My time as an intern at the office of World YWCA

by Annika Jernigan – World YWCA Intern

When Katie and I headed to our first day of interning at the YWCA, we did not know what to expect. We had been in Switzerland for less than a week, and were still getting used to things. Particularly, the use of public transportation and how exactly to read a map were among skills we hadn’t yet mastered. So, I believe we were mortified to be slightly late on our first day. When we eventually made it to the office, all was forgiven and we were greeted warmly. The atmosphere in the office was instantly charming.

In the coming weeks, we got to know the amazing women that fill this office, and the mission they carry. What is more is that everyone went out of her way to make us feel welcomed and comfortable. Many of our friends were interns for people who did not even know their names, and were a little jealous when we told them about our experience. Those supervising us always made sure to ask what we thought of the projects we were working on, and what we would like to work on next. Never were we given mindless tasks or busywork.

The women of this office cared what we had to say and made sure to let us know. They don’t just believe in the mission of the YWCA – they live it. I have learned so much from this experience, and I feel humbled to have had this opportunity. Never before have I been surrounded by such positive, strong, inspiring women. This office houses leaders who are unflinching in their conviction. My understanding of what it is to be a woman-to be a leader- is forever changed.anika

From attending events at the United Nations, to reviewing reports from Pacific countries, every assignment has broadened our view of the world. We have spent our time here laughing, learning, and working. Now that our time is coming to a close, the thing I will miss most about Switzerland is coming in to the YWCA office.

If I can retain even a fraction of what I have learned here, and share that with the women of my own community, I will be extremely proud. The work being done at the World WYCA office is absolutely vital to the advancement of women, and I am immensely grateful to have played any part in that. This experience has changed me for the better, and I will carry it with me for the rest of my life.

My Experience at the World YWCA

By Katie Greenberg – World YWCA Intern

As I walked into the three story house which serves as the office building for the World YWCA in mid-January, I had no idea what to expect of the internship on which I was about to embark on. I honestly did not know much about the YWCA and was nervous, and a little apprehensive, but excited to face a new opportunity and learn as much as I could. Now, as I prepare to walk out the door of the house I have come to love for the last time, I feel nothing but fulfillment and bittersweet joy.10526008_10152575532323080_5196525774029308107_n

My experience at the World YWCA has been nothing short of spectacular and I think it has a lot to do with the women I have been so fortunate to work with. From day one I have been made to feel like a colleague and not a subordinate whose only job is to get coffee. I have been challenged by my assignments and like any good job should do, I was allowed to grow into a better version of myself. It was during an all-staff envisioning meeting when I realised this was not an ordinary internship. Having only been at the World office for two weeks at that point, I was still learning about office dynamics, the work of the YWCA, and the role of the World office in the greater YWCA movement. Irrespective of my lack of knowledge, my opinions were welcomed and everyone was genuinely interested in what I had to say.

I think one of the strengths of the World YWCA is that it brings together women from all different countries, cultures, heritages, experiences, and ages and allows them to have an equal voice and participate in the conversation. Never once in my experience was I made to feel less important because I am still in college and have not had as much life or work experiences as my colleagues. I will forever be grateful I was not just asked to copy papers and take notes, but was instead challenged to draft policies, contribute to policy papers, and analyze trends in the YWCA movement. I leave the office feeling like I contributed to an organisation I have come to care so deeply about.

The YWCA has allowed me to spend the last three months surrounded by other women who are as passionate about women’s rights as I am. I have found a place where conversations about sexism in the workforce, contraception, and the rights of children are not only acceptable but encouraged. The experience has only reinforced my desire to do advocacy work when I graduate college. Before this internship I only had an idea of what advocacy as a career looks like. I have been given the invaluable experience of seeing the everyday work which goes into an organisation championing the rights of people around the world. I leave feeling more empowered and knowing I want to spend my life fighting for equality for all people.

I arrived in Switzerland and at the World YWCA filled with passion. I leave with the same passion with which I arrived, but also with the knowledge that I can make a difference. The YWCA has opened my eyes and allowed me to become a better leader, woman, and advocate, and for that I will forever be grateful. Now it is time to say goodbye to an office which has become a home. I leave keeping with me the lessons I have learned from the remarkable women I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by and carrying the message of empowerment embodied by the YWCA.

This is how we do it – The movement celebrating World YWCA Day 2015

By Pauline Mukanza – Programme Associate, Communications

The World YWCA Day is an annual day of celebration of celebrated every year on April 24. The theme of this year’s World YWCA Day 2015 was “Celebrating our Work and Envisioning 2035”. The office of World YWCA took the opportunity to host a Twitter Chat in order to engage in discussion about the work of the movement and  Envisioning 2035. YWCA’s General Secretary, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda delivered a video message in addition to hosting a World YWCA Day Tray Lunch, bringing together panellists to engage in conversation about placing young women and girls at the centre of all our work.

