“I am a Leader”

Samara and Shernael from the YWCA of Australia reflect on their experiences at World Council 2011 as part of a presentation to AUSAID, who are currently funding YWCA projects in Asia and the Pacific.

Hello, my name is Samara and I am here to talk to you about my experience as a young Aboriginal woman who represented the YWCA of Canberra at the recent International Women’s Summit hosted in Switzerland by the World YWCA Council. My story starts when I applied to the YWCA of Canberra to attend this Summit, and the reason I applied was that I was excited at the idea of meeting influential women from all around the world. I just couldn’t believe my luck when they told me I had been selected to attend this summit.

Shernael Teaurima & Samara Plunkett

At first I felt very happy and privileged to go. But then I started to feel nervous when I thought of all the powerful and inspiring young and older women from around the world who would be attending. I thought, ‘I am not a leader and I won’t be inspirational to anyone at the Summit’. I somehow felt I didn’t have the right to attend the event. In desperation I called my grandfather who is an elder from the Wiradjuri Nation. I told him about being selected to attend the Summit, and I told him I would be representing Australia and my Aboriginal people. I told him I felt bad about being selected. That I didn’t feel I was a leader, and I didn’t have anything to offer.

He told me he had gone through the same issues living in an Aboriginal community, but he had overcome these issues. Now his role was to encourage his kids…sons and daughters to be good role models for Aboriginal people and that he knew his son―my father―had passed that down to me! He said he knew about the work I am doing for the YWCA in Canberra. He said I had achieved a lot, and I should feel confident that it was the right thing for me to attend the Summit.

So I went.

In her opening speech at the Summit, Dr Michelle Bachelet (Head of UN Women) said that women and girls were the key to the solutions to the many major issues in the world, such as poverty, hunger, disease, environmental degradation and violence. Her message was clear – the world can no longer ignore women and girls as positive agents of change. Young women like me needed to start from as young as possible to grow as leaders, and work to change the circumstances we live in. Dr Bachelet’s speech inspired me. Then over the following days I was again inspired as I attended the workshops and listened to women’s stories, their experiences, their struggles with poverty, with disease and violence. I was inspired by all these women who run programs in their own countries. They are not just claiming the right of women and girls to be free of violence and HIV. Women and girls also claim the right to public participation, and to positions of leadership.

When I left the Summit I felt I wanted to bring something back to Australia. So I organised an exhibition at the ACT Legislative Assembly to raise awareness of domestic violence and its impact on women. And I do believe the exhibition achieved its purpose! Then, I realised that each one becomes a leader in different ways. I grew up in Wagga and left my community there because I had a strong desire to support my people. I wanted to be a good role model for young kids and young women in my community. I wanted to be a Youth Worker. Now, I am a youth worker! I have a huge amount of knowledge, and what I want now is to give back to my own Aboriginal community.

I want to reduce DV and I want to contribute to making young women leaders. Leaders of today, leaders for tomorrow and the future! And I want to tell young women not to be afraid of being different, not to be afraid of taking opportunities. Stand up for your rights!! So, in attending the Summit and listening to the many stories from women and young girls I felt empowered and wanted to be like them.

I realise now that I wasand ama leader!!

Shernael shares:

A year ago, I remember hearing talks of World YWCA Council and how it would be an unforgettable experience. Who would have thought that one of the people attending would be me! My initial reaction was excitement when I heard the news, and then fear stepped in  – similar to others, going to something for the first time and not really knowing what to expect from it was quite nerve-racking, but I knew with the with the experience of other members of our delegation, I was in good hands.

