YWCA of Romania – Youth Speaker in New York at UNGA 70

By Ruxandra Diaconescu

Monday 21st of September I was at work when, during my lunch break I received a message with the surprising question: “Do you want to attend a meeting on gender issues in the US” – nothing more. I said YES and the adventure started.12027635_10153106270131905_1397244151776469704_n

I was told I have to address a speech to the “Global Leader’s Meeting on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment” on the 27th of September at the UN in New York, as a Youth Leader. That is amazing! After I got my VISA, changed a flight, flied to Paris, then New York; after more than 10 hours on different planes, there I was – New York! I had some dinner and a lovely chat with YWCA and Christian Aid representatives, because you are never too tired to speak about important issues of today’s society, right?

After I got some rest, the next day I was finally able to start working on my speech for the big event. Inspiration was one thing I did not lack for sure, surrounded by so many amazing and inspiring women. It is nice to read about it in the newspapers, it is healthy to base your beliefs on statistics, but nothing compares to drawing conclusions when you hear one woman’s honest, profound personal story – thank you Girl Declaration for the inspiring VIP Mentoring Session I could take part in!

27th of September – the day of the meeting, the day of my speech, the day that changed my life. Some 80 world leaders convened at the United Nations to personally commit to ending discrimination against women by 2030 and announcing concrete and measurable actions to kick-start rapid change in their countries. The event marks a historic first, with pledges delivered by Heads of State and Government. The People’s Republic of China, host of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, and UN Women are co-hosting the “Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: A Commitment to Action.”

My speech focused mostly on the different chances girls, young women and women of the world have in life, regardless of their abilities, goals or dreams. If I could be there, speaking up my mind as a young leader, it was by right, not by chances – so I asked for commitment to giving girls, young women and women their right to dreaming and achieving their dreams through better educational and health systems, better employment, end of child marriage, transparency, end of corruption!

I was extremely proud that, after my speech, the president of Romania who was in the room stood up to congratulate me and show his support. That was not just Klaus Iohannis standing up for Ruxandra Diaconescu – this is the symbol of a head of state who shows support (also publicly in his statement) to the civil society with focus on youth.

The event was both a personal and a global success in my opinion!

If this was a journey of “not leaving anyone behind” I think we’re all on board,
Ready for departure – sky’s the limit!

Read Ruxandra Diaconescu’s full speech here: http://ow.ly/SKR1G
You can find your governments commitments towards gender equality here: http://unwomen.org/stepitup

From Emmys Awards to Embedding Community Change: Creation of Opportunity is vital

By Raechel Mathews, YWCA of Australia. 

Earlier this week, actress Viola Davis made history as she became the first African American woman to win a Leading Actress Emmy in the US. She also drew world attention for a moving and sublime speech, succinctly encouraging the entertainment industry to support African American talent. Her photo and the quote ‘The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity’ has flooded the Internet and social media, being regrammed, retweeted, liked, favorited and celebrated by celebrities and social commentators alike.

The sentence that follows this quote is the one that resonates most with me in Viola’s speech, and is not as widely publicised. Davis stated ‘You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there’.  We’ve all heard the phrase ‘You’ve got to be in it to win it’; but if you’re excluded from being in it, how can you win it at all? Women of colour have only been receiving leading roles and subsequent award nominations (only 7 nominees in this category ever!), so how can we be surprised it’s taken until 2015 for this win to occur? Davis also quotes Harriet Taubman in her speech, a freedom fighter from the 1800s; further highlighting progress of equal racial representation in her industry is far from rapid.

Viola Davis  (copyright Getty Images)

Viola Davis (copyright Getty Images)

Relating this to our collective YWCA work in communities, we can promote education and training for young women for example, but if post-study, there’s no work experience, employment, advancement, promotion, and mentoring, where’s the opportunity to consolidate learning and then excel, develop, and assist others?  If there’s a shortage of long term housing and short term refuges, how can we effectively encourage and support women to leave violent relationships, with the opportunity to start a new life, with the promise of safety, shelter, and dignity for themselves and in many cases, for their children?  If there are limited childcare and afterschool support for working families, where’s the opportunity to remove barriers for employment for women, and drive economic independence and empowerment? I am pleased to learn more YWCAs across the globe are driving more outcomes based programmes; taking a brokering or support role to address long term positive impact we can provide to communities long after the initial programme funding has ended.

