What does intergenerational leadership mean to young women? A voice of the Young Women’s Forum

By Yvonne Schüpbach – YWCA YMCA Switzerland

By now we are all familiar with the certain discussion about intergenerational leadership within the YWCA. Often there are just the elderly women who are asked what they think about it. But that changed at this Young Women’s Forum. I was asked, to speak about what I, as a young woman who is 20 years old, think about this issue.


I have joined the YMCA/YWCA Switzerland when I was very young. I think I was 7 years old. I remember my first scout afternoon program; I was very impressed by the different amazing leaders. They seemed to be self-confident and sure about how the world functions. My leaders seemed to be sure of what the right way is. But then I grew up and I became a leader as well, when I was 13 years old. During this time I discovered that it was not like I thought it would be. Leaders don’t know everything. They are not always sure how the world functions and if they are doing the right thing in the right way.

At this time intergenerational leadership and the older leaders became more important to me. Firstly, they had to give me space and the possibility to participate and be included in decisions. In addition the older leaders of my association became my advisers. They are sharing their experience and expertise with me. They are so important in my leadership development. But it is no one way road. It is a bilateral relationship because sometimes they do not understand the youth and the world we’re living in and then they ask me to share certain things.

Due to this my conclusion is: intergenerational is about share knowledge and space, listen to each other and care about one other. It is beyond dominating. It is beyond being bossy. It is beyond being exclusive. It is about sharing, listening and caring.

So my call to action is: Let the young women participate and be active together with the older. Let us work together as equal partners. And let us use our intergenerational knowledge to be bold and transformative.


Delia González Medel, YWCA Chile

Ayer, martes 13 de octubre 2015 durante el Consejo Mundial de la YWCA que se realiza en Bangkok, tuve la alegría de participar en el Taller acerca de las Relaciones Intergeneracionales al interior de nuestras YWCA.

Aunque no fue preparado intencionalmente así,  justamente nuestra mesa de expositoras estuvo compuesta por 3 mujeres de distintas generaciones. Asimismo, las participantes del Taller pertenecían a distintos grupos etarios, lo que permitió conocer y compartir preciosas experiencias y preguntas respecto a este gran desafío de la comunicación y colaboración intergeneracional,  tarea que – estando ya en movimiento- se nos hace ineludible.IMG_2823

Las distintas maneras en que las YWCA de Canadá, Aotearoa/Nueva Zelanda y Chile han enfrentado este tema, nos confirma que cada realidad nos convoca a conocer en profundidad a las personas y grupos con quienes trabajamos, en su diversidad y particularidad, acercarnos a las culturas de las que participan y a su situación de vida en el presente, con sus necesidades, creencias  e intereses.

A pesar de los distintos contextos y experiencias compartidas, entre ellas emergieron elementos comunes que no podemos soslayar.

Si bien, tal como fue expresado por mi parte en el Taller, no existen recetas acotadas para producir un encuentro y mejor comunicación entre las generaciones, ya que las relaciones humanas son un entramado complejo de expectativas y de visiones de mundo que se encuentran, sí pudimos apreciar que las tres exposiciones refirieron –como condición básica-  al reconocimiento mutuo en distintas dimensiones, a saber: el valor de la historia de vida individual y colectiva de cada mujer, el ser capaces de recuperar la sabiduría de todas y cada una, acercarnos con respeto y confianza en las capacidades y habilidades de las otras, comprender que el  producto de ello va a ser el enriquecimiento mutuo, y,  para todo  lo anterior, por sobretodo necesitamos tener la decidida y clara convicción y disposición a realizar ese reconocimiento. Es una opción y es una buena nueva.

Tal como lo señalara Marcela Lagarde, la sororidad  como forma de construir nuestras relaciones entre mujeres, implica valorarnos y reconocernos en la diferencia y el enriquecimiento mutuo.

Inspirational World Council Young Women’s Forum

Orliginal source of the blog post: http://worldcouncil.waarbenjij.nu/reisverslag/4873320/lots-of-inspiration-at-the-young-women-s-forum

Friday was an exciting day: it was the first day of the World Council Young Women’s Forum. This Forum takes place before the actual World Council and is meant for young women to meet each other, to network. Wieske and I were present as young women of  YWCA Netherlands. It was a full, but very inspiring day and I would love to share some highlights to give you an impression. 12079225_10153147501087011_7058181459065768060_n

The day started with celebrating faith and diversity. We sang some songs and we reflected on a story from the Bible about the bleeding woman. This woman suffered a lot, but she believed that touching Jesus’ clothes would heal her and she had the courage to get to him through the crowd. This story was connected to the courageous stories we live and we were asked to write our stories of courage down. All these stories together make for a very powerful group of women! After this celebration we introduced each other by guessing which countries were present. It was really amazing to see so many young women represent their countries!