Being part of something this big, was awe-inspiring. I enjoyed the rush, the inspirational young women with so much passion behind their ideas, thoughts and experience were all thought provoking. Those young women who stood out for me were those from the Pacific. I had the opportunity to attend the launch of the Pacific Young Women’s Leadership Strategy (available on the YWCA Australia website), the very first of its kind marking a new way of collaborating and connecting at the regional level, with the objective of developing young women’s leadership. The Strategy, was developed by the World YWCA in partnership with regional stakeholders and funded by the AusAID Pacific Leadership Programme (PLP). Addressing the room at the launch, World YWCA President Susan Brennan said “This strategy presents a comprehensive agenda for any organisation or individual wanting to develop the leadership potential of young women in the Pacific”. Juli Dugdale, World YWCA Global Programme Manager,Movement Building and Women’s Leadership Focal Point for Asia and the Pacific, emphasised the importance of developing young women’s leadership in the Pacific and the great contributions by each young women who worked on the strategy.

At the launch at the International Women’s Summit I was privileged to hear two very personal and moving stories from young women from the Pacific on their struggle to have the opportunity to build and assist young women in the region to reach their potential through leadership training. The need to see that sisters from the Pacific are safe, respected, include, connected and skilled was reiterated throughout the launch and it was wonderful to see the passion and dedication of the young women to ensure that there are safe spaces to develop young women’s leadership. It has led me to quite some reflection on “How can I assist and help out?”. As a young women with a South Pacific heritage, and a passion for helping every ‘sister’ reach their own potential, I wanted to jump on board and be part of the change in creating safe spaces for young women in the Pacific.

I realised that having the right knowledge and skills was the way to go. So I have been thinking about studying, and more specifically about how I would be able to gain the skills and knowledge to help my sisters from the Pacific? As a young woman, I also had the privilege to attend the pre Council young women’s leadership dialogue, and its summer BBQ on the outskirts of Zurich. It was a fantastic way to kick off the week and the energy from all the young women, many in national dress, was truly amazing. The highlight for me that evening, was not the catwalk, but just being in the presence of so many inspirational young women from all over the world, all coming together for one same purpose. The joy and excitement of those gathered was fantastic and it was very clear that we were declaring that young women of the movement are present – we were claiming our voice.

The high energy and excitement continued the next day as we gathered together for a day of dialogue and skills building. It was clear that providing leadership opportunities to young women is critical and all YWCA women have a responsibility to be inclusive and supportive of young women at all levels. One of the highlights of the day was the ability to directly contribute to the drafting of the World YWCA Young Women Leadership Strategy presented at World Council. I was in a group looking at our statement on young women and violence against women. It was such a privilege to work with some absolutely incredible young women.

Zurich with Nostalgia

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, General Secretary, World YWCA

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda and Marlies Petrig

On 10 August, Ana Villanueva and I took the train to Zurich. To meet us at the station were Marlies Petrig, Marion Schmid and Julia Diener from the YWCA YMCA Switzerland, and they were not wearing the Helping Hands T-shirts! We hugged and laughed about it, because on the previous journey to Zurich they had met us at the same spot in their red t-shirts. Wednesday was such a beautiful day and there was an open farmers’ market at the train station. We enjoyed a stroll around the market, the fresh vegetables, special tomatoes and the big cherries that looked like plums. We did not buy anything but we relished another trip around Switzerland ~ as if it was another “Swiss Night”, but this time at the market! We were just happy to be in the company of great sisters who had been at the helm of the 27th World YWCA Council as leaders of the host association.

As we walked towards the river Limmat, our sisters asked about everyone in the office, and especially Fiona! We could sense the bonding that had happened in the last few years as we prepared for World Council. We queued for a little bit, as the day was to start with a cruise along the river. The boat was full so we had to wait another 30 minutes. While waiting we took a walk in the park reminiscing on the opening worship, the Glockenhoff, the amazing team of volunteers, the thank you letters we have received. We had to remind ourselves to go back and catch the boat on time, as we learnt about the history of the park, and how the City of Zurich had to clean it up to make sure that people could enjoy it and feel safe.

Later in the afternoon, we talked as the boat cruised along the river. It was good to have a feel of the two sides of the city with the old town on one side. We delved into some reflections on IWS and the logistics, the speakers, the participants, and just the joy of seeing it happen. We re-lived the special World Council opening ceremony and the costumes. Marlies told us about her traditional costume and the family tradition, and on her Iphone showed us the beautiful photo of the occasion. With surprise and gratitude we talked about the special newsletter produced in French by the local YWCA of Vaud, which carried the full story of World Council. We know that this Council has strengthened the spirit of volunteerism in many within this country and had such an impact for movement building and affirmation of the volunteer spirit the YWCA stands for.

