LAC Beijing+20 Review meeting

By Barbara Lont, YWCA of Suriname.

I feel very blessed and privileged to have been at this the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) Beijing+20 review meeting. It has been a new experience for me on such a high level. I have sharpened my network skills and learned more about advocacy.

To start from the beginning, it was quite exciting travelling from Paramaribo to Chile. It was an 18 hours flight with stops at Trinidad & Tobago, Curacao and Bogota. When I was going in the plane to Santiago I met Yuleida Alvarez from Colombia.

was picked up by a friendly taxi driver and within half an hour at Hotel Atton Vitacura. For me the weather was a little cold. The hotel receptionist was very friendly and checked I could check in on 11 o’ clock.

Our first meeting was with Icilda, a very good mentor. She prepared us for what to expect from the meetings and to be aware of protocol. At the NGO CSW that was held in the Ambassador house of Argentina I met the delegate of Suriname and also other women from different countries. The time to discuss the Caribbean issues was much to short but we could make a list of the most important issue. This list was well presented by a Jamaican young woman named Rachel Ustanny.

Barbara Lont

Barbara Lont

The first day was the meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women Latin America and the Caribbean. Several countries have presented their progress on VAW and SRHR and HIV and other issues on the status of women. The second day was the continuation and two NGOs were given the opportunity to advocate their issue. Other NGO’s would get the opportunity the next day. The third day was to finalise a LAC Statement for the special session on Beijing+20 in March 2015 in New York. The NGO’s didn’t get the opportunity to speak. Although the YWCA delegation had prepared a statement.

At these meetings I learnt all about politics and the various issues in each country. I networked with women from, Trinidad, Jamaica and Guyana. I talked about the World YWCA and our vision to engage young women in this whole process. I also gave an interview to the NGO CSW LAC about my experience of the meetings. Through those meetings my interest on the subject on women and economy has grown and I would like to go deeper into this subject.

 I also met eight great women and young women. It was an awesome and learning experience. Thank you World YWCA for this opportunity.

“Africa rising” – Beijing +20

By Alice Bwanausi, YWCA of Malawi.

It has been an amazing experience to be in Addis, once again! Barely a month since I was here for the CSO’s consultative meeting on Beijing+20, in October. The weather has been kinder this time around unlike the chilly weather in the middle of October that had me sleeping in my formal dress jacket, due to the light clothing I had packed, thinking Addis would be as hot as Blantyre back home!

Residing at the Elilly international hotel, a stone’s throw away from UNECA meant we didn’t have to deal with the Addis traffic jams each morning as we walked to the conference centre, which was a hive of activity throughout the week of hosting the 9thregional Beijing +20 review meeting. group 1

YWCA young women where in the lime light throughout the consultative meetings as they took centre stage in contributing to the draft CSO’s document on recommendations to the Beijing platform for Action process, that would be presented to the intergovernmental meeting for ministers. The young ladies spiced up the serious meetings with interjections of song- famously the ‘moto moto we mama wee’ which had all the participants on their feet and provided a well deserved ice breaker!

The UN Women launch of “Africa rising” was an awesome occasion that saw some of us rubbing shoulders with the gender minister of my country, Malawi. She gave a resounding closing speech for donors such as UN Women stating that they need to continue providing resources for women programmes and for CSO’s to engage with governments. This also provided a very opportune time for me to invite her to an event that will be hosted by YWCA Malawi later this month (which we had been trying to get her to attend and the good news is that she will be coming : ) We did a victory dance inside!) Later on an Ethiopian band spiced up the colorful evening which had all of us stepping to the beat with our young women displaying their dancing skills, much to everyone’s pleasure! dance

Addis, a city under reconstruction, has an interesting array of buildings, ranging from grand at one moment, traditional at another and dusty at another. The construction of the railway line which will cut across town needs the skills of a crafty driver to get through the maze of constant traffic jams! Never the less all this is over taken by the vibrant mix of color that is Addis, its beautiful people, the colorful display of their traditional wear and rich Ethiopian dishes. I have not worked up the courage to try their staple dish ‘injera’, it’s an acquired taste but it’s part of every menu at every eating place.

As I return back home I am energized by the powerful messages of our great mentors like mama Mongela, the woman who took women to Beijing twenty years ago and is still championing the women’s fight for equality and advancement. ‘ don’t knock men down, just speed past them, overtake, smile and wave at them’, as you continue with the fight, after all they are made of more fragile substance (clay) than the bone of the rib, that we are made of!


Pacific Young Women’s Transformational Leadership Consultation

By Sharon Yendevenge, YWCA of Papua New Guinea.

