The Global Sisterhood

By Michelle Higelin, World YWCA Deputy General Secretary

Elizabeth Palmer

I am in a car heading out of Los Angeles to Claremont to meet with a group of YWCA leaders who have retired to a small Californian community called Pilgrim Place. I’m feeling a little nervous as I will be meeting with Elizabeth Palmer, a living legend in the history of both the World YWCA and the international women’s movement.  Under her leadership as General Secretary of the World YWCA, the movement expanded throughout the world and we were widely known as a leading women’s NGO, chairing NGO women’s forums preceding international women’s conferences in Mexico, Copenhagen and Nairobi. She later tells me that our respect came from being able to convene all women’s groups to discuss the issues that mattered and not get caught up in the politics. On the two occasions I have met Elizabeth before, I know she is a woman who dares to speak her mind and she will tell me if we are not living up to her expectations.

So the car arrives, deep breath, and I descend upon Pilgrim Place.  I first meet with Mary Douglas, who despite wanting to retire here in the late 90’s, keeps getting asked to come back and support YWCAs get back on their feet.  In the last decade she has been the Interim Director of four YWCAs in the USA and has been able to turn them around from struggling groups to viable organisations.  I ask her what has been the secret to her success and she says it is leadership development and ensuring YWCAs have the skills and people they need to be able to prosper.

I also meet Betty Jo Anderson, whose story tells me that she is someone the YWCA quickly identified as a leader and continued to find new challenges to keep her busy, working at her local YWCA, the national and then later the international. She shares how she went to Turkey to set up the YWCA in an environment where organisations were unable to have Christian in their name, so she set up an organisation, which for ten years flourished as the YWCA by another name.

Elizabeth arrives.  She tells me that she is one of the oldest pilgrims at 99, although make no mistake she is sharp.  Immediately, she is questioning how we express the Christian values in our work today.  She stresses the importance of creating space in the movement to discuss who we are as the YWCA and remaining grounded in our faith and values.  Elizabeth remarks “That we are clearly talking about important issues but are we”, she says, “listening to the woman and girls who make up this great movement”.  Elizabeth says, “That this listening must inform what we do at all levels”.  The human rights principle of participation springs to mind.

Solidarity across the movement is another important message Elizabeth shares.  One of the reasons that YWCAs flourished all around the world during her time was the support of sister associations.  In Elizabeth’s day, mutual service saw YWCA women from strong associations travel to other countries to support their sisters in setting up systems and solid organisations.  Today we see this expressed in the partnerships between YWCAs like Canada and Honduras, but there is something important in this message that centres on movement building and the ability to support our sisters in times of need.

I ask these impressive women what is their vision for the YWCA movement of the future.  Mary is clear – we must train young women to believe they will be the next President of their country.  If we want to change the world we live in, we must be preparing our leaders to take up the highest positions of power and to be clear on the change that needs to happen.  Elizabeth asks only that we listen.  She says that we need to know our movement; we need to create space for women from communities around the world to express their concerns and our leadership must respond accordingly.  Clearly, this listening and responding is what distinguishes a movement from an organisation.

During the afternoon, I meet other YWCA women who form part of the Pilgrim Place sisterhood, including Tinker who spent 30 years in Japan with the YWCA of Sendai and Marilyn from the YWCA USA, as well as other women who have been connected to this great movement at different levels. As we talk about issues of identity, Mary remarks that we are not for everyone, but the YWCA is infectious.  Once you first encounter the YWCA, it is difficult to leave as these women’s stories so aptly highlight.  Elizabeth shares that in her day, being at the YWCA was much more than a job. I don’t tell her that I’ve always known this. We reflect that one of the special qualities of the YWCA is the global sisterhood.