With the examples above, in Australia, the gender imbalance for Board positions, leadership positions (CEO and Executive), financial compensation and flexible working environments for women in some industries limits opportunity, and in turn limits incentive for young women to embark or continue to become leaders in their field. We watch with interest the appointment of Australia’s first female Defence Minister Marise Payne this week, and whether this will inspire women to join defence or politics as a result. The representation that opportunity affords remains an important national issue, and as the Emmy speech and the reaction shows, an important global issue too. Compound this ’opportunity issue’ not just with the diversity of race that Viola Davis focused on but also the other factors including disability, age, transgender,  parenting, caregiving and it illustrates that opportunities for women in employment, housing, rights, laws, policies need to be created to support these elements of diversity too.

To my YWCA sisters and brothers, as advocates, programme staff, Board members, fundraisers, communicators who are well aware of the richness of diversity and benefits the movement provides on a local, national, and global level, I encourage you all to watch Viola’s speech. Reflect on the opportunity you currently provide or could provide, especially when next week, the world moves on to a new story, but our need to support our communities remain.

En stage à la YWCA Mondiale – une réflexion sur mon expérience par Lucrèce Falolou, YWCA Bénin

Le 15 juin 2015 a débuté la 29ème session du Conseil des droits de l’Homme à Genève. Ce Conseil des droits de l’homme est un organe intergouvernemental du système des Nations Unies, composé de 47 états qui ont la responsabilité de renforcer la promotion et la protection des droits de l’homme autour du globe. Et comme l’a dit Ban Ki-moon, Secrétaire général des Nations Unies, “Toutes les victimes de violations des droits de l’homme devraient être en mesure de se tourner vers le Conseil des droits de l’homme comme un forum et un tremplin pour l’action.” Ainsi, Plusieurs débats ont rythmé les travaux de cette session, en particulier les débats sur :

– les droits de l’Homme des migrants ;
– La lutte contre les inégalités et les droits de l’Homme ;
– le droit à la santé, le droit à l’éducation ;
– les droits des femmes et des filles, les violations et les discriminations faites à leur égard ;
Il faut noter que tout au long du conseil, qu’un accent particulier a été porté sur les droits, l’autonomisation, le leadership des femmes et leur participation à des instances de prise de décisions politique et économique ; avec la tenue d’une journée entière le 19 juin sur ces questions.

A cet effet, j’ai eu l’opportunité et le privilège de participer en tant que « Jeune leader » au panel 2 sur « les femmes dans les instances de prise de décisions politique et économique ». Au cours de ce débat, j’ai partagé avec l’assistance, mes expériences acquises à la YWCA et le rôle que les femmes leaders, mes mentors, ont joués dans ma formation de leader. Mais aussi, j’ai mis l’accent sur les multiples obstacles rencontrés par les femmes, les défis à réaliser et enfin j’ai invité toutes les jeunes femmes à «oser la différence» et à prendre des risques, afin de laisser l’espoir triompher de la peur et le courage vaincre la timidité. Oser la différence, c’est forcer à s’ouvrir la porte d’entrée sur le marché du travail ; Ceci à travers l’éducation. Car, l’éducation des femmes est primordiale : c’est la fondation sur laquelle repose tout le reste de l’édifice. Sans une éducation de qualité, on prend le départ avec un lourd handicap.

Par ailleurs, ma participation à cette conférence et à la fois mon stage au bureau mondiale de la YWCA a été pour moi une expérience inoubliable. Car ceci m’a permis en un premier temps de faire la connaissance de plusieurs personnalités, institutions et amis. Ceci m’a permis également de plaider la cause des femmes et des filles aux différentes sessions, réunions et évènements parallèles à la conférence. Comme par exemple ma réunion avec son Excellence Mr Eloi LAOUROU, Ambassadeur du Bénin à Genève.

Ensuite, j’ai acquis de nombreuses expériences notamment sur les stratégies de plaidoyer, le lobbying, un nouveau style de rédaction, les logistics, de nouvelles méthodes de communication à travers les réseaux sociaux, le rôle joué par les différentes institutions de l’ONU et les Organisations de la Société Civile, puis la manière dont les lois sont votés.