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Panellists from the World YWCA Day Tray Lunch included Malayah Harper, Chief Gender Equality and Diversity Division, UNAIDS; Susan Schorr, Chief Media and Public Information at ITU; Titta Maja, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and Elaine Neuenfeldt, Executive Secretary Women in Church and Society of the Department for Mission and Development at the Lutheran World Federation. In addition to Veronica Birga, Chief Women’s Human Rights and Gender Section, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The event was co-moderated by World YWCA General Secretary Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda and myself.

Around the world family and friends celebrated World YWCA Day. Let’s take a closer look at how some of the associations celebrated a day that has been celebrated since 1947!

The YWCA of Secunderabad in India celebrated at their local centre with Dr. Rebecca Stanley, the South East Regional Vice President as the special guest, who “encouraged the members that celebrations are also time to reflect and raise the bar. Simply dwelling on the past can only cause us to stagnate and calcify. Just focusing on the present and the immediate is too narrow of a mission. We are called to be a people of the future with an eye on the present and the experiences of the past”, she said and called for all to envision.

The YWCA of Secunderabad also held a meaningful Praise and Worship session led by the President, Seema Victor.

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The YWCA of Papua New Guinea sent their greetings to the wider movement. This picture features members of Port Morseby YWCA who gathered to celebrate the World YWCA Day.

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The YWCA/YMCA of Sweden celebrated the World YWCA day in Stockholm, Sweden. They held their traditional breakfast followed by workshops in fundraising and partnership within the European Union.

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The YWCA of Haiti had an open-door cocktail reception where they celebrated young women and girls. This allowed the public to meet the local support team and discover their current and future opportunities.

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The Taipei YWCA a part of the YWCA of Taiwan came together to learn together, grow together, and to look at how to best be responsive to community needs. This definitely deserves a big thumb’s up!

 

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The YWCA Argentina (A.C.F.) also came together to for a celebratory breakfast.

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The YWCA of USA joined us for the Twitter Chat.

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The YWCA of Ghana took the opportunity to fundraise by serving petrol to citizens at the Total filling station in Accra, Ghana.

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The YWCA Adelaide in Australia celebrated World YWCA Day with a picnic in Tarntanyangga. Shadow Minister for the Status of Women Michelle Lensink made the call on Instagram: “Great turn out for YWCA Adelaide on a cool & breezy morning” Three female MPs and three female Councillors and members, friends and supporters joined the celebrations too!

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Thank you for celebrating with us this year, it is a real pleasure to be a part of such a bold movement that reflects on its past achievements yet dares to collectively envision the future ahead.

Girl Child Safety Campaign

By Lilly Agoya – The YWCA of Kenya

Born in the 80`s in a family of five I always saw life to be so easy, fun and simple. The only life I knew was school, church and home. Being a playful, joyful child I could not complain, safety was highly felt in all my childhood years and to me the cases of today that affect the girl child weren’t there at that time since playing with boys was okay and because discipline was enhanced through schools, homes, churches or mosques and life was peaceful and sweet.

In 2009 after gaining much knowledge about the YWCA and having read the story of Tamara in the Bible, changed my life so much, reading about something that the girl child is still experiencing up to date. Living at the coastal part of Kenya, the girls are married off early whether educated or not. This factor has affected me dearly since the girls take responsibilities too early under the circumstances of poverty making the chain even longer each day.  They also go through the torment of torture either physically or emotionally. Parents and guardians marry off their girls due to the poverty crisis that they go through, it may be a short term relaxation without hunger or debts, but the family will still inherit the poverty disease.tana 2

The traditions and customs of the coastal people view the girl child’s place to be in the kitchen, bear many children and should always emulate from the great grandparents who saw it fit for the woman to be in that position. The young women and girls in these communities have no role models in their families and communities forcing them to unwillingly commit to marriage and child bearing.

Poverty has therefore been a chain of inheritance in many families and marrying off girls seems to be relieving them of that burden. The girls get thrown into the outside world without proper education, proper guidance from their parents or guardians. Instead they become at higher risk of contracting HIV or having unwanted pregnancies or suffering forms of violence at the hands of their so called husbands. In Kenya, 13,000 girls leave school yearly and live miserable lives. In school teachers who are supposed to be our second guardians cannot always be trusted. Statistics state that between the years 2003-2007, 12,660 girls got abused by teachers just because they could not pay for their fees or get materials for their learning.