We got off the boat, and walked to the Women’s Bath. What a special safe, exclusive space it is. We enjoyed the history of the place and celebrated women’s creativity in history and in our time, Women have always been seeking to create safe spaces. The Swiss Apero was recounted, the lighting, the food, the guests, the atmosphere, the warmth. In our imagination we were transported back to that day, almost a month ago! Women were enjoying bathing, others just basking in the sun, and others simply reading and spending time with themselves. We had to move on, and we knew that friendship and history was made that evening when the YWCA women gathered in this place.

We climbed the stairs, crossed the street and walked a little bit up the road, towards the Fraumünster. There was the City Hall. Why not go in and look around? We still had a little bit of time. It was such a special decision in many ways. We talked and reflected on the contributions of the city of Zurich, Zurich Tourism, the friends and others who had rallied around the Council. In the hall, we felt like we belonged because the Mayor of Zurich, Corine Mauch had been with us at World Council. Instinctively, we wanted to meet her. We asked for her but unfortunately that day she was not in! Oh, but we had a thank you card with us, a special one… Julia is full of surprises. We sat down, wrote and all signed this wonderful card to our sister, Corine, a leader, the Mayor of Zurich; the one who cycled in the rain to come and greet us during Swiss Night at the Albisgutli! Women’s leadership.

We left the City Hall, and just on the corner was “our” church, the Fraumünster. We relived the whole opening worship, we could see the YWCA faces, hear the music and the singing; listen to the story of the Chagall windows. We navigated through the church in silent appreciation, silent prayer of thanksgiving and remembrance. Sitting on the pews and looking at those windows, we could just feel the presence of the past, the richness of the present and the possibilities of the future. We could all feel the official opening of the World Council, the handing over and ringing of the gong and God’s inspiration to the Movement. Not many words, and yet a collective sense of reflection and sharing. Getting a few post cards was the best way of again sharing the spirit of the Fraumünster with our ecumenical brothers and sisters across the world.

As we crossed the bridge and made our way along the streets of the old town, we were still talking. The day was still beautiful, the Council still very present with us and with no stress or pressure we continued our reflection. The outdoor restaurant in Marion’s neighborhood was beautiful. We just had to give a toast, at the earliest moment, to all! As the evening progressed, with food and great company, we looked back at the high and low moments in our preparation of World Council; the theme selection and what it meant for the host association; the timeliness of decision making and impact on logistics; the exchange processes between the host association and the World Office. We laughed, were serious, and it was clear to all of us that we could again hold a World Council! Through the ideas of the day, we knew that this would always be part of a special moment in the history of the movement, and our own individual history. This Council has been a turning point for each one of us personally in either small or big ways, expressed or unexpressed. Its an experience we will live with and talk about for many years to come. There is still so much to think about, discuss and evaluate with the host association, which hopefully will enrich the planning of World Council in 2015.

We had to run for the 9pm train back to Geneva. It was a brisk walk, and we managed to be on time. We left uplifted and happy that we had again been to Zurich and thankful to Marlies, Marion and Julia for their hospitality.

We thought after such an afternoon of reflection, food and laughter, we would sleep all the way to Geneva. Not necessarily, we just enjoyed our ride back and continued with the reflection, and maybe more so the planning, for the next World Council and the next World Board meeting. It was midnight when we said good night, and each retired for the evening.


By Liza  B.  LAMIS
Communications Consultant, Christian Conference of Asia

To be a woman and to be young is to live dangerously in these times.

Aside from always being a potential victim of sexual assault and violence – simply because one is a woman – a poor, young woman is more likely to be a victim of human trafficking and exploitation.

In times of war she could be raped. Rape has always been a tool of conquest and subjugation. Rape has also become a ‘corrective’ measure for those behaving differently than the supposed ‘feminine’ way of being. An African woman said that it is far safer to be a soldier than a young girl these days in her country.

