Still much to do against gender based violence

By Kealy Hastick from the YWCA of Great Britain

Kealy Hastick from the YWCA of Great Britain

Kealy Hastick from the YWCA of Great Britain

Kealy Hastick participated in the ‘Y Campaign for Change’ conference organised by the YWCA of Great Britain. She shares her experience.

This conference has been a real real eye opener, I mean I know violence against women (VAW) was a global problem but watching the video on VAW really put it into prospective how much work is still needed to eradicate VAW not only within the UK but worldwide. Whilst watching the learning partnerships short film on VAW-“From Fear to Freedom: Ending Violence against Women”, I was shocked by how much people use excuses such as religion and culture to justify acts of violence. It made me feel so angry and frustrated that common sense and morality was lacking from these people’s minds, that choosing honour over your sister’s life made sense to some people and that women and children can and have been brainwashed from a young age to think its ok to be treated that way!

On another note, on Friday afternoon we did a VAW quiz which highlighted just how common VAW is in the UK, with reports to the police every single minute for domestic violence. I was shocked by how many women are killed by domestic violence and the fact that it is still going on in a country (UK) that is supposed to be supportive and forward thinking in human rights.  I was also shocked by how many women were ok with and accepted being treated in an aggressive way and how many young people were subject to dating abuse.

I’m hoping that all the young women and women at this conference continue to campaign for change because we need to work together now more than ever! I truly learnt so much being part of the conference and I pledge to raise awareness on VAW.

Inspired in Korea

Priya Shastri

Priya Shastri

The ITI in Korea was an inspiring experience for me. In the spirit of solidarity, it brought together women from all over the world; some of them came to teach, some of them came to learn, but all of us came together to work towards ending violence against women at all levels. It was absolutely wonderful to wake up in the morning and be around such positive women. Solidarity was my take- away from this conference. The ITI conference reminded me there are women all over the world working towards the same goal as me.

The most valuable tool that any one woman can possess is knowledge. I learned this from the strength of all my colleagues and from all the personal stories they shared from their respective countries and cultures. We cannot change what we do not know. So while listening to some of the recounts was difficult, hearing the voices of these women is crucial in catapulting change. Change needs to be embedded in the minds of people. We need to change what people think they know about women.

It feels like I am returning home with the voice of 50 women from all over the world. The campaigns and practices shared through the ITI conference reiterate the abundance of support and resources available to women advocating through the YWCA for ending violence against women.  The creativity of the women I met ensures that I don’t have to re-invent the wheel; their successes are my successes and our successes build capacity and strength everywhere.

The experiences at this conference have reaffirmed the resiliency within women all over the world.  It was truly an honor to meet empowered women who lead change in our world and it makes my heart smile to know that although we are walking in different places we are taking every step together.

Together we CAN DO IT!

The European YWCAs Representatives Meeting (ERM) and Young Women’s Summit took place 1-4 November 2012, hosted by the YWCA of Czech Republic in Celakovice. Below two participants share their impressions:

By Olga Mineeva, International Coordinator from the YWCA of Belarus

Olga Mineeva

This was the first ERM I have ever attended in my life.  It was an awesome event welcoming the YWCA women from all over Europe and a special guest Jacque Koroi from the YWCA of Fiji. The ERM provided a unique possibility to see how big and forwarding we are as a regional body. There were many different workshops to participate in on such important issues as women’s leadership or violence against women, strategic planning or fundraising, you could drop into a specialised session of your particular interest to find the answers, debate and take part in decision making. The ERM has contributed to strengthening and empowering our ideas, efforts and strategies. My philosophy is “Together we CAN DO IT! So, LET’S DO IT!”

ERM 2012, November 1-4

By Zhenni Matshkalyan, from the YWCA of Armenia

I am a young delegate from Armenia.  For me it was my first ERM participation. During the Young Women’s Summit and ERM there were many interesting discussions, topics and also some different ideas being debated. This kind of meeting teaches me and exposes me to different ways of thinking. Different angles and answers appeared during discussions.

During this meeting I met many intelligent, interesting, and experienced women from different countries. 0n 31stof October we had a welcome dinner and engaged in fun activities as a way of getting to know each other better and for creating a warm atmosphere between the young women.

Zhenni Matshkalyan

The main activities of European Young Women’s Summit were on the 1st of November. During the summit we spoke about transformative leadership, about participants’ dreams and aspirations for future including personal dreams within the YWCA. There were many discussions about young women’s leadership and also we did group work to identify priorities for young women’s leadership in European YWCAs. As part of the preparation for the ERM an outcome document was drafted by 25 young women from 14 member associations, during the Young Women’s Summit. The next day the document was presented to the participants of ERM.