All these happenings made me advocate more for girls and young women after I read the story of the girls in Kilifi county where in a week girls sneak out for five times to look for fees through prostitution. One of the girls often acts as the broker (a 17 year old) who links them with men, advises them to abort when they accidentally get pregnant and the sad thing is that the teachers are also the culprits/clients of the students.

The campaign that I am a part of highlights:

  • The importance of girls being protected through education and gaining of knowledge.
  • The importance of girls being protected through reproductive health talks.
  • The importance of the community in realizing that early marriage is not a solution to poverty.
  • That the traditions are important in embracing our culture but some are harmful to our girls and young women.

It is my passion and dream to always mentor many girls and young women but my only hindrance is the availability of funds to move to the most interior and rural areas at the coast. I feel that there is a lot of work to do in curbing this menace, a lot of girls and young women are suffering due to lack of fees to continue with education even though it may be free in primary level but it’s not enough, lack of sanitary towels, pens or books. All these factors coerce these girls and young women to go against their principles. More and more programmes are to be enhanced to ensure sustainability and continuous nurturing and development of girls and young women. What they only need is mentorship and role models in their lives to enable them make their own sound decisions concerning their careers, reproductive health and well being and thus their world will be safe to live in and they will be safe wholly.

Please sign the World YWCA petition to keep girls in school HERE

My First CPD Experience

By Karen from the YWCA of the Philippines

I have been involved with the YWCA of the Philippines for a decade now. I am inspired by its mission and vision to develop the physical, social, intellectual, moral and spiritual well-being of women and girls in acATT_1429289663640_IMG_20150416_210314cordance with Christian ideals.

I joined the YWCA many years ago and I was fortunate and grateful to meet the role models and leaders of this organization who developed, transformed and empowered me to become a responsible Christian leader through the YWCA trainings, workshop and activities that I attended.  The World YWCA has given me another opportunity to attend the 48th Session on the Commission on Population and Development in New York. I knew that such opportunity comes with a big responsibility and I was excited but nervous. I have always thought New York as a beautiful, rich, shopping paradise, and an extraordinary city. I dreamt of seeing the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Central Park, Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal, Metropolitan Museum Art, and the Fifth Avenue.

It is  an almost 18-hour flight from the Philippines to the other side of the world. On the plane, I met a very wonderful woman named Tita Fe, who has been very friendly and helpful during the entire flight from Manila to New York. She guided me where to get a ride to the hotel. The shuttle ride from the airport to One UN New York Hotel lasted for forty five minutes and it was amazing because I met two young women, whom were also travelling to New York City for the first time too.

The first day of the conference was exciting and full of learning experience. The moment I was waiting for had finally arrived – to enter the United Nations Headquarters in New York. It is just unfortunate that I wasn’t able to attend the opening ceremony of the conference and attended the afternoon session instead. It is a wonderful day to start my American experience together with other YWCA sisters and beautiful people working on a common purpose and interest from around the world.

I am also very happy and privileged to meet, for the second time Saba Haile, General Secretary of YWCA Ethiopia and Nelly Lukale, Youth Coordinator from YWCA of Kenya. We enjoyed our fellowship together and the discussions on the YWCA initiated programmes and activities to change the lives of our young women and girls around the world.  We are also thankful to Hendrica Okondo, World YWCA Global Programme Manager SRHR and HIV and AIDS – Focal Point Africa, for the inspiration, support and mentorship.

Attending the 48th CPD session as part of the World YWCA Delegation was a great learning experience and a life changing experience for a young woman like me. It helped me to appreciate and understand the issues affecting people around the world in a broader and deeper perspective.

Thank you to the YWCA Philippines and World YWCA for always giving me and other young women opportunities to participate in such a high-level of training aimed at developing us as future leaders who respect human rights and who embrace Christ’s values of love, peace, justice and compassion for others. I am truly blessed with the YWCA.

To God be the glory!

International Mother Earth Day

By: Mandy Nogarede: World YWCA, Programme Officer Grant Management & Focal Point Middle Eastgreen

Mother Earth Day? What a joke! There is nothing motherly about the earth. The earth is a planet, the only one, as far as we know, with life on it. We don’t have an answer to why there is life here, but we do know that life evolves according to Charles Darwin’s theory of the Origin of Species. Species evolve over a long period of time by adapting to the environment through mutations in their genes. Those fittest to their environment are the ones who reproduce and so prolong their species. So we arrive at the incredible variety of life on earth today, where species have adapted to so many different environments.

Mother Earth Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on this.