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

An important part of the morning programme consisted of a panel with representation from organizations such as UN Women and UNESCO. They introduced the SDGs: the Sustainable Development Goals, which are targets related to international development. They are the follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and they will last for 15 years, until 2030. There are 17 goals, ranging from topics like poverty to inequality and the environment. Goal 5 is gender equality, and more specifically: “to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. This differs from the wording in the previous MDGs, which said “promote” instead of “achieve” gender equality. Therefore, this goal is more ambitious than the previous one. Within this goal there are different targets on topics such as: female genital mutilation (FGM), ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls, unpaid care and domestic work and female leadership. They will be implemented with different means and measured by using various indicators. You can find more information on the SDGs on: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics .

The SDGs are important, because they will be instrumental when it comes to governments deciding what to focus on in their policies. Of course, it’s still up to governments what they choose to focus on but the SDGs are very important in this process. Having a specific goal for gender equality is very important and has been brought about by the work of many activists, feminists and organizations.

After this panel it got really interesting, because the different YWCA regions (North America, Latin America and Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Pacific) spoke about the issues they’re facing when it comes to gender inequality. It was very interesting to learn more about the various issues and to notice some similarities between regions. For example, domestic violence is a problem every region has to deal with. Stereotyping is also something that happens throughout the world, even though the stereotypes may differ. It was also good to hear about the issues of fellow European countries and there we also experienced a lot of similarities. After this, the SDGs were connected to “Envisioning 2035”, a YWCA process aimed at envisioning what we want the world to look like in 2035. It’s a bigger plan where YWCAs will work towards to. The goal that was determined for Envisioning 2035 is: “By 2035, 100 million young women and girls transform power structures to create justice, gender equality and a world without violence and war; leading a sustainable YWCA movement, inclusive of all women.” During the next few days at the World Council, we will talk and discuss about this vision and elaborate on it.

Cultural evening

The day ended with a cultural evening, which was amazing! Lots of ladies, especially the Asian and African women, wore their national dress and they looked fantastic! Different countries teached us lovely new songs and dances and there was a really nice atmosphere.

All in all it was an awesome first day. We, the young women of the YWCA Netherlands, are looking forward to an exciting second day at the Young Women’s Forum. 12096637_876238722466910_6091672082935993487_n

During the Council we will also use social media to report on what happens here. You can follow us on Twitter on: http://www.twitter.com/ywcanederland and you can follow us on Facebook via http://www.facebook.com/ywcanederland  .

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.

Survive, Thrive and Transform!

Blog written by: Vanessa Anyoti, SRHR and GBV Program Coordinator at YWCA of Tanzania

“Every Woman Every Child. This focus is long overdue. With the launch of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, we have an opportunity to improve the health of hundreds of millions of women and children around the world, and in so doing, to improve the lives of all people.”

— United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

July 27th – 29th, 2015 I attended the UN Secretary Generals Global Strategy on Women’s Children and Adolescents (Every Woman Every Child) Health Adolescents Work stream Meeting hosted by UNFPA HQ, in New York. After a delayed flight, and spending two days in Amsterdam as a result, I arrived in sunny New York and ready to participate in the meeting.

The Every Woman Every Child initiative was launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the United Nations MDG’s Summit in September 2010. The Every Woman Every Child initiative is a global movement that mobilizes and intensifies international and national action by governments, multilaterals, the private sector and civil society to address the major health challenges facing women and children around the world.

The meeting was focused on placing – by being able to account for – adolescents at center of the Global Strategy of the Secretary General on Women’s and Children’s Health. The inclusion of adolescent health in the Global Strategy of the Secretary General on Women’s and Children’s Health, represents a unique opportunity to place adolescents on the political agenda beyond 2015.  Ensuring that every adolescent has the knowledge, skills, and opportunities for a healthy, productive life and enjoyment of all human rights is essential for achieving improved health, social justice, gender equality and other development goals.

Participants of the meeting included Youth, representatives form WHO, UNFPA, UNAIDS, The World Bank, Lancet, UNICEF and the like as it was agreed at the meeting of the adolescent work stream on 4th   June 2015 that moving forward, there is a need to support all stakeholders, including governments and youth networks, to make commitments on adolescent health with the aim of strengthening investments at the national level in adolescents.vanessavanessa

We know too well the fate and reality of our adolescents and young women. Far too many are burdened by child and early forced marriage, teenage pregnancies, illiteracy, sexual and gender based violence, HIV/AIDS, etc. Participating in the meeting and representing young women and adolescent voices was both inspiring and saddening. Saddening because more adolescents and youth need to be involved in such processes, and they ought to be able to represent themselves in their diversity. Inspiring, because including adolescents in the Every Women Every Child initiative will help ensure that adolescents will be counted, and being counted shows relevance.

The meeting also focused on providing governments with an evidence base for adolescent health priorities, developing advocacy strategies for country commitments on adolescent health and developing strategies for mobilization and participation of adolescents and youth.

So what can we do next? Keep advocating and lobbying governments about the importance of adolescent health. Strengthen community and local capabilities to scale up implementation of the most appropriate interventions and advocate for increased attention to women’s and children’s health and increased investment in it.

Supporting a commitment on adolescent health will ensure that we create a better future for our youth, where young people can realise their full potential.

I would like to extend my gratitude to UNFPA for inviting me to participate in this meeting, and to the World YWCA and YWCA of Tanzania for nurturing me and allowing for me to participate in this meeting. Your mentorship is admirable.


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.