-making positions in government, community leadership, and in homes around the world.  In fact, women only account for 8% of decision-making positions in governments worldwide.  Men and boys must have a role to play in equality, accountability, and gender equality implementation.

We must change typical gender-based stereotypes.  Enable boys to play a key role in their own development instead of leaning on traditional gender roles.  Enable girls to participate in gender specific sex education curriculum in schools.  We must focus on a life cycle approach to gender equality instead of reinforcing traditional practices as related to gender roles.  Financing equality – by working with UN Women, empowering women politically, identifying rural women and providing them with adequate support and resources – are integral components of gender equality.

In conclusion, to be effective, gender equality must be founded on prevention, protection, and provision of legislation. Gender equality and violence against women is a social issue that calls for everyone to be an active participant in the solution.

Inside the Commission on the Status of Women: We are here for them

By Muna Killingback

Muna Killingback

What you see:  delegates seated at long rows of tables the UN is known for.  Each place has a plaque in front of it, identifying the country delegate seated behind it.  Each seat has a microphone as well and a set of headphones for simultaneous interpretations but today these delegates are speaking in English.  We are not in the General Assembly room but another large meeting room.  On the dais are the members of the bureau who manage the meeting.  The chair, a male diplomat from El Salvador, is skillfully guiding the meeting using that refined diplomatic language that the UN is generally known for.

This is the official UN meeting part of what is globally called the Commission on the Status of Women.  This is the actual UN Commission at work.  Their task is to listen to each other—and the NGO representatives of civil society—to debate, and finally agree on and adopt, by the end of the two-week period, the lengthy list of changes suggested by the delegates during the course of the meeting to a long document drafted in advance, of agreed conclusions focused on the theme of this meeting, which is: the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges.

So far, this morning there have so far been comments on both the process—whether to focus on the microcosm, going paragraph by paragraph, or looking at global themes.

Referring to a line in the text, the US delegate has just pointed that you can’t say that you have a “global food crisis in the developed world.”  Argentina asks question regarding the procedure.  The chair notes explains that some delegates received instructions from their capitals at the very last minute and that it is useful to hear the rationales behind the textual suggestions.  The Swiss delegate says they will withdraw their proposal in favor of a suggestion made by India.  Now the Holy See makes several suggestions, noting its opposition to the term “sexual and reproductive health.”  Turkey, Japan, Jordan, and the Dominican Republic also have suggestions.

One example:  Switzerland suggests a change in this recommendation: “Incorporate a gender perspective in legislation, policies and programmed on rural to urban migration and on international migration.”  They would like to say “internal migration” instead of “rural to urban”.   The EU delegate, however, likes the specificity of “rural to urban” and would like to keep it and possibly add “and other types of migration” to satisfy Switzerland.   Switzerland now explains that they preferred “internal migration” because gentrification in urban areas could lead to urban to rural migration as well.

It sometimes feels like a giant exercise in editing by committee.  Sometimes the changes are small, minute in fact.  But sometimes what might seem like a minor alteration in the text might have much more profound implications.  One has to pay attention and the women’s organisations like the World YWCA do.   This document is important because when countries we come from adopt it, they are legally obliged to implement it its terms.

The World YWCA’s large delegation of 70 women, at least half of whom are young, has an advocacy task force focused on this document and trained to lobby their government delegates.  Some of us like Roseline Toweh, the general secretary for the YWCA of Liberia, are even  of our official government delegations.

At daily morning briefings at 7 am, World YWCA delegates share ideas about how this document can best serve the needs of young women, and all women, based on our own experience of women’s needs, based on our work with grassroots women back in our own countries.  We strategize how to get these ideas to our government delegates, noting which are most open to input from NGOs.

We come here with our local, national, and international knowledge and help shape global policy that influences national policy that in turn will impact lives of the women we work with.

We are here in the room to carry the messages and magnify the voices of the women back home who could not be here. We are here for them.

CSW – Women, Media, Revolution: Amplifying voices of women living on and reporting from the frontlines

This panel, organised by Joan B. Kroc Institute for peace and justice, was by far one of the most energising and interesting panels for readers, bloggers, writers, activists and social media observers. Some of the questions shared in this panel had to do with how women are represented in the media: “How women are covered, when women are covered, and how women are not covered in media.” Women are mostly represented in lifestyle categories, and the category where women are the scarcest is in foreign affairs. There is a deafening silence from women that is enforced through the headlines, and the question that presents itself is: Should women be “exposed”, should they be pointed out, or should they be left alone.

Interesting observations were shared by the very active media panellists – from journalists to bloggers to women film-makers – covering stories of women from different parts of world. Some of the perspectives shared had to do with working towards civic journalism that goes beyond “state power” – and the target to change the way a story is told in order to sell the story.

In the discussion that followed, panellists also shared some of the sources they feel are the best to “get news from.” One of the panellists went as far as suggesting to turn the TV off altogether, and not to be a passive receiver of news and to know that there are viewers’ rights to be aware of before coming across commercials. Some of the suggested sources for news reading shared were the Christian Science Monitor, Global Post, the Atlantic, and the New Yorker and Vanity Fair foreign posts. Grit Daily and independent documentaries made to address issues of women were suggested viewing. Two of the influential documentaries shared were Abigail Disney’s “Women war and peace” series and Mimi Chakarova’s “The price of sex.”

YWCA in action at CSW

For the YWCA delegation, the first day of CSW was one that was full of much learning, sharing and coming together as a global movement.  We have been working hard on our advocacy programme. The first day saw us finalise a statement that we are now sharing with Government delegates and other advocates around how we suggest the conclusions statement may be strengthened. Key priorities include a stop to early marriage of girls, reducing violence against women, young women and girls, increasing rural women’s access to sexual and reproductive health, supporting rural women impacted by HIV and AIDs and increasing rural women’s access to a decent wage and livelihood.

The YWCA led and participated in many sessions. Particular highlights included the intergenerational workshop and the young women’s caucus. There were also exciting network opportunities created. The Australian Human Rights Office organised a coming together of Australian and Asia Pacific NGO delegates and it was fantastic to get to know each other and hear the ways each organisation is working in the region.

Reflecting back on the day, many of us felt that we had crammed weeks of learning into this one day. Already we are witnessing an increase in confidence in many of our YWCA women, and young women from the YWCA are taking leadership roles across CSW – presenting at workshops, convening the young women’s caucus, attending side events and meeting many people.  If this is what we have achieved in one day, imagine at the end of two weeks… It is so exciting to imagine sending these young women back into their local communities and local YWCAs.