An interesting way of looking at the earth is expressed in the Gaia theory. It ‘proposes that all organisms and their inorganic surroundings on Earth are closely integrated to form a single and self-regulating complex system, maintaining the conditions for life on the planet’. The human species is part of this complex system and we forget this at our peril. By living in an unsustainable way we are destroying the delicate balance of the planet and the result might be that our dear ‘Mother Earth’ can no longer provide the conditions in which we can thrive.

We are one of the most successful species on earth today and through our intelligence we have adapted to many different environments and in many cases have adapted the environment to our needs. As humans nothing differentiates us completely from other animals, but we have intelligence and an advanced use of language that have enabled us to develop a culture and be conscious of our own mortality. However we are still living according to very basic instincts, the hoarding instinct expressed through our rampant consumerism, the instinct that we must dominate others in order to thrive. These instincts are encouraged by the capitalist society in which many of us live. We need to use our advanced forms of reflection to see that this is not in our long term interest and does not bring happiness. We seem to often forget that we are dependent upon the earth. Because it does not affect us in the short term, we are not living in a sustainable way. The result of this is that sooner or later we will run out of the resources we need to survive.

Climate change, pollution, water shortage, over fishing, intensive farming, destruction of the rain forests, etc. etc. In order to satisfy our wants we are destroying the branch on which we are sitting. And when we become extinct, so probably will all other mammals. Look back at the history of the earth, mammals, including humans, have only been on it for a short time, other species came and went before us, extinct because the earth was no longer able to provide the conditions needed for them to thrive. Mother Earth will continue, but we won’t.

What makes us humans different is that with our ability to reflect, we know this now, so what will we do?

On the one front we see the rise of extremism and restrictions on our freedom, often in the name of religion; the destruction of species continues unabated and the race for profit is everywhere destroying the beauty of the world. The price of petrol has gone down while the temperature of the planet has never been so high. 

However another front there are lots of tiny lights of hope, the millions of humans who see we are not only threatening future generations, but also destroying our own quality of life. Many of us are living differently, making many small initiatives on an individual or community level that can lead to  a live able lasting and better world, a world where we are open to others and other cultures, a civilisation of respect for life in all its forms.

Which side with the balance go? What hope is left to us? What can we do? There is no time left to doubt, to be discouraged. Stop believing that buying things makes you happy, learn to be, rather than to have, act in a responsible manner, and don’t count on Mother Earth:  it is up to us!

MY BODY, YOUR RIGHT???

fdsfMy Name is Yadanar and I am Young Women’s Coordinator from YWCA of Myanmar.

Thingyan is the Myanmar New Year Water Festival and usually falls around mid-April (the Myanmar month of Tagu). It is a Buddhist festival celebrated over a period of four to five days culminating in the new year.

This year of 2015, Yangon police announced on March 30 that they would arrest owners of pharmacies or other shops found to be selling emergency contraceptives, birth control pills or medicines for erectile dysfunction(Please click here for more). Pharmacy owners were forced to sign pledges not to sell the medicines before and during the water festival, including products registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In some areas of Yangon, pharmacies are not allowed to sell even condoms because police told them not to. In some areas, pharmacists are now selling some of the drugs under the table at inflated prices. Many pharmacies have responded by putting away contraceptive products from their shelves and some shop closed completely. According to some of the pharmacies previous years, the usage of EC pills is highest during water festival and on Valentine’s Day.

Even before banning contraceptives, the unmet need for family planning in Myanmar stands at 19 percent, compared to only 3 percent in neighboring Thailand. In Myanmar, MMR is 200 per 100000 live births which is one of the worst in the region, according to a recent United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report. Many women in Myanmar do not have access to the full range of family planning choices. As a result there is a high rate of maternal mortality.

Safe abortion is permitted only for the reason to save Mother’s live.  Apart from that reason, unsafe abortion carries a prison term of up to three years for the provider and seven years for the mother, causing unsafe abortions to become one of the leading causes of maternal death.

We can imagine what will happen if contraceptives including Emergency Contraceptive pills cannot be accessed when it is needed the most and when the option for safe abortion is not available. As we always believe and advocate as young women champions, getting information and services about Sexual and Reproductive Health which are affordable, accessible and having a wide range of contraceptive options available, is our RIGHT. But where are our sexual rights and reproductive rights now??

What if young women got Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV because they did not have access to condoms?What if young women suffered from complications of unsafe abortion because Emergency Contraceptive pills were not accessible??
What if young women lose their lives because of septic abortion??
It would be too late to correct when she is already living with HIV, when a life is already gone!!

These thoughts remind me as well as force me that I have a long way to go concerning about advocating for the young women to enjoy their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

From this safe space for young women and women, I would like to shout with all my voice that

“MY BODY IS NOT YOUR RIGHT,

MY BODY, MY RIGHT”

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