As I am leaving Elizabeth apologises for being so frank.  I tell her that I wouldn’t expect anything less.  She has inspired me to think deeper about how we build a movement that goes beyond paper into real practice; how we can create stronger connections among women and YWCAs around the world, and be a movement whose heartbeat is connected with the dreams and aspirations of women in local communities.  They have all taught me that we cannot afford to rest on our laurels and the great history that these women have shaped, we must mobilise the global sisterhood towards improving the living conditions of people everywhere and seize the power to make this happen.

Female genital mutilation – my story

By Kezia Bianca- YWCA of Kenya

Kezia Bianca

My name is Keziah Bianca, I am 22 years old and work at the YWCA of Kenya – Kisii branch. Kisii is a place renowned for practicing female genital mutilation and as a girl who grew up here, I was not an exception. I cannot blame my family for making me go through this inhuman act, as the society dictates it. In my culture it was considered unclean for a girl not to go through the practice.

The reason why I am writing this is to say to the girls who faced female genital mutilation like me, to still trust in life and a brighter future. It doesn’t matter what happened, or how your past has been, you can still have a future if you stand up and let your voice be heard. Talk about how you feel and also protect the young girls who may be facing the wrath of the knife as you and I did.

Allow me to take you through my personal experiences of Female genital mutilation (FGM) as I am a survivor of a clitoridectomy.

My community practices FGM type one which is partial or total removal of the clitoris, because they believe that the clitoris is unclean as it makes one sexually active. I strongly oppose this and believe that refraining from sexual relations before marriage is all about one’s attitude and values and it does not have anything to do with the removal of the clitoris.

I remember 7 years ago as if it was yesterday. The scar still remains fresh in me. I really didn’t want to go through FGM, but because in my village all the girls of my age set had gone through it, I didn’t have any option but to follow the community traditions and it’s the community that dictates, not you. It was on the 7th December 1997 when all this happened to me. It was 5 in the morning when I heard some women talking outside our house. I didn’t know that they had come for me, to create a scar of a lifetime. Innocently like a sheep to be taken to a slaughter house, one woman came and told me that I should wake up as it was my day to become a woman. I didn’t believe my ears but because she insisted, I woke up. I felt some kind of fear and felt like my whole body had frozen. She took me outside where women were singing songs and ululating. By that time my mother was nowhere to be seen, at least to see the state I was in and to help me. All I wanted at that particular point was to see her so that she could see the pain in my eyes and tell them to let me be. But I think she could not have helped me because she thought that it was a rite of passage that I should go through.

According to my community during this fateful day, your mother is not supposed to be present as they believe you will cry and call her for help and as a woman who bears the pain of giving birth, a mother can’t stand to see the pain that you are going through. Together with me in that group there was my friend, I could see in her eyes too the fear she had but we could not help each other as we were so young and were not given a chance to say NO. They sang songs while taking us behind our house and we were made to sit on a very cold stone. Because of the fear, I refused to be the first to sit so I stood there staring at the stone, and it was such a cold morning. My friend was made to sit first and I watched her go through the cut and this is one thing that is still fresh in my mind. Then after my friend it was my turn, they took a piece of cloth, tied it around my eyes and held my head back and then they gave me another piece which they put in my mouth so that I could bite it during the whole process to ease the pain. Two women held my legs and hands so tight that I could not move. Still from the background I could hear the women singing and I felt that they were celebrating my pain, but the real reason for the songs was to diffuse the cries so that nobody can hear me crying. Then I felt a very sharp pain between my legs. This was a turning point in my life. The pain I felt can’t be described; thinking of it brings cold shivers inside me. I was circumcised, I felt incomplete and completely out of control. I could not control the tears from my eyes as they spoke the magnitude of the pain that I was feeling. After that I was taken in a house where I sat in a room crying and cursed. The pain I was going through was unbearable. At the back of my mind so many questions were going through my head: what will happen after this? Will this pain ever leave my life? Will I be able to walk again in my life? So many questions crossed my mind. I was made to stay in that room for three weeks and was not allowed to shower for the entire three weeks. It was also not good for me to be seen as they believed that I would heal faster if nobody saw me, especially a man, except the special woman who was taking care of us. My life took a complete turn, I felt wasted and hopeless – the rest is history.