A small number of young women from the Pacific Islands gathered in Bangkok, Thailand from the 9th – 11th of November to attend the Young Women’s Pacific Consultation with participants from a number of Pacific Island countries form Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tongs, Kiribati, Nauru and Pohnpei. Unfortunately Palau, Vanuatu and Marshall Islands didn’t make it due to Visa issues.



The consultation meeting was led by the UN Women in partnership with Pacific Youth Council with amazing facilitators. The first day started with experiences in each country and what its like to be a young Pacific woman embracing change and being active in what you do, what are the things that you do best and how it affects other peoples life. It all ties in with understanding transformational leadership and what it’s all about.

The first day went on with a full session on the first 16 Articles on CEDAW, understanding it and relating them to the Pacific context and what different cultures, customs and tradition in the Pacific hinders women in the Pacific Island countries in accessing their rights and being equal.

It was an interesting and also a moving session for the group as personal experiences were shared and young women were able to express themselves relating to their personal experiences.

The sessions went the next day relating to transformational leadership which reflects on how best one can use their skills, their space to embrace past, present and the future yet knowing being in the diversity all around and connecting the dots in bringing awareness and training to the target group they are working with or want to work with.

It was somewhat another great day of sharing, exploring and being able to navigate and identify the challenges and look forward in tackling those issues by relating them to CEDAW and Beijing +20 Review and connecting all these dots.

Through the meetings, we discussed the level of violence against women and girls, the need for more health services, comprehensive sexual education, friendly youth services, equal opportunities of employment, young women’s empowerment and youth participation within all levels and without discrimination.

There is quite a big and strong voice and concern on Climate change since the Pacific Islands are evidently faced with issues associated with climate change. It is a very big concern in the Pacific because as young women we are concerned about what results in climate change and the impact that goes with it. We are concerned with the impact of climate change on young women’s health, the sickness that arises due to weather change, the drought, floods and disasters. Furthermore, women and girls are more vulnerable to violence during the displacement people caused by climate change. The lack of sexual reproductive health and rights and comprehensive sexual education is also a big concern. I believe that governments, decision makers and community leaders have to view the inclusion and involvement of women, young women and girls as very important for development.

We are now looking forward to meet with all the other Asia/Pacific young women as we proceed into the Asia/Pacific CSO Forum of the Beijing+20 Regional Review. We as Pacific young women encourage more organisations to support young women’s participation in all levels and have seen that a preparation meeting such as this prior to the big events is very important for young women in caucusing and coming up with a strong and united voice in pushing our issues forward not only in the Pacific but in all regions and all around the world.

The road to Beijing +20 review Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

By Aurore Uwase, YWCA of Rwanda.

I thank God for the blessings of joining the Beijing review process in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at UN Economic Commission for Africa. As a Beijing baby who is committed to the empowerment of girls and young women, my participation in the review process of the Beijing +20 was so exciting. I am really honoured to have joined the rest of the young women and to be one of the champions. A lot of knowledge was shared, especially when our grandmothers shared with us the history of Beijing platform and actions. I have gained a lot of knowledge that I would not have gained had I not attended this review process; thanks to God, World YWCA and YWCA Rwanda.

Aurore Uwase

Aurore Uwase

As a young woman of 22 years of age from YWCA Rwanda, I was so privileged to attend such a big international conference; it was my first time to be in such big meeting and was selected to be one of the youngest participants under 25 years old. I was very impressed when I was called A BEIJING BABY during the deliberation. My participation gave me a great chance to add my input to the documents that were drafted. Moreover, I was particularly elated when I was interviewed on the experience I had had in the review of the Beijing +20 and my video posted to YouTube, thus I know that many young women will be reached and will learn from that.

Furthermore, it was great to see that young women were involved since women issues are not only older women’s issues, as they cut across all sectors of the female population in Africa, and indeed in the whole world. In light of this, I commend that there is an urgent need to increase the budgets that are allocated to the promotion of gender equality, and am looking forward to see African women advance and prosper in all areas. This will require concerted efforts and commitment. I strongly believe that with concerted efforts and, cooperation from the governments, our targets will be met.

Once again, my greatest gratitude goes to World YWCA and YWCA Rwanda for their support to make my participation in the Beijing +20 review processes happen.

Are we nearly there yet? Bringing Beijing home!

By Audrey Wilson, General Secretary of YWCA Ireland. Original Source of blog. 