De même, j’ai remarqué qu’au bureau de la YWCA mondiale, on ne travaille pas silencieusement, mais on raconte des histoires et on rit beaucoup, sans oublier pour autant le travail à accomplir. L’atmosphère de travail était parfaite, cordiale et surtout fraternelle. J’ai connu des collègues très gentils et j’ai tout de suite été incorporée dans le processus de travail. J’étais impressionnée par l’amabilité et la patience avec laquelle les gens s’armaient à essayer de me comprendre avec mon anglais « maladroit ». Mais ainsi, de jour en jour j’ai pu voir que mes connaissances de langue s’amélioreraient. Aussi, suis-je venu ici pour deux semaines et déjà j’ai eu le sentiment que j’avais travaillé ici pour une éternité ; je me suis senti chez moi. Egalement, les gens se sont donnés beaucoup de mal à m’aider en tous les sens ; ils ont essayés de rendre mon séjour agréable que possible. Il y a tellement encore de choses à découvrir ici, mais dans mon cœur subsistent beaucoup de souvenir de nombreuses personnes merveilleuses que j’ai connues pendant mon séjour : Linnea , Pauline, Caroline, Mandy, July, Rita, Marcia, etc. C’était tout simplement une expérience passionnante, magnifique et mémorable.

Short-term Internship, Long-term Experience

By Oluwadamilola Fagade – YWCA of Nigeria & World YWCA short-term intern 2015

When I missed my connecting flight from Frankfurt to Geneva, a very traditional part of me was thinking ‘if I have started with this, I hope my short stay in Geneva will not be as dramatic’.

IMG_20150619_153138336My experience turned out to be a huge blessing. The first day at the World YWCA office surpassed my expectation. The homely arrangement that gives you this comfortable sense of belonging and the very warm members of staff coupled with the efficiency with which programs were being run had a huge effect on me.

My fellow short-term intern, Lucrece Falolou from the YWCA of Benin and I proceeded to spending the first day of the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council to learn more about the HRC, its key themes and events and the participation of the World YWCA.

The Human Rights Council is an intergovernmental body within the UN system that has been saddled with the responsibility of promoting and protecting the rights of human around the globe. It consists of 47 member states that are elected every three years and a bureau of 5 persons acting as the President and Vice Presidents. The HRC has 10 specific agendas guiding its operations. The first three items are thematic, fourth and fifth items are country specific, item six is called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and finally items seven to ten are technical assistance.

Throughout the duration of my internship at the World YWCA and participation at the HRC, I had the opportunity of attending various side events and debates and discussions, in particular topics on:

– Harnessing Faith and Culture: Addressing women’s rights and addressing VAW.
– Addressing Child, Early and Forced Marriage: National and Regional perspectives.
– Human Rights of Women: Eliminating and preventing domestic violence against women and the role of Women in economic and political decision making.
– Women and Natural Resources: Realizing Women’s Peacebuilding potential through Inclusive Natural Resource Management.

I also listened to the reports of the Special Rapporteurs on VAW, Right to Health and Right to Education and their emerging interactive dialogues. In addition to my experience, I had the opportunity of working with the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the UN in Geneva and my major responsibility was to draft statements from the UPR of some member states, which I saw as a very great privilege.

Furthermore, I had the privilege to participate as a panellist at a side event organised by the World YWCA together with its partners on “Technology and Economic Empowerment: Limitless possibilities for women and girls’ participation in the domestic sphere”. In this space I shared my experience as a young woman leader, the highs and lows of technology and economic empowerment amongst the young women in Nigeria.

Because of this experience my horizon has been broadened as I now have a wider scope of the works of the YWCA. I learnt how to use a twitter handle efficiently, I had my first webinar and gain and understanding of the importance of having a healthy work-life balance.

I will now return to Nigeria with a wealth of knowledge on new strategies of advocacy, improved communication skills and a better understanding of the operations of the UN. I am sincerely, thankful to the World YWCA for these invaluable experiences and also grateful to all the wonderful women in the office who have made my stay very comfortable and worthwhile.

Taking a bite of Basel – Swiss Exposure

By: World YWCA Programme Associates – Karolin Jogel and Yeuk Ting Chan

Little did we know about this amazing cheese and chocolate country, called Switzerland before visiting Basel for our Swiss Exposure. It was a valuable experience to get an insight of the different institutions and organisations in Switzerland.

We got to observe the parliament council – ‘Rathaus’ whilst issues related to the public society were discussed. Coming from Hong-Kong it was a special experience to observe the civilized process of democratic decision-making. Every citizen could bring their initiatives, proposals of social issues into the parliament council and more importantly, the government bodies will take their voices into consideration. It was really interesting to see the approaches of social policy making which encourages citizens to take more responsibility about their own decisions, which results a greater sense of social involvement.

A very good introduction to Switzerland’s healthcare systems and cantonal structures were given by Dr. Lukas Engelberger from Basel’s Health Department. We also had the opportunity to visit the University Hospital and get an insight into what takes place behind the scenes of running a big hospital.  This included standing on the heliport and walking through the underground facilities were the robots also operate.