Because of the pain and agony I went through, it made me take the resolution to stand up and fight for the rights of the girl child. I believe that if by the time I underwent FGM, I had known its dangers I could not have gone through with it. That’s why I resolved to join the YWCA of Kenya and advocate for the rights of girls and young women and give them a future minus regrets, a future where they can stand up for their rights and the rights of others. A future where they can say No and be heard by society.

At the YWCA of Kenya – kisii branch, we have this programme where we train young girls from the age of 10 and above on alternative rights of passage, how to say NO to FGM and also on their rights as girls and young women. At the end of the training they graduate and are awarded with a certificate to show that they have gone through a stage of their life that qualifies them as circumcised but still gives them a chance to continue their education. We also train parents and circumcisers on the effects of FGM and what the law says about circumcising girls. The circumcisers are also taken through business skills training and ways of starting alternative income generating activities, as most of them claim that it’s only through circumcising girls that they feed their families. I can say that as an organisation we have played an important role in educating the community and the practice has drastically reduced, there are now minimal cases reported. We also have youth programmes where we empower them with information on their sexuality and how they can make a change in their communities.

FGM is an inhuman act which affects a girl’s biological make-up. As a girl I strongly believe that I have the responsibility to protect young girls from this act. To end these harmful practices and advance more equitable social harms, programmes and schools should address the issue early in the life of girls in order to alter the cultural expectations. Women and men should be made aware of the fact that living free of violence is a basic human right. Also, well-meaning parents who view FGM as a way to prepare daughters for marriage should change their behaviour and recognize that the practice is a violation of the rights of girls.

As a girl who went through FGM, I believe that there is a future for me and I have a purpose in life. My advice to all girls who experienced FGM is that there is still light at the end of the tunnel. Life has to go on. Our society believes that once you have gone through FGM you are ready for marriage, but it all depends on your priorities and what you want from life. You can still bury your traditions and walk with your head up high. When I was circumcised I was only 15, I had a dream of educating my community on the dangers of FGM, and I wanted to be an example by telling them how it feels when you abuse the rights of the girl child. Let us come out openly and be ready to stand up for the rights of the girl child. it takes efforts to tell the world that FGM is outdated and outlawed. I am still accomplishing my dream and I can’t stop until FGM becomes history in our community.

Through the YWCA of Kenya, I was given an opportunity to be part of a youth exchange programme called Communication for Change (CFC). My new job in Norway allowed me to learn that you can make the change that you want to see in the world despite your background, your culture or your past. Before I joined this exchange programme, I still had faith that I could fight FGM on the community level without being ashamed to use my story as an example of the injustices that the girl child goes through. As a girl who went through FGM, don’t sit back fearing what the world will think about you now that you are circumcised. Stand up! Make your voice heard and help other young girls out there. It is my hope that this story will give you hope and convince you that  must still give a lot to the world to make a change.

Working together for a better future

Aju Nyachhyon

Aju Nyachhyon

By Aju Nyachhyon, a young woman  from the YWCA of Nepal

In Kathmandu, Nepal on the 28th of April 2012 the World YWCA held a week long training ‘Mobilising Young Women’s Leadership and Advocacy’.  The training titled “I am a young women, I am a leader” was organised by Juli Dugdale, Women’s Leadership & Movement Building World YWCA Global Programme Manager. The training aims to increase the capacity of young women and mentors in order to build and exercise leadership in their lives, communities and to advocate for their rights. In total 18 young women and five women from six Asian countries including Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Myanmar participated in the Nepal training. One participant, Aju Nyachhyon  from the YWCA of Nepal shares her experience:

This last week has been an awesomely busy yet fun week. I have made friends from so many countries, all young and all leaders. I am at training for mobilising young women’s leadership and advocacy with the World YWCA. All countries taking part have so many stories, different yet so similar, all related to the different issues and concerns of women. From sexual and reproductive health and rights or violence against women, all countries have had lots of issues. It’s been a truly great experience being involved and learning about project implementation.