In this context I can understand why a man would thank God he is not a woman! However, with God it is good to be. And I say with God it is good to be a woman.

This must be the reason why the World YWCA Council and International Women’s Summit on July 10-16, 2011 in Zurich, Switzerland, dreamt and did a grand act around the theme:  “Women Creating a Safe World.”

I became a member of the YWCA in the Philippines after Harriet Rivas, Quezon City’s YWCA Secretary in 2007 invited me to speak with the local women during a celebration. From World YWCA designated ‘resident feminist theologian’ at its Regional Training Institute for Asia and the Pacific in 2009, I have now been appointed ‘advisor on feminist theologies’, whatever those titles mean. I gladly welcomed the fancy titles and I love volunteering with the YWCA to feed my passion for gender justice and endless musings about women and their lives.

I raised this question to sisters at the World YWCA Office: What do you need feminist theology for? The simple reply was: So that young women and girls won’t feel guilty about their bodies and choices.

How could women, especially young girls, not feel guilty and feel safe about themselves? What does it mean to say, “With God it is good to be a woman” in a context where there is so much control, imposed guilt, demonisation, violation, abuse, exploitation and mutilation of women and women’s bodies? I am without words to answer these questions. for around the world we hear women and witness them being brutalised, assaulted, living with HIV and AIDS, hungered to death, abandoned…

If women were created in God’s own image, why then is so much evil happening to us, and so much guilt burdening us?

This question consequently leads us to believe that whatever concerns the body is a theological issue and one related to justice. What is theology if not to uphold and promote life to its fullness as God meant it to be? And fullness of life can be made real through acts of justice. It won’t happen by chance. We have to do justice, love kindness…for this is what God requires of us (see Micah 6.8).

“Where countries live in peace, where communities are safe, where homes are free of violence, where lives flourish, and where women’s leadership is creating this vision” is a brave statement of will for the World YWCA. It is a great dream grounded in great faith that with God, it is good to be a woman.

Sharing my journey

By Alemtsehay Zergaw

Alemtsehay is from the YWCA of Ethiopia and she is the 2011 one year inter and Programme Associate in Communications. She shares with us her dreams and how she got to where she is today. 

Alemtsehay Zergaw at World Council

I was invited to speak on my journey in the YWCA movement at the World YWCA Council and to share my values as a young woman. Here is what I shared with my sisters.

I was first informed of the activities of YWCA Ethiopia from a meeting with one of the board members. I then looked for more information and found out that it is an Association with a strong commitment and proven-record of improving the quality of life of poor and vulnerable segments of communities, especially women. I was a graduate International Relations student at Addis Ababa University when I first visited the office of the YWCA of Ethiopia. I felt compelled to volunteer and be part of this blessed and noble mission, and I started to think about the ways in which I can be useful to the Association. I began to work as a volunteer for the public relations committee in 2007 and later in 2009, I joined the YWCA of Ethiopia as a staff member.

I have been involved in different tasks since I was hired by the Association. My experience at the YWCA taught me to chase my dream, to find my real passion and to work hard. I have always believed that change comes from individuals, including me. I was strongly convinced that the internship position at the YWCA office in Geneva would give me a clearer insight, knowledge and exposure to the skills and knowledgebase available there. The skills I‘m getting and the exposure will certainly be of great use for the work I do at the YWCA Ethiopia. I asked myself why was I  applying, and I to myself I answered: “Because I want to learn, it is part of my big dream, I have a true passion for  the YWCA movement. I received enormous support from people around me – a lot of empowerment, prayers, love and recommendation. Now here I am. Excited, learning and challenging myself. What I know now is to dream, dream, dream and take action. Follow your passion and deliver from your heart. That is what I am learning and I am a witness that dreams that appear to be impossible to reach can actually come true.