In addition to this, we had a city tour organised by the Section on Equal Rights for Women and Men in Basel. The officer introduced us some current phenomena of gender equality in Basel. The most impressive work they have been doing is gender education in school level which is very inspiring. They broaden teenagers’ thinking about their future development possibilities regardless of their gender but their potentials and interests. It is critical to plant the seed to break down the gender stereotypes at an early age within the education system.

Our Swiss Exposure was a truly fruitful learning experience. We highly appreciated the efforts of all organizers and facilitators, especially the World YWCA and Vivian Beetle for all the work for putting the programme together.


Water pumps under Basel University Hospital


On the heliport, on top of the University Hospital


Robot passing by


City tour organised by the Section on Equal Rights for Women and Men

What is ICT for you?

By Muonyelu Adaeze – The YWCA of Nigeria

What is ICT?
Should girls be involved in ICT?
Can girls prove proficiency in ICT?

All these questions cannot be answered if we do not understand the concept of Information Communication Technology (ICT). This is something that is all about the future, and this future has started.adezzee

One cannot survive or attain great heights without information. Information simply means communicable knowledge if a thing. It is only an informed person that can communicate effectively and only a person who has been informed in technology can communicate in technology.

In my opinion young girls should be involved in ICT in any way that they can. Some will say technology is for men, ignoring that!

ICT is even used everywhere such as in the kitchen where we use the microwave, the cooker, the oven, the dishwasher, the washing machine. Is this not ICT?

As the world is advancing, women are needed in the advancement. Let us all rise and embrace ICT.

As you have proved proficient in your kitchen equipment, you can also prove proficient in the world of ICT.

Whatsoever you want to achieve, you should endure till the end. Young girls, technology will take you to places of great achievement. In one accord, let’s all advance with the advancement the world is embarking on.

International Girls in ICT Day is celebrated around the world in April every year. The main goal is to make girls and young women aware of the vast possibilities offered by ICTs and give them confidence to pursue ICT studies and careers. Watch the video of this years celebration made by the U.S. Mission to Geneva.

My Internship Experience at the World YWCA Office

By Anne McNamara – World YWCA Intern

To be completely honest, I knew very little about the World YWCA and its specific mission prior to beginning my internship here in Geneva this past February. While I was drawn to the position as a self-proclaimed feminist, I only understood at a basic level its mandate to promote women’s rights worldwide, and I did not fully realize the breadth of the YWCA’s efforts to advocate for marginalised women and girls across the globe. Moreover, I could not shake an overwhelming sense of self-imposed intimidation, as I questioned what could I, as a 20 year old woman, possibly contribute to the global movement for women’s equality?


However, in my very first day at the office, my fears immediately dissipated as I was warmly welcomed by some of the most passionate, genuine, and dedicated women I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Immediately, I was treated not as a lowly school girl intern, but as a woman with a unique voice and perspective whose ideas should be valued. This reality was made evident during my first week when I was invited to participate in a meeting to discuss the new Strategic Plan for the movement. While my friends interning with different organisations bemoaned the fact that their days consisted of coffee and cigarette runs for their superiors, I had the opportunity to come into the office every day excited and ready to actively contribute to the movement.

Throughout the duration of my internship, I became increasingly enlightened not only to the unfathomable injustices women face such as early forced marriages, gender based violence, and female genital mutilation, but also to the concrete efforts and campaigns led by the YWCA in order to combat these injustices, both at a grassroots and international level.  Before my time here in the world office, I saw only the obstacles women face— immense and seemingly insurmountable. Nevertheless, after my short time in this office, I now see the concrete efforts, large and small, that have been implemented by regional Y chapters to address these obstacles. Because of this exposure, I will leave Geneva with a renewed sense of hope and optimism of the future of women and girls worldwide, despite the numerous challenges we must overcome.

Furthermore, my experience here at the Y, and in Europe in general, has released me from the perpetual “bubble” I found myself trapped inside back in the United States. I grew up in a very secluded, homogenous town, surrounded only by people who possessed similar experiences to my own. However, my time abroad has exposed me to a multitude of people with different backgrounds, opinions, and cultures—a diversity of perspectives that had been lacking in my life prior to this experience. I am so grateful to the World YWCA office in particular for broadening my perspective.

The personal growth I have experienced due to the time I have spent as an intern at the YWCA is invaluable. I am so thankful for this experience and for the women in the office who have touched my life, for however a short time. I will return to the U.S. ready to spread the YWCA’s message, and confident in my abilities as a young woman leader.


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