Between the training, we went for a field visit to a slum area in Kathmandu. The women and their families welcomed us with lovely local flowers and it was a nice time being with them, knowing them and the difficulties they have overcome in their lives. But it was great to witness the strength and determination of the mothers in supporting their families. It was clear that they are very much aware of their health issues in their area and are working with each other to solve their problems. They were extremely aware of the importance of having to be empowered, self-dependant and healthy.  One woman commented that “This is thanks to the YWCA of Nepal and the programmes they deliver in the area”. YEAH US, the YWCA of Nepal!! I felt so proud in that moment. However, those in the slum areas still have some significant problems with government who are trying to destroy their houses and this is a major concern because they have nowhere else to go and little income. But today it was great to see happy faces and cooperation despite the hardship.

I’m having a time of my life here! And its last day…Lots of memories.



Happy to be a World YWCA member

Young participants

By Bethel Tesfaye – YWCA of Ethiopia

From April 17-21, 2012, the World YWCA held a regional sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) training session in Arusha, Tanzania and in Nairobi, Kenya, with 20 young women participants gathering from a number of African countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Zambia. One of the participant, Bethel  shares:

The training I participated in, in Arusha and Nairobi, was crucial as  I  gained  new insights, improved my  knowledge, experience and skills in addressing gender issues and challenges faced by  girls and women  in diverse communities and socio-economic groups . This will be helpful in the context of Ethiopia, and especially for the SRHR project we are implementing at the YWCA of Ethiopia.

Most importantly, the research I compiled according to the EDHS of 2011 shows significant findings such as that the Total Fertility Rate (annual number of live births per 1,000 age specific groups of women in the country) declined to 5.4, due to the increased use of contraceptives by rural women. There is, however, a difference of 35% with the wanted fertility rate, which is 4.0. It was noted in the DHS that this gap is the result of unmet needs of contraceptives and the complex web of tradition and religion which leads to a low percentage of women using them. Although this seems contradictory, it has been noted that despite the prevailing traditional norms that define women’s value around motherhood, a lot of young married women are deciding to control their sexuality through the use of contraceptives. Demands are rising sharply, due to the improved reproductive health policies in Ethiopia, but services are still not adequately responsive, especially in rural areas. As we integrate SRH and FP issues in our projects, this analysis can assist us at the YWCA of Ethiopia to decide on where we need to work.

I believe that young women and girls have the right to enjoy a better life, and a critical focus on their sexual and reproductive health rights is necessary if they are to access equal rights to education and health services. Thus, in spite of the positive changes which have taken place so far, there is a long way to go to ensure gender equality and secure women’s rights in all socio-economic areas. After I attended the training I understood the importance of evidence backed advocacy to influence at individual and institutional policy decision making level. I found the training and review of the report very useful in contextualizing the situation of women and girls in Ethiopia and Africa, in order to identify key areas for intervention.

Our societies are still very patriarchal and discriminatory. Although attitudes are changing, women’s social role is primarily defined through motherhood and homemaking. With little or no opportunity to live up to the demanding ideals of womanhood that are imposed by society, women experience different degrees of discrimination. But this experience in Arusha and Nairobi showed me that there are women in Africa who have fought against discrimination and hold responsible positions in high level institutions.  I took a moment to reflect on what I am doing in the YWCA Ethiopia programme I am coordinating.  The vulnerable girls and young women I am working with are now receiving sexual and reproductive health services and information, and as a result, they have become more assertive in negotiating safer sex, making informed decisions and setting short and long term aspiration goals, which if achieved, will improve their lives.  These outcomes have made me happy and allowed me to gain inner satisfaction regarding the work I am engaged in, and given me confidence in knowing that some day, somehow, I will be successful like my sisters with whom I shared experiences in Arusha and Nairobi.

