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.
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)