The second day consisted of concluding the young women’s summit and starting the ERM. There was a group discussion about leadership and partnership exchange among YWCAs. Some participants of the Summit shared their leadership experiences and shared how they become leaders. During a group discussion we also talked about “shared leadership”. The day was filled with different activities: panel discussion for women and young women, young people in Europe, speeches and discussion about World YWCA opportunities for engagement. Then in the evening we enjoyed the welcome event of YWCA of Czech Republic.

On the 3rd of November, the ERM Business Meeting was officially opened. During the session “Programme and Partnership exchange”, I participated in group work about young women’s leadership. Firstly we have discussed what shared leadership is, than there were presentations about YWCA Young Women programmes and we had an interesting discussion.

Armenian delegates were observers which meant that we were more watching and listening than participating in the actual business meeting and voting process. For me it was interesting to see how the voting process is done. European YWCAs voted for some amendments to the European constitution, also four new committee members and President were elected. There were many discussions during the voting process and in my opinion there were also some omissions and difficulties during the voting process.  However we had a good, interesting voting session. In the closing the new President formally invited delegates to ERM 2014 which will take place in Germany. The ERM formally was closed.

That evening we had a cultural night, which was a fun way to end the week.

Overall, the Young Women’s Summit and the ERM was a very interesting training with lots of information and it was great to meet other European YWCA’s.

Theological studies in World YWCA’s ITI in South Korea

Reflection on Violence Against Women from the World YWCA International Training Institute in S. Korea.

By Kristin Sveinsdóttir a young woman from the YWCA of Iceland

The ITI in Korea was everything I hoped for and even more. We learned from each other and discussed violence against women and peace-building in each others countries and in the world.

Kristin Sveinsdottir

For me, the Theological sessions we started each day with, was a great way to set ground for the day and look at violence against women in a historical sense and in the book that unites us as Christians, the Bible.

In my opinion churches around the world have for sometime ignored this subject and the evidence of violence against women presented in the Bible. I feel it is crucial to open this subject if we are to eradicate women’s oppression in religion around the world.

We should look at the evidence of violence in the Bible and as well look at the evidence that shows that Jesus Christ did not accept this violence and he looked at all human beings through the eyes of equality.

Ana Villanueva, World YWCA Executive Coordinator, led us through the Theological sessions in a beautiful but focused way. In the first session she introduced us to a story from second Samuel, chapter eleven, where we hear about king David who desired a married women, sends men after her and forces her to sleep with him. She carries his child and to avoid consequences, David has her husband killed and takes her as a wife. What David did was evil in the eyes of God and he sends a prophet to him who makes David realize and regret his actions. All though David regrets his actions, this story is an example of a woman who has no power over her body and is raped. Evidence that she is force to come to King David is that he first sends a man to find out who this woman is and than he sends men (more than one) to bring her to him which means she had no chance to object.

Another clear example of violence against a woman is shown in chapter 13. There the Bible even uses the word rape. Amnon, son of king David, falls in love with his sister, Tamar and with a conspiracy with another man he manages to rape her. She is strong, says “No” and tries to argue with him, offers him a way out of this but for nothing.  She is not heard and is raped. Tamar’s kindness is used against her, she is abused, her dignity is taken away and when she seeks for help she is silenced, all caused by men close to her.

Out of all ITI participants, only one had heard the second story in church. The story is clear evidence of violence against women in the Bible but has been ignored by the majority of the church. Stories like this should be told to raise awareness of the severity of violence against women. Churches should not ignore this historical problem and by that continue the oppression on women in society and in religion.

It was not easy to read these stories as a Christian and accept this issue until we started to read about Jesus. Jesus was a true believer in gender equality and did not accept the gender-based oppression on women. He looked at all people as equals, created in the image of God, regardless of gender, class or race.

Let’s now act like Jesus :)

We are leaders-European YWCAs Meeting

The European YWCAs Representatives Meeting (ERM) took place last week 2-4 November 2012, hosted by the YWCA of Czech Republic in Celakovice. Prior to the ERM a one day European YWCA Young Women’s Summit was held in Celakovice.

By Lydia Temgoua,  YWCA of Italy

I am writing as I sit waiting in the airport to board my flight home to Italy. Reflecting on this week I have been touched by the various young women and women I have met during the European Young Women’s Summit and European Representatives Meeting (ERM), held in Celakovice, Czech Republic.