La première femme suisse devenue présidente de la Confédération s’est adressée aux participantes du Sommet Mondial des Femmes

Par Catherine Jacob, volontaire suisse du CEVI

C’est d’une voix tranquille et avec une présence forte que la première femme suisse devenue  présidente de la Confédération s’est adressée aux participantes du Sommet Mondial des Femmes dans sa partie finale. Ses paroles engagées ont apporté un éclairage pragmatique à l’issue de ce congrès : « nous devons agir ».

Selon elle, la Suisse constitue à la fois un bon et un mauvais exemple: par rapport aux droits de vote, notre pays est l’un des derniers, si ce n’est le dernier à avoir accordé le droit de vote aux femmes: cependant, ce sont bien les hommes qui l’ont voté, ce qui est positif. Elle exprime ensuite son indignation à ce qu’à la création de l’UNO Femmes, cette instance internationale ait obtenu moins de fonds que les budgets réunis des quatre associations qui formaient sa base. Et sa consternation ä ce que la Suisse n’ait pour l’instant pas contribué financièrement à son démarrage.

La Suisse est réputée pour prendre beaucoup de temps pour instaurer des changements : au point qu’Einstein disait qu’il aimerait bien mourir en Suisse, puisque tout s’y passe à retardement. Cependant, une fois les changements institués, la mise en œuvre peut être rapide: nous avons ainsi actuellement un gouvernement composé en majorité de femmes. Cette annonce suscite les applaudissements de la salle.

Le message de Ruth Dreifuss, active de longue date dans le travail syndicaliste, souligne l’importance de concrétiser les décisions prises. Les instruments légaux et juridiques sont essentiels à haut niveau, mais restent inutiles s’ils ne sont pas ensuite implémentés dans des actions au sein de la base.

Quel soutien pour les participantes de ce sommet mondial que d’entendre cette femme engagée exprimer ce qui la touche dans le travail des YWCA mondiales. Elle mentionne trois aspects remarquables à ses yeux de l’activité du mouvement.

Premièrement, des actions concrètes contribuant à plus d’égalité et de justice, en luttant contre toute forme de discrimination.

Deuxièmement, elle une vision systémique dans l’analyse des problématiques, où tout est lié : la violence qui dépend du statut de la femme dans la famille, des possibilités d’engagement professionnel, lesquels sont liées à la qualité de l’éducation. Pour elle, il s’agit de continuer à mobiliser un système millénaire, mis en mouvement il y a déjà cent ans, mais qu’il s’agit de continuer à faire évoluer. Notamment pour que les différentes formes de discriminations ne se nourrissent pas les unes les autres.

Troisièmement, le fait de mettre l’accent dans ce Sommet mondial sur les pires discriminations, les souffrances les plus extrêmes, implique de mobiliser la solidarité profonde de tous, afin de ne pas laisser de côté les femmes sacrifiées dans de nombreux domaines. En les thématisant, ce sont toutes les autres souffrances qui sont ainsi prises en compte. Sûr que la voix profonde avec laquelle cette femme modèle s’est exprimée et le fait de s’adresser à des « consœurs », a réconforté et renouvelé l’énergie de celles engagées sur le terrain et qui vivent ces souffrances en direct ou dans leur propre existence.

C’est également en sa qualité d’experte du terrain que Ruth Dreifuss a transmis ses réflexions et conseils aux responsables des YWCA mondiales, en ces termes: Sur la base des analyses à la fois locales et globales, comment aller plus loin ? Il convient de chercher des alliés, à solliciter de manière spécifique et de cas en cas, en fonction des objectifs visés; il faut exiger des comptes, dans l’idée qu’il n’est pas acceptable que des politiciens ne tiennent pas leurs promesses. Il faut exiger la mise en œuvre des instruments juridiques et légaux qui sont votés, et faire en sorte que des femmes soient engagées dans les groupes qui les mettent en application. Il est important d’offrir aux femmes des espaces pour qu’elles puissent se développer, se former, oser prendre des responsabilités politiques, au plus haut niveau, même avec la peur au ventre les premières fois. Il faut également dénoncer le fait que les femmes soient sous-représentées dans les gouvernements, montrer leurs compétences.

