By Nagham Nassar – World YWCA Progamme Associate Communications
After the International Training Institute (ITI) in Seoul I had the privilege to visit other YWCAs in Korea. My first stop was at the National YWCA of Korea in Seoul. There I met the General Secretary Mrs. Yoo,Sung hee and the YWCA Staff. I was welcomed by everyone and Miss Choe, Yoon-young, the International Affairs Coordinator in the National Office, kindly explained to me how the National YWCA in Korea operates. The National Office in Korea is divided into two departments: the Management Department that supports the local branches of the YWCA and the Movement Department that undertakes several projects. One of the most important projects of the YWCA of Korea is to send milk to children in North Korea.
I felt very welcomed by the National Office. It reminded me of a beehive where everyone is really busy and the General Secretary is like the queen bee making sure everything is running smoothly and efficiently.
After this special meeting at the National Office, I continued my journey with Yoon-young to the “Korea Sexual Violence Relief Centre”. This is not a YWCA centre but it is coordinated by one of the YWCA Board Members, and it was created over 20 years ago. At first, they raised the issue from going from human rights to women’s rights and then they tackled the subject of sexual abuse. What is really important is that the centre began talking about sexual violence before even the government, who only in 1994 established a new law on violence against women and started helping this centre. The Korea Sexual Violence Centre organises many projects and events, including: Moonlight Slot Walk, Speak Out, to name but a few.
Our last stop was the YWCA of Anyang, another beehive of the YWCA of Korea. We met with Mrs Pak, the General Secretary of the YWCA of Anyang. It was amazing to hear the history of this 26 year-old member association. During its first year of existence they operate from a small room that was a donation of a local church. Other donations soon followed, among them a phone which was used as a hotline. Since day one, the YWCA of Anyang focused their work on women’s issues and women’s rights which made them the first women’s organisation and the first to talk about these issues in Anyang.
The YWCA of Anyang is trying to change the mindset of its citizens and fight all types of discrimination and especially violence against women and domestic violence. When they initiated the hotline they received many calls on domestic violence leading them to quickly open a counselling centre. This led them in 1995, to separate the counselling from the business work. They also noticed the need to have a shelter to accept these women. So in 1998 they opened a shelter, calling it the “House with Dream”. In 2004, the government began to funding the survivors of violence which made the work of the YWCA of Anyang easier. The YWCA of Anyang also works with the children of the women that seek their help and has opened day care centres which offer speech therapy and access to psychologists and teachers for studying support.
Another project run by the YWCA of Anyang is the “Women Resources Development Centre”, which offers 71 different courses aiming to help the women become self sufficient. As the General Secretary of the YWCA of Anyang says: “Just supporting the survivor is not enough. It is important to change the mindset of the people. As long as society believes the social level of women to be inferior to men, violence will continue to exist because it is more or less a normal thing to violate the weak in the society!! And to solve these types of problems, women have to be more involved in the decision making process.” This is why the YWCA of Anyang also focuses on lobbying for equal rights and to have female representation in the governance committee, which currently isn’t the case even though the population of Anyang is composed of 51% women. After all the work done by the YWCA of Anyang, this year around 30% of the committee is composed of women.
The people of Anyang have a lot of trust in their YWCA and this is demonstrated by all the donations they give. For example, the YWCA was able to raise around 100.000.000 Wong which equals USD100.000 in less then 3 months for the shelter.
In two days, I was able to experience the real Korean work of the YWCAs. I will never forget the hospitality, the warmth and the information I gained during my visit. It is amazing how a YWCA Member will feel at home all over the world in any YWCA office and how all our Member Associations are similar no matter where you go. I feel so lucky to be a member in this incredible movement.
Filed under: Violence Against Women