Lydia Temgoua

We discussed problems and challenges facing both young women and women across Europe. In my opinion education is key, not only in Europe but globally. Women were created by God to be leaders because we have the future of the world in our hands and for that we have to work towards eliminating the discrimination faced by all females. Together we have a collective responsibility without any prejudice of colour, race, power or role in society. During the summit in Celakovice I had the feeling of belonging to a family, one family together to fight against any type of inequality. This was so emotional for me and a very interesting experience.

In the summit we also talked about violence against women and girls and young women’s leadership. After the summit I came to the conclusion that the problems that women face around the world are the same! Therefore I think as many women and young women as possible should be able to participate at this kind of summit.

I also think that the strategic plan adopted at the summit for 2012 till 2014 is a good one and in my opinion should be extended to the world and I hope that we will work to implement this. The unique thing that I would like to change about the summit is its duration or length (more days) lol!

All of this gave me more courage; strength and the energy to find ways I can strengthen and increase membership in our association. Furthermore, to have the voices of young women raised and to help find solutions to their/our problems! Finally this experience has made me want to be more active in my YWCA, in order to help all the women I can here in Italy but also in the world!!

To conclude I would like to say that God has blessed some of us with parents, friends and people to help us  grow up well and get an education and all of the best things that one person might need! But unfortunately some people are not blessed in this way and I believe this is where we should be actively working to help others. I think that in Europe YWCA and World YWCA we can do this.

European Young Women’s Summit and ERM 2012 from a Romanian point of view

By Ela Iliesi, YWCA of Romania

There are not many chances to get together with leading women from different countries of Europe in order to learn from each other, so taking part in the meetings that took place in Celakovice, Czech Republic, was definitely something special.

Ela Iliesi

The European Young Women’s Summit was not only a fun practical way to brainstorm on how to solve the issues that most European women are facing, or learn about different types of leadership but also an occasion to network and find out what successful programmes other European YWCA’s are running, how they manage financially and how they involve more young women in their associations. And that I did.

The European Representatives Meeting (ERM) was a good opportunity to voice our hopes for the future and vote on the people and plans that will guide us in the next couple of years. I am also very glad to gave been elected in the newly created European Nomination Committee as well as part of the taskforce that will help implement the plans we’ve made during the meetings.

Before ending I would like to thank YWCA of the Czech Republic for offering a more than pleasant stay, Jacqueline, Marcia from the World YWCA and Iryna from the YWCA of Ukraine for the “transformative” workshops on leadership, Anna Magnusson President of the European YWCAs and Michelle Higelin, World YWCA Deputy General Secretary for making the Business Meetings feel more like sculpting the future and less like work and to everybody else for being so nice and open to fruitful discussions.

It was not a long road from Romania to Czech Republic but I feel like I’ve learned many new things which got me thinking that maybe when it comes to widening your world it’s not how far you go but how much you get to grow.





Coming Together for Worldwide Advocacy against Violence: the World YWCA International Training Institute

By Desiree Hoffman, Director of Advocacy YWCA USA

November 6, 2012 will always be a memorable day in my book. It was the day I took my longest international trip – 18 hours from my home city of Washington, D.C., with pit stops in Dallas, T.X. and Tokyo. My final destination was Seoul, Korea, where I was chosen by the World YWCA to attend an International Training Institute(ITI) on Violence Against Women and Peacebuilding.

Desiree Hoffman

November 6 is also the same day that President Obama won a second term in the White House, winning battleground states like Ohio, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. When I landed in Tokyo, I ran to the nearest TV and, although I couldn’t understand Japanese, it was clear by the electoral map shaded in red and blue who had won.

The next day, I woke up feeling desperate for a cup of coffee. But that need slowly dissipated when I met women at breakfast from New Zealand, Great Britain, Zambia, Lebanon, Columbia and other countries. We made small talk about our journeys to Seoul as we ate a traditional Korean breakfast, which included rice and kimchee.

YWCA of Seoul

Together we made our way to the national YWCA of Korea, where we were greeted by the staff and board members of the YWCA of Korea and YWCA of Seoul. While I am not a practicing Christian, I enjoyed the morning worship and did my best to sing along, even if my pitch was off and I have zero mastery of the Korean language. At one point, we were asked to go to a table and pour water and serve rice bread to our neighbor. I thought this was symbolic of the social justice work we at the YWCA do to care for our own neighbors.