Pour ce faire, il faut grimper les échelons à plusieurs, dans le but d’avoir davantage de forces pour tirer ensuite les autres et atteindre ainsi une masse critique suffisante. Enfin, il est fondamental d’utiliser les instruments formels existants pour argumenter les revendications des femmes sur le terrain. Et en conclusion, il est important que celles qui occupent des postes à responsabilités continuent à s’inspirer du travail de la base, sans quoi elles ne sont rien et ne fassent pas de vaines promesses.

En résumé, un plaidoyer pour créer des espaces sûrs, favoriser la prise de responsabilités, et l’obligation de changer les choses qui sont possibles.

Michele, la mujer que comprende a las mujeres Latinoamericanas

Michele Bachelet se toma tiempo para las inspirar y motivar a sus compatriotas, las mujeres representantes de YWCA en Latinoamerica.

Por: Liz Tödtli, voluntaria Suiza

En un ambiente ameno y colegial, lleno de emoción y alegría, cerca de 25 representantes de las YWCAs en Latinoamerica tuvieron la oportunidad de hacer preguntas directamente a Michelle Bachelet, quien es ahora directora ejecutiva de ONU-Mujer. Todas las participantes le demostraron su aprecio y gratitud por tomarse ese tiempo para inspirarlas y motivarlas.

Michelle escuchó atentamente las inquietudes y preguntas realizadas. Ella motivó a las representantes a establecer prioridades claras que atiendan a las necesidades locales y personales de las comunidades en las que las YWCA desarrollan sus actividades. En un medio machista como el latinoamericano, las mujeres tienen que presentar ideas «que vendan » y muestren que vale la pena invertir en las mujeres, en su desarrollo individual, social, politico y cultural, así como en su protección y promoción. Su primicia es, que las mujeres pueden aportar muchísimo más a la economía de un país y su tarea dentro de la ONU es motivar tambien a los países a reconocer esto y a implementar medidas que logren que las mujeres tengan un camino abierto para explotar su potencial al maximo.

El medio político es duro, y más aún para las mujeres,  pero con un mensaje claro, que tenga sentido para todos y manteniendo la integridad y la credibilidad se puede lograr mucho. Si se conoce la historia de una persona o asociación, el mensaje toma aún más fuerza. Ella incentivó a las mujeres a participar de manera activa y cooperadora con los partidos políticos, como un medio para poder ser escuchadas y poder influenciar en las políticas de sus países. Las mujeres hacen política de otra manera, ellas adhieren en lugar de excluir y unen en vez de dividir, lo cual tiene un gran efecto de cambio.

En general en Latinoamerica, el problema que más enfrentan las mujeres no es una discriminación directa por ser mujeres, sino por la pobreza. En nuestros países, por ejemplo, las mujeres no dejan sus estudios por razones sociales, sino económicas.  Michelle exhorta por tal motivo, a concentrarse y a no sólo ha hacer lo correcto sino también ha hacer lo inteligente. Por eso su insistencia en concentrarse en puntos y estrategias que realmente sean relevantes para la sociedad con la que se está trabajando.

Con respecto a las posibilidades de financiamiento y a las alianzay con otras asociaciones, Michelle recomienda ser creativos y eficientes. En el sector público es difícil encontrar apoyo ya que los fondos son escasos. Pero el sector privado tiene potencial y si las organizaciones como las YWCA se unen y crean proyectos eficientes y emprendedores, tendrán muchas posibilidades de expansión.

Los problemas mundiales que afectan a las mujeres están representados en otras agencias de la ONU como UNICEF y ONUSIDA, por eso no es la tarea de ONU- Mujer quitar las responsabilidad de las otras agencia, pero si de implementar el trabajo mutuo y en conjunto y hacer que la ayuda llegue de manera eficiente a las mujeres afectadas a travez del emprendimiento político y económico, el fin a la violencia que viven las mujeres, no sólo en países en conflicto, sino que también en países con altos grados de corrupción y con problemas de narcotráfico (como es el caso de los países Latinoamericanos) y finalemente el trabajo con los gobiernos de los países para que conozcan sus estadísticas y sepan como implementarlas para el progreso de los programas de apoyo.