The other important defining experience was the training in Nairobi by the Population Council. It was amazing, and clarified my thoughts on the proposal I am currently working on, on the topic “asset building”. It was an eye opener for me, I now understand that if we incorporate asset building in all of our projects, it could change a lot of things. After the training I had many ideas on how to add the asset building strategy in the new project. On a personal level, it also gave me time to reflect upon which assets I have which I should work hard to build and how important it is to have social assets, especially for women like me in Africa.  I really liked the notion that every woman and girl should have at least 3 friends she trusts, whom she can confide in. I hope to develop such a network through my work at the YWCA  and have friends across the movement who will help me build my social and human assets.

I am passionately looking forward to attending other programmes like this one, because I need to be  exposed to more knowledge and skills and develop a deeper understanding of the various perspectives, policies, strategies, legal frameworks, which will be instrumental in improving girls’ and women’s issues and gender equality, both in my country and in the whole world.  As a practitioner, the exposure I had has provided me with various approaches to plan, organise and lead youth programmes. And this opportunity leaves me with a big responsibility towards my future work.

I am so grateful to work in the YWCA Movement and feel indebted to the World YWCA for giving young women a chance.

My experience in Arusha and Nairobi

By Céline Uwera, YWCA of RwandaCéline Uwera

From April 17-21, 2012, the World YWCA held a regional sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) training session in Arusha, Tanzania and in Nairobi, Kenya, with 20 young women participants gathering from a number of African countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Zambia. One of the participants shares

My name is Uwera Celine. I am from Rwanda; I am 30 years old and single.  I have been a member of the YWCA of Rwanda since 2002 and now I am the Secretary of its Board of Directors.

I was pleased to take part in the Training on Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRHR) held in Arusha (Tanzania) and Nairobi (Kenya) from 17 to 21 April, 2012.  I learnt a lot and acquired new knowledge.  It was a good opportunity to share our YWCA experiences  in addressing sexual reproductive health  and gender based violence of women from the different countries represented – Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Zambia and Nigeria, Benin and Angola. I was specially by touched by the challenges faced by the Maasai women and girls where cultural practices such as polygamy and female genital mutilation are practiced, and girls get married at a very early age (10 years) !  And, I appreciate the way the YWCA is doing its best to eradicate these practices which increase vulnerability of young women leading to higher rate of new infections especially among young women between the ages of 15-24.

Furthermore, the training provided by the Population Council Team in Nairobi was very interesting because it gave us clarifications on young women’s SRHR needs.  At this training we learnt that needs are very different according to the age of the young women, the area in which they live, their socio –economic status and their academic level, etc.  They urged us to take into consideration their differences when intervening with adolescents, because all girls are not the same, and their needs and dreams are very different.  For instance, we understood that there are different assets categories for girls according to their age.  A four year old girl hasn’t the same needs as one of six; the same girl at 12 may have different needs and assets compared to the 18 year old.

I learnt from the Population Council that the differences between physical, financial human and social assets, how they can be used to reduce vulnerability and expand opportunities for girls in different age groups. The way of providing and managing assets for each group is also different. addition, I was interested by the choice of communication channels which should be preferred according to the target group and the number of people you wish to reach: radio, meeting, door to door, training, face to face, flyers, posters, schools and universities,…

These skills are crucial and will personally help me to improve my work as a YWCA member by participating in capacity building of young women on SRHR and providing them with accurate information and skills to prevent new infection and support those infected or affected by  HIV AIDS..

I am really thankful to the YWCA Rwanda General Secretary Pudentienne Uzamukunda and World YWCA Global Programme Manager for SRHR and HIV Hendrica Okondo for the support and the opportunity to participate in this training and I congratulate the young women who participated in both the workshop and training as I will continue to network with them to ensure our voices and needs of young women are heard at national and regional level.