Participants at the Training Institute

The YWCA of Seoul is celebrating its 90th anniversary, and it is the second largest in the world (followed by the YWCA USA). We traveled there to begin to work together as part of the Institute, defining violence against women, discuss root causes, and thinking of ways to combat violence against women globally.

We watched a powerful video; while none of the statistics were new, the stories and images of women are forever etched in my head. The video showed young child brides being married at the ages of 8 or 9, to 40 and 50 year-old men. It told stories of honor killings, where a woman can be shamed or killed to protect her family’s honor in a dispute, even when she is not at all involved. The video demonstrated how rape is used systemically during war as a weapon of violence against women, young and old. Human trafficking has become a global business, with an estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually and the majority (79 percent) trafficked for sexual exploitation. I walked away feeling heavy with the weight and gravity of these issues.

We were asked to think about violence against women in our respective countries, and issues that may be specific to our countries alone. It had me thinking about violence against women in our own borders, and how the U.S. has come a long way. We now have improved mechanisms to respond to violence, such as the coordination of healthcare providers, local law enforcement, and social service agencies. However, domestic violence, sexual assault and rape are still pervasive. These problems have not gone away even in a country that has the resources, know how, and education to prevent such intolerable acts. While the U.S. may not be grappling with war inside its borders, the seriousness and consequences of violence against women and girls is real and urgent here.

Insadong shopping center

We lightened the mood by doing some window shopping and taking a walk through Seoul in the crisp, autumn air. I honestly couldn’t shake some of the experiences and conversations I had had throughout the day, as our group walked together to Insadong shopping center for traditional Korean bulgolgi. (It was almost like a taco – grilled meat and rice wrapped in lettuce instead of a tortilla).  I made a promise to myself for when I returned to the U.S.: that the YWCA USA would take part in 16 Days of Activism, held from November 25 through December 10, which is known as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Original Source:

How can we make a difference?

By Veena Singh Bryar a young woman from the YWCA of Fiji

The World YWCA and the YWCA of Korea have partnered to deliver the first YWCA International Training Institute (ITI) in ten years taking place in Seoul, Korea from 8 to 13 of November 2012, the theme of the ITI is Violence against Women (VAW).

Veena Singh Bryar

 I really don’t know how to share my emotions today. I am feeling lots of mixed emotions. I have moments of feeling a sense of excitement because I always have dreamt to in Korea (due to its history) but more so I wanted to be closer to North Koreans (so I can offer some form of help). I feel really nervous and scared, I also feel sad. I don’t really like going to camps or any Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) because it’s a sad reminder of the situation of the reality of the country. But let me quickly share with you the background of the situation of South and North Korea. After the Korean War (June 25 1950 – July 27 1953), South Korea and North Korea established a border that cut the Korean peninsula roughly in half. Stretching for 2km on either side of this border is the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula that serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea, which runs along the 38th parallel north. This natural isolation along the 155 miles (249 km) length of the DMZ has created an involuntary park, which is now recognized as one of the most well preserved areas of temperate habitat in the world. Several endangered animal and plant species now exist among the heavily fortified fences, landmines and listening posts.

It was a rainy cold cold day today…there was even hailstorm up at the Cheorwon Peace Observatory. We started our journey to the DMZ around 9am. It was quite cold compared to what I am used to. Mind you anything below 24 degrees Celsius is cold for a girl from the tropics.

On our way to the DMZ, I noticed barbed wired fences along the river. I immediately knew what it was for. I mean it’s not to keep people safe within South Korea, but I felt it was to keep the North Koreans out. This really  saddened me. Why do we become heartless people? We as individuals have so much power to change things, but we don’t. We sit within our comfortable lives and let life go on, while people are getting killed, innocent people are being punished and women are the ones left to bear the brunt of it all. I really don’t know what the North Korean women go through except from books that I have read, and from those books I can to some extent visualize and imagine the pain, sufferings and hardships they go through.

I wonder how I can make a difference. How can I make a stand and contribute to peace in the long term for this country. These are just some thoughts running through my mind.

Being here for the World YWCA International Training Institute training will in many ways provide me with some ideas of making the world a better place and provide me with the opportunity to contribute to peace building here in Korea and back home. I am grateful that I am learning so many things in the past days and have already thought of things that I can be doing.

International Training Institute-Violence against Women

By Veena Singh Bryar a young woman from the YWCA of Fiji

The World YWCA and the YWCA of Korea have partnered to deliver the first YWCA International Training Institute (ITI) in ten years taking place in Seoul, Korea from 8 to 13 of November 2012, the theme of the ITI is Violence against Women (VAW).