En el futuro se pondrá énfasis sobretodo a las ‘’mujeres rurales” así como en el trabajo en conjunto de las mujeres en relación con el desarrollo sustentable y el cambio climático.

Otro tema importante para Michelle es la discriminación a las mujeres que viven con SIDA. En diversas conferencias aboga por ellas, no sólo concentrándose en sus derechos sino también a que estas mujeres tengan acceso a los medicamentos y tratamientos necesarios y un punto muy especial para ella como pediatra es la prevención de la transmisión de VIH de madre a hijo.

Al final de la corta pero inspiradora reunión, las mujeres hicieron una foto grupal junto con Michelle, y la sonrisa de oreja a oreja no sólo tenía que ver con la pose para la fotografia, sino con su agradecimiento por el nuevo impulso que Michelle, sincera y sencillamente, les trasmitió de mujer latina a mujer latina!

Investing in Women and Girls

By Erica Lewis

Erica Lewis is from the YWCA of Australia. She shares her thoughts on the first day of the International Women’s Summit.

I heard many interesting and inspirational things yesterday – and if you’re interested in a list then try #iws or #wc11 on twitter – but two have stuck with me through the day.

At her press conference Michelle Bachelet said that empowering women wasn’t just the right thing to do it was the smart thing to do, and earlier in the day she had described the growing and overwhelming evidence that investing in women and girls is the best way to address a whole range of social and economic ills.

So, the obvious question is – why aren’t governments investing more in women and girls?

My guess is that for all the rhetoric of evidence based policy it is still difficult to create new policy and programme funding paradigms, and that historically it has been deemed foolish to invest in women and girls. But as the evidence mounts surely all of our governments must reconsider their spending to ensure that empowered girls and
women fully enjoy their human rights in order to strengthen all of our communities.

Enfin, le moment de la rencontre

Par Catherine Jobin, bénévole pour le Conseil Mondial 2011

Zürich, aéroport, 11h30, Terminal 1 : imaginez un immense hall, grouillant de monde. Notre mission est de rejoindre l’équipe des bénévoles dont la tâche est d’accueillir les déléguées à leur arrivée sur sol suisse. Nous cherchons l’endroit et soudain, les voici, les t-shirts rouges: ils nous guident pour arriver au desk où nous sommes reçues comme à la maison: un mot de bienvenue, un café, de quoi manger, que c’est agréable.

Cette qualité d’accueil correspond au concept développé avec soin par l’équipe chargée de l’organiser, en particulier par Sarah Tandang et Julia Petrig, qui en a fait le sujet d’une recherche: l’idée est que chaque bénévole reçoive des informations sur les différentes façons de se dire bonjour d’un pays à l’autre: sourire, se tenir à la juste distance, regarder l’autre dans les yeux. Une manière de recevoir qui permette à chaque déléguée de se sentir arriver dans un monde sûr.

Bienvenue à Zürich – un accueil digne d’un monde sûr

Dès samedi 9 juillet et sur trois jours, quelque mille femmes en provenance d’une centaine de pays  atterrissent à l’aéroport de Zürich, accueillies par une équipe dynamique et très motivée d’une trentaine de bénévoles par tranche horaire. Un accueil organisé de longue date et pensé dans les moindres détails, y compris dans la perspective de porter un soin particulier aux  premiers instants de la rencontre : une manière de recevoir qui permette à chaque déléguée au Conseil Mondial de découvrir un monde sûr.

Une prise en charge très concrète

La qualité d’accueil visée repose sur une organisation bien orchestrée. En fonction de l’arrivée des avions, des bénévoles sont envoyés au fil des heures aux terminaux concernés, afin de se faire connaître. Ils conduisent ensuite leurs hôtes au desk prévu pour un premier enregistrement. Les femmes qui ont souvent voyagé de longues heures peuvent s’asseoir quelques instants, exprimer leurs impressions et leurs besoins souvent très divers. Elles peuvent également se restaurer et se reposer si elles le souhaitent, avant de rejoindre leur hôtel, ou demander à être accompagnées de suite au logement qui leur a été réservé, en train, tram ou bus: quelques voitures peuvent également transporter les personnes plus âgées, très chargées ou pour tout autre bonne raison particulière, mais l’idée est de privilégier avant tout l’utilisation des transports publics.