Audrey Wilson

There is no doubt that 1995 was a pivotal year for women.  At the Fourth Women’s Conference in Beijing the pertinent issues facing women were highlighted and a historic political commitment to women’s rights was made. This commitment is more formally known as the Beijing Platform for Equality, Development and Peace.

From 3rd -5th November 700 people, representing 350 groups and 56 countries gathered in the United Nations office, Geneva with one common purpose, to strive to make the world a better place for women and girls. This forum organised by the Geneva Committee on the Status of Women, provided a unique platform for representatives of non – government organisations to review the achievements of the last 20 years and highlight areas of ongoing concern relating to women’s rights.

The forum was structured around a number of interactive roundtable discussions on themes including women and human rights, violence against women, women in power and decision making, women and poverty, women and health and women and education and training. A panel of experts started each session with stimulating insights, statistics and recommendations informed by their area expertise that paved the way for insights and recommendations from the forum participants.

As General Secretary of YWCA Ireland I felt honoured to represent our association at this important event. To join with 700 human rights activists in the heart of the United Nations is a truly empowering experience with overwhelming symbolism. It is encouraging that we have come a long way in advancing women’s human rights since 1995, however, as one of only two Irish delegates present, the voice of Irish women seemed hugely underrepresented in this review process. As a professional, a mother of daughters, a Christian, a young woman, a rural woman, the compelling challenge to bring home global policies to Irish communities is immediate.  Human rights are only effective if you know about them!

In order to further advance women’s equality in the twenty first century the opportunity to influence global and national policy must be afforded to women from all sectors of society.  Governments, women’s organisations, churches and the wider community must join forces in encouraging women to actively participate in shaping all policy, including policy that relates specifically to women. It is essential that all women, regardless of their social or economic status, know that the opportunity to make a difference is within their reach and that their voice matters.

YWCA Ireland seeks to support and encourage women as they lead change in our society. We are an association driven by the Christian faith of our founders and our members. We are passionate about enabling women and girls to raise awareness of, and to inspire action against, injustice in its many shapes and forms.

Being part of a sisterhood

By Jennifer Kakai, YWCA of Solomon Islands

Hi! My name is Jennifer Kakai and I’m from the Solomon Islands. I joined the YWCASI in 2013 and work as a communications officer.

Being part of the YWCA Regional Training is indeed a blessing for me.

The sisterhood spirit during the training is awesome.

Being new to the YWCA family and first attending any of the YWCA Training ever is indeed a great opportunity for me to explore the new world and most of all the impacts this training has on me , building my self esteem and realizing the leadership potential I have.

One thing that stood out for me during the training is the togetherness all the pacific sisters in identifying the issues we face in the pacific.

There I realized that I’m not standing alone…..but with a handful of young women identifying and fighting to address common issues it gives me the strength to continue fight for the other young women.

The session on advocacy gives me a clear path on my work as a communication officer. Being new to advocacy work, the session gives me a clear path. I know that it would be a challenge for me, but I believe with the help of my other colleagues, we can make it through.

I’m glad to be part of this training and moreover part of the whole YWCA Family, a group of women with courage and passion for all the young women around the world.

What Inspires You?

By Cherelle Leilani Latafale Fruean, YWCA of Samoa

Today we began the YWCA Pacific Leadership and Skills Building Training in Honiara. Young women gathered from the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Samoa to discuss the successes and challenges of young women leading change in the Pacific. We had an amazing group of facilitators from the World YWCA leading our discussion. They created a space where all of us felt safe, empowered and inspired!

One of the main themes of today was inspiration. What inspires you? Or WHO inspires you? Someone that truly inspired me today was Diana from the YWCA of the Solomon Islands. A young woman with a disability that didn’t let anything affect her enthusiasm for life or her passion for empowering young women! In the short moment I spent with her she set my whole mood for the rest of the conference. I was driven, empowered, motivated, energetic, hopeful and thankful. I was photoBy the end of the day, we had shared common struggles with our Pacific sisters and created some sustainable solutions. By the end of the day, we had collectively envisioned our ‘Big YWCA Dream’. A dream to have a World Class Young Women’s Leadership Programme that empowers and inspires women all over the world. By the end of the day, we had formed a bond amongst sisters, motivated by the struggles of our young Pacific women. By the end
of the day, we were inspired!

Advancing Women’s Empowerment & Gender Equality in the Next Decade

The new decade demands a boldness of vision, of action and collaborative action across constituencies.

By Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, General Secretary of the World YWCA

Today, the women and girls of the world are echoing the same key issues that they raised twenty years ago as they gathered in Beijing for the 4th World Conference for Women. It’s the same 12 critical issues ranging from poverty, economy, violence against women, education, health, role of women in the media, rural women, the girl child, environment, and institutional mechanisms for which there is a call for greater implementation. This is in addition to the emerging issues of the last two decades that have found greater sharpness and focus, the concerns related to a bundle of issues related to health and rights ranging from maternal mortality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV and mental health, to the emergence of modern technologies and social media that is shaping the forms of communication, the norms of accountabilities and the creation of greater opportunities for accessing services. Yet the world remains with deep inequalities and inequities across regions, within countries, across the full spectrum of socio-economic indicators, and participation and access to opportunities as well as the digital divides.

In order to accelerate the actions for achieving empowerment of women, young women and girls and the reduction of gender inequalities,  there must be a strong investment of political will, technical and financial resources towards practical programmes in communities that impact the social and economic rights and well being of women and girls. These should be accompanied by a clear investment in mobilizing the leadership of the underutilized resource  contributing to and influencing decision making at all levels of society. The changing of norms and values is crucial towards achieving some of these, and requires harnessing the positive attributes, practices and tools that is engrained in the ways of living and knowledge banks of communities including indigenous knowledge. At the same time, we must  vigorously and openly work to reject negative practices such as female genital cutting, early and forced marriages. Fundamentally, it is not sufficient to address the manifestations of inequality, it is also important to root out the structural and patriarchal causes that often find expression in legislation, socialisation of men and boys and limiting opportunities for women and girls. The new decade demands a boldness of vision, of action and collaborative action across constituencies.

Accountability to existing commitments at the national level as enshrined in our constitutions; at the regional level as reflected in various policy and legal instruments, such as the Maputo Protocol; and at the global level as informed by Beijing Platform for Action, CEDAW and resolution 1325 among others is crucial. It remains imperative that we advance the women’s human rights jurisprudence, and normative framework as part of global drive of vision.

UN Women, established in 2010 was a culmination of years of advocacy by women’s networks and engagement of the member states on the need for an effective mechanism within the UN that has status, is well resourced and can deliver impactfully in its mission. The position of Executive Director for UN Women therefore comes with huge and complex responsibilities! For which a greater expectation still exists for this organization, which is essentially in its infancy. The importance of providing policy, advisory and technical support, strategic partnership with civil society especially women’s groups and women’s fund and foundations, internal engagement for the UN to deliver effectively on gender equality for the individual mandates of programmes, funds and agencies as well as the role in leveraging quality and sustained relations with donors and the media remains at the core of success.

The founding Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet established a good foundation and raised the profile of the organization as it took its baby steps in the last two years. The emphasis on political participation, economic empowerment and violence against women remains at the centre of priorities today as it has done for years. What is key at this moment is to have a leader who can bridge the strong visionary perspective contributing to shaping the future of the development agenda especially at this moment with the MDG 2015 process underway, the 20 year review of the Beijing Platform for action and the ICPD review. It’s even much more important to have a leader who can leverage the opportunities that exist for delivering programmes and interventions in communities in a way that women and girl’s lives and well being is improved, that they have more opportunities for accessing education, healthcare services, food sovereignty, water and technology. These are the core social and economic rights that lie at the centre of daily struggles for billions of women across the world and through which gender inequalities manifest themselves. Women and girls should not continue to be a statistic, a case study and an anecdote in the humanitarian, development and security agenda. Rather, it is crucial that women and girls are leaders bringing knowledge, innovation, expertise and experience that lie at the centre of solutions and sustainable development.

For me, the daily struggle for women’s rights, a life of dignity and equal opportunities is not a job but a calling and a way of life since birth. Born and brought up in rural Zimbabwe during the war in a very resource poor family, selling vegetables and fruits to supplement school fees, raised by a widow, improvising the situation of women is not theoretical. I experienced first-hand the life of violence,  affected by health issues of family members such as HIV, walked the long distance to fetch water, firewood and goods. At the same time, I have also had the opportunity to access  good education, graduating as a lawyer and going further to study conflict resolution, human rights and gender. This theoretical and academic grounding is further reinforced by my experience. For more than twenty years, my professional life has been focused on women and children’s rights, spanning quality time in civil society, working in government and ten years in the United Nations.

Today, I lead the World YWCA, a global network of 25 million women and girls, present in 125 countries with services and programmes in 22,000 communities. Its main mission is to develop the collective leadership of women and girls for collective action towards a world of peace, justice, dignity, health and care for the environment. The intergenerational and transformative power of women, the commitment to take action and provide services in communities as well as raising the voice to in advocacy defines the organization’s approaches.