Day one: Journey and Arrival

I was first introduced to Korea and its culture at the tender age of four. My families were host families to Korean volunteers who would come to Fiji to do development work and plan/design the roads of Fiji. It was through them that I was also introduced to the culture the food and some of the language. Not only was I only aware of the Korean culture at that age, but also I was also quite familiar to what violence meant and looked like and what Violence against Women (VAW) involved.

Veena Singh Bryar

So my journey to South Korea to learn, share and discuss the issue of VAW and peace building was not only an interesting and exciting one, but also something that was close to my heart. I am quite excited and I actually do have lots of expectations about this training. I can’t wait to learn from other participants, the presenters and the facilitators but at the same time looking forward to ways in which I can contribute positively. The main objective is to take back ideas to share with the YWCA of Fiji so that we can create programmes that are similar but country specific.

My journey for the International Training Institute (ITI) in Korea began around 4am in the morning whereby I had to make my way to the airport. It was a long yet pleasant flight. I arrived at Incheon airport and was greeted by the young women of the Korean YWCA. It was a long day and by the time I got to the Hi youth hostel, it was after 9pm and I was fully exhausted.

While I continue to reflect back to what I know and what I have been exposed to, I am still saddened by the fact that no matter what status, background, culture or country we come from women are still raped, women still remain in abusive relationships, women are physically and sexually abused, and rape is continued to be used as a weapon of war. Thinking about this still saddens me and makes me angry. I hope someday all of this can stop but till then I will continue to join others in the struggle of ending violence against women. I am looking forward to tomorrow and the week.

 Day Two: So it begins!

It was an early breakfast and everyone had to come together to leave for the YWCA national and Seoul office. For some reason it just felt like everyone knew each other. Everyone was chatting away, laughing and talking about important issues of our own individual countries. We made our way to the YWCA national office whereby the YWCA staff greeted us and we had our worship opening ceremony.

Our first half of the day was being introduced to the YWCA family and the second half of the day was spent on work. Oh yes! We started straight away with discussions on the situations of women back home, about VAW and we had the pleasure of having Ms. Heisoo Shin (PHD), UN Committee Member on Economic Social and Cultural rights. She was the keynote speaker and shared with us a brief background regarding the women’s movement, history of the 16days of activism campaign.

After her presentation we started talking about issues faced by women in our country, about VAW, and in the process talked about preventive measures. This was quite an important process for me. Not only was it good to have the discussions but it also allowed me the time to think about the situation back home and reflect about our work. It does sadden me though that sometimes the work that is being currently done is still not enough to prevent VAW. I believe we need to coordinate and collaborate more and keep on keeping on.

The main message of today was about learning and bringing together different experiences, skills and positive learning’s. It’s all about transformative and intergenerational leadership. It’s not only about learning from peers but also from the older members of the YWCA movement. It’s also about finding out ways to engage with our faith to advance women’s equality.

 Please read this poem by Paulette Kelly, which Ms. Heisoo Shin shared:

I GOT FLOWERS TODAY (Dedicated to all women victims/survivors of violence)

 I got flowers today! It wasn’t my birthday or any other special day; We had our first argument last night; And he said a lot of cruel things that really hurt; I know that he is sorry and didn’t mean to say the things he said; Because he sent me flowers today.

 I got flowers today! It wasn’t our anniversary or any other special day.

Last night he threw me into a wall and then started choking me; It seemed like a nightmare, but you wake up from nightmares to find they aren’t real.

I got flowers today! And it wasn’t Valentine’s Day or any other special day; Last night he beat me and threatened to kill me; Make-up and long-sleeves didn’t hide the cuts and bruises this time; I couldn’t go to work today because I didn’t want anyone to know-but I know he’s sorry; Because he sent me flowers today.

I got flowers today! And it wasn’t Mother’s Day or any other special day; Last night he beat me again, and it was much worse than all of the other times; if I leave him, what will I do? How will I take care of the kids? What about money? I’m afraid of him, but I’m too scared and dependent to leave him! But he must be sorry; because he sent me flowers today.

I got flowers today…Today was a very special day—it was the day of my funeral; Last night he finally killed me—I was beaten to death; If only I would have gathered the courage and strength to leave him; The women’s shelter could have helped me, but I didn’t ask for their help; So I got flowers today…for the last time.

(Special thanks to the El Paso Shelter for Battered Women for providing this poem)

Friend or Enemy? -Visit to the Demilitarized Zone

By Angela Lauman a young woman from the YWCA of Australia.