Un concept d’accueil personnalisé

L’idée originale repose sur la conception d’un accueil spécifique, tenant compte de la culture de chaque participante: comment souhaite-t-on la bienvenue dans tel ou tel pays, à quels aspects est-il important d’être attentif, quels gestes ou paroles aident à procurer un sentiment de confort, autant de questions que Julia Petrig, 17 ans, a étudiées de manière approfondie. Les bénévoles engagés ont ainsi été informés du concept élaboré spécialement pour l’occasion et des spécificités de chaque culture.

Julia, dont émane un enthousiasme communicatif, nous l’explique: ‘’accueillir chaque femme avec un sourire, à une juste distance par rapport à sa culture, et en la regardant dans les yeux. Il s’agit également  de la saluer à la manière suisse, en lui serrant la main, en lui donnant des informations sur ce qui va suivre et sur le rôle des personnes présentes. En résumé, un accueil bienveillant et procurant le sentiment de valeur et d’existence propre.’’

Au fil de quelques rencontres

Une femme arrivant d’Asie, son avion a du retard, Julia et sa mère l’attendent. Croyant l’avoir manquée, elles se déplacent vers la sortie quand cette femme aperçoit leur panneau et les accoste: son visage s’éclaire en découvrant qu’elle est attendue, les échanges sont riches au cours du trajet qui l’amène à son adresse.

Un groupe d’une trentaine de femmes africaines arrivent dans leurs costumes colorés, enchantées de découvrir un comité d’accueil en t-shirts rouges, bien visibles. La rencontre est chaleureuse, elles serrent les bénévoles dans leurs bras, prennent des photos, rient et dansent. Un monde se crée l’espace d’un moment dans le hall d’arrivée de l’aéroport. Plusieurs bénévoles tentent d’organiser leur déplacement, leur récit décrit un voyage haut en couleurs: certaines ont peur de l’escalier roulant, d’autres oublient leurs bagages en montant dans le train, quelques-unes se perdent en prenant l’ascenseur. Au final, toutes sont tout de même arrivées à bon port. Pour les bénévoles suisses, un exercice de souplesse et de créativité, et l’apprentissage que la notion du temps peut être très relative.

Un accueil dans l’esprit des YWCA

Au travers des rencontres qui se nouent dans le hall de l’aéroport, c’est toute la vie du mouvement YWCA qui est symbolisée l’espace de quelques jours. La plupart des jeunes bénévoles présentes ont moins de trente ans et cet engagement constitue une occasion de s’exprimer en d’autres langues, de découvrir d’autres façons de vivre et de concevoir le quotidien, d’expérimenter les enjeux d’une authentique solidarité. Pour certaines d’entre elles, c’est également une opportunité de découvrir toutes les facettes de l’élaboration d’un projet, d’assurer la formation de collaborateurs, ou de diriger une équipe. Plus largement, c’est aussi pour d’autres l’occasion de manifester leur reconnaissance pour l’accueil reçu ailleurs lors d’un précédent Conseil Mondial. Enfin, il faut citer quelques femmes qui ont rejoint le mouvement presque par hasard, en répondant à l’appel de recherche de bénévoles: sensibles aux questions concernant les femmes ou ayant beaucoup voyagé, elles sont venues proposer leur aide et leur motivation. En résumé, ces rencontres à l’aéroport peuvent résumer à elles seules les valeurs prônées par le mouvement: qui que tu sois, d’où tu viens, tu appartiens à une communauté où tu as ta place et ton rôle à jouer.

L’arrivée de mille femmes en provenance de plus de cent pays au Conseil Mondial à Zürich: une occasion unique de développer en largeur et en profondeur ses qualités humaines.