“I am a young woman, I am a leader”

By Marcia Banasko – World YWCA Programme Associate-Communications Some participants of World YWCA Asian Young Women’s Leadership training

I currently have the honour of being part of the World YWCA team in Nepal at the World YWCA Asian Young Women’s Leadership training. I arrived in Kathmandu nearly one week ago; I left rainy Manchester, UK expecting sunshine and extreme heat. However, when I stepped off the plane in Kathmandu the rain was pouring down and the sun was hidden behind grey clouds, very much like England! There was one difference I was surrounded by the majestic Himalayas!

After, a short taxi ride I arrived at the hotel and was greeted by Draupadi Rokoya, the General Secretary of the YWCA of Nepal.

The training tagline “I am a young woman, I am a leader” aims to increase the capacity of young women and mentors in order to build and exercise leadership in their lives and communities and to advocate for their rights. In total there are 18 young women from 6 different YWCAs participating in the training;  Nepal, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. In addition to the young women there are five women over 30 years old from the above countries who are participating as mentors to the young women and these five women have also been engaged in mentoring training throughout the week.

In my role as Communications facilitator, I have ran a full day’s workshop on communicating your message and developing a communications strategy. The day proved fun and informative as the participants engaged in planning public campaigns on HIV and AIDS. One young woman from India shared her experience as a person living with HIV and this truly moved and inspired the group because she has overcome so many barriers in her life. Having married at 18  she felt she was not in a position to negotiate the practice of safe sex and then became pregnant only to find out that she had contracted HIV from your husband. Her husband then abandoned her and she was discriminated against by her local community who labelled her a sex worker, although of course she had never been one. She said the thing that has kept her going is the YWCA of India and her faith in God. Her daughter is HIV negative! Now, this young woman advocates for the rights of those living with HIV and AIDS. Furthermore she runs awareness workshops in her local community.  She is just one example of the amazing YWCA young women who are true leaders of today and tomorrow!

Yesterday, we all went on site visits to different organisations and communities in and surrounding Kathmandu, some to the Human Rights Commission, the Tibetan refugee camp, the main hospital and slum areas . I had the pleasure of going to Thankot, a rural community just outside of Kathmandu. There I met a group of women and young women who are members of the YWCA of Nepal. These inspirational women and young women have set up a women’s awareness group in their community with the aim of creating a safe space for women to come together and share their stories, their problems, and find solutions. One young Muslim woman shared her journey with us and described how she had been a victim of domestic violence and started attending the group once a week. In the group she found a support network who offered her advice and guidance. Little by little she found the strength within her to leave her husband. She explained how she didn’t know how she was going to survive because she also has a baby boy to raise, and no income; however at the YWCA she attended a microfinance course and a beauty course. Now, she works in a beauty salon and makes just enough to get by.  While in Thankot, we also visited a health clinic run by the government. One of the YWCA members conducts outreach from the clinic as a health worker. She too attended training at the YWCA of Nepal, the training was SRHR training. Armed with the knowledge she now goes and speaks to young women about their sexual health and rights.

As the week draws to a close, I am feeling humbled and honoured to have had this opportunity to engage with these wonderful women and young women from across Asia. Just under two weeks ago I was asked to step in and lead the communications for the training. I jumped at the opportunity because I believe in young women’s leadership and I feel passionate about Asia and the challenges that women, young women and girls face across the continent. Sadly, it never ceases to amaze me how violence against women, SRHR and human trafficking are global problems that exist in every corner of the planet. However, the thing that fills me with hope for the future is every single woman and young woman I have met this week!

We are young women and we are leaders!