Nearly 60 years since the creation of the Korean Demilitarized Zone – Korea’s heavily guarded demilitarised zone – a YWCA delegation participated in a witness visit in the context of the International Training Institute on Violence against Women and Peace building taking place in Seoul from November 8-13, 2012. Angela shares her experience: 

Yesterday we visited to demilitarised zone which separates South Korea from North Korea.  It was timely that we were on a ‘peace pilgrimage’, considering it was Remembrance Day, the day the First World War ended in 1918.

Angela Lauman

The day began with a bus trip from Seoul and a worship service at the Cheorwon cultural centre. From there, in the rain and cold, but warmed by a tasty lunch and a brief session of gangam style dancing in the lobby, we headed through the civilian controlled zone surrounding the DMZ to the Cheorwon Peace Observatory overlooking the southern limit line which marks 4 km on the south side from the original military demarcation line dividing the two countries.

I don’t know what I had expected, but what we saw wasn’t it. It seemed heavily geared to tourists rather than a tension filled border area.

In the distance you could see the watch towers of both the South Korean and North Korean armies. My overwhelming feeling was one of sadness for the young men whose job it was to maintain the border, keep up the image of war so long since the original division occurred. It would have been the decisions and convictions of previous generations that caused the separation. Nearly 60 years on, did the current soldiers share this too? My guess is they were probably standing around bored, talking about their girlfriends back home, what they did last night, or what they were going to do when they got out of the army. They may also have been looking over to the other watch tower and wondering what life might be like for those on the other side. Soldiers on both sides probably have a lot in common – a group of young men that share a language, a job, and until relatively recently, a culture. They would probably have a lot to share were they ever to find themselves sitting across the table and having a chat. For me this experience highlighted the arbitrary divisions between enemy and friend that are necessary to justify war, and against which it is so necessary to fight.

The information in the Observatory’s exhibition about the war and the history of the DMZ seemed steeped in propaganda which positioned the North Koreans as the enemy, and promote a sense of fear about the North Koreans. This seemed incongruent with the messages of peace and reconcilitation we heard during the worship service, and from our YWCA of Korea sisters in the lead up to the trip. The voices of North Korean women and men were conspicuously missing from the story, which was also sad.

It is heartening however to see that the women of YWCA of Korea recognise both the potential for peace and unity and the commonalities between North and South Koreans which will hopefully one day help them to achieve a united country. This is evident through their programs to support women and children in North Korea, and through their work to support refugees from North Korea. This work is important, and I look forward to going home and telling the story of their work to our YWCA members in Canberra.

Coming out of my Comfort Zone

By Seraina Hauser, YWCA/YMCA of Switzerland

Last weekend I realised (again) that things never happen how you expect them. I’m a young woman from the YWCA/YMCA of Switzerland and I was a delegate at the European Representative Meeting  (ERM) 2012 in Celakovice, Czech Republic. For me it was the first time as a delegate at such an international event. I wanted to see and observe how the European YWCA is working, wanted to take it slowly, to have my experiences and bring them home.

Seraina Hauser

But as I said, it didn’t happen like this. I wasn’t an observer; I was in the middle of it. People believed in me and took my thoughts seriously. I had the chance to present the recommendations of the young women to the ERM, became a member of the taskforce for the Young Women Strategy Paper and I participated actively in the business meeting. I learnt by being hands on and there were many other young women like me who didn’t have much experience either but who participated with their whole heart and soul. I think this is one goal of young women leadership, to be in unknown situations, but still have the confidence to try and to speak out. Moreover, this goal we reached by far this weekend! It’s also shown in the fact that the new elected board members are all really young women between 24 and 31.

I was impressed by all the strong women I had the chance to meet. They do such different work in their national associations, working with migrants and refugees, helping young women who were abused or organising after school programmes for children whose parents are working. We are connected through the thought of encouraging and supporting women, young women and girls. Especially for me, as a member of a joint movement between YMCA and YWCA, it’s really interesting to see all this diversity among the YWCAs in Europe. Here in Switzerland I’m a scout. We work mostly with children and teenagers. The key issues are not women specific but we empower young people and support them on their journey to be leaders. There I see the huge potential to contribute our experiences to the European YWCA.

It was fantastic to have the chance to participate in the ERM 2012. We accomplished so much; we discussed, changed plans, dreamed, laughed, searched new ways and made new friends. I’m proud to be part of an organisation which isn’t perfect, but which learns and changes and it is on the right way to empowers women to do the best they can do!