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”

The Future Young Women and Girls Deserve and Demand

By Danielle Marse-Kapr, YWCA USA Communications Manager. 

Original source of blog YWCA USA 

Earlier this month, I was lucky to represent YWCA USA at a historic event, the first ever Young Women and Girls Forum during the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Hosted by World YWCA and sponsored by UN Women, the daylong event was planned and executed by young YWCA women. The day was full of brilliant speakers from all over the world touching on many of the most pressing issues for women in the United States and abroad: violence against women, access to healthcare, poverty, and education. Between panels, attendees broke into small groups to discuss the Beijing Platforms for Action and make recommendations for the post 2015 development goals. While we worked, artists rendered our ideas and concerns. Poetry group, I Sell the Shadow, facilitated discussions and created a beautiful poem based on our work. You can watch their recitation here!

Young women’s voices were prominent throughout the two week UN CSW. They shared their stories, led NGO side events on a variety of critical topics, and they supported each other as they advocated for the issues impacting their lives and their communities. During the YWCA USA and World Service Council reception, two incredible young women gave remarks about the work their YWCAs were doing. Following the reception, I interviewed both women. Isabella Diaz of YWCA Honduras spoke about how critical higher education was for girls in her community and how her YWCA was empowering women and girls.

Mary Fatiya of YWCA South Sudan also pressed the importance of education but brought a different angle: that education must be affordable and accessible. Young women and girls in South Sudan are often pushed into early marriage as an avenue to accessing education. Mary highlighted the importance of women supporting one another and the impact her YWCA has had:

Spending this time with other young women’s rights advocates was heartening and inspiring, but it also serves as a reminder of all that still must be accomplished here and abroad.

Open Letter to Senior Women at the UN Commission on the Status of Women

By kimberley kilgour, YWCA of New Zealand.

To the senior women who have been privileged to attend umpteen CSWs and women’s world conferences on Government delegations or with NGOs.

kimberley kilgour

kimberley kilgour

I have not come here to push you out of your position, nor have I come here to take your spotlight. We all want the same thing (to improve the rights of women in its various forms) therefore please, give us all a chance to speak and to share and do not tell us we don’t know what we are talking about.

After discussing with other young women leaders from World YWCA, it seems that our voice and our passion for action is preferred to be silenced by those within some organisations. Young women are seen to be “inexperienced” and should have better knowledge of the UN before speaking out and demanding change. It pains me to think that these more senior women think that their views and their voice should resound louder than ours. How are we meant to be effective and achieve equality for women if we cannot even work together with respect?

The young leaders of the World YWCA are doctors, scientists, economists, lawyers, and social workers. We are in touch with our community and know, through our OWN experiences and education, what the real needs of women in our nation are. We are not just here to talk; we are here to develop plans. Please take us seriously.

Failure to engage the next generation will mean the torch will not be passed on. Allowing us to sit at the