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!