From participation to leadership: World YWCA Experiences 56th session of the UN Commision on the Status of Woman, 2012

By Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda – World YWCA General Secretary

I write to share some reflections of the experience of the World YWCA in the last four years, with a specific focus on this year’s experience with the 56th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). As I sat in that room with Mildred Persinger, Mikoko Ejiri and the young women like Sandra Cano and Tania Chapata who were in the space for the first time and yet were assertive in their knowledge and experience. I felt that sense of the YWCA movement reclaiming its space as a global leader and champion for women’s rights, for empowerment and for options and choices.
I immediately recalled the leadership role of the YWCA in the 1940s as we lobbied for inclusion of non discrimination on the basis of sex as the minimum language in the universal declaration of human rights, my mind travelled back to 1975 when Mildred Persinger convened the first international women’s tribune during the first UN Women’s conference, and the dame Nita Barrow’s role in leading the 3rd UN Women’s Conference. I am refreshed by the experiences of former general secretaries Elizabeth Palmer, Elaine Hesse steel, Musimbi Kanyoro with their own history of engagement with the global multi lateral systems of the UN and other bodies creating space, opportunities and possibilities for women and girls.

The CSW is an important intergovernmental space for normative agenda setting and monitoring the previous commitments of the UN. Following the Beijing conference of 1995 the CSW has followed the core themes of the platform for action in monitoring implementation. It is convened within a period of two weeks in February and March of each year. Over the years the effectiveness and importance of the meeting has continued to be affirmed, though communities and women’s networks have been seeking the outcome to be more influential and have greater impact on the global development agenda.
The World YWCA is one of over 350 organisations that formed the GEAR campaign, a global loose coalition of mostly women’s organisations advocating for stronger gender architecture at the United Nations. This campaign was seeking a United Nations mechanism that has greater status within the United Nations system, increased and quality resources to deliver on its agenda, and a greater coherence between the normative and operational mandates. This resulted in the United Nations general assembly adopting a decision in 2010 to establish the United Nations entity for gender equality and women’s empowerment, now known as UN Women, which became operational in January 2011.
This was coming from a background of fragmentation with four entities and structures leading work on gender equality and women’s rights including Unifem, Instraw, UN Daw and Osagi, whose collective mandates included operational programmes in countries and communities, research and knowledge management, gender mainstreaming and supporting the normative work of the United Nations and high level advisory support to the UN secretary general. It is within this space, that the 26th World YWCA council adopted a recommendation urging the movement and requesting the World office to engage more strategically with the gear campaign.

Since 2007 the World YWCA took a deliberate approach to engage strategically with CSW. Following the experiences in 2009, it became evident that if the World YWCA was to have impact in its involvement, and move from participation to influence, we had to adjust the approach, the focus and the resourcing of this process. It was and remains evident the quality engagement in the CSW requires both financial and technical resources and it’s important to have quality time dedicated to monitoring and influencing the processes. The World YWCA and its member associations repositioned its approach to include the following elements. This is not exhaustive but illustrative.

  • Generate the organisational statement with key message to inform the key debates.
  • Partner with other organisations and host side events as a lead or co-sponsor.
  • Host an orientation and advocacy training institute for the delegation.
  • Leverage the strategic role of member associations with their networks ie Helvi Sepila seminar.
  • Have YWCA women and young women as speakers, experts, facilitators and resource persons. Encourage, support and mentor for everyone to have a role.
  • Establish an advocacy and negotiating team that follows the governmental processes.
  • Remain connected with the NGO CSW structures as they coordinate and facilitate thus offering opportunities to leverage more quality participation.
  • Get involved in the ecumenical women’s groups, the young women’s caucus and the other women’s network.

To achieve the above, the CSW has to be adopted as a movement wide opportunity for engagement.

2012 Statistics at a glance:

  • 70 Women leaders attended from the YWCA movement.
  • 32 Benefitted from the training.
  • 10 events were hosted by the world YWCA.
  • 4 YWCA women had opportunity to speak during the NGO consultation day.
  • 11 YWCA women speakers in various events during the two week programme.
  • 6 Coordinated advocacy team.
  • 40 Coordinated and participated in the young women caucus.
  • 11Attended the WSC reception.
  • 11 Participated in events hosted by the UN or governments.

Despite the fact that the 56th Session of the UN CSW did not manage to adopt a final set of agreed conclusions, the process itself opened opportunities to individual women within our moment, created partnerships and increased the voice of the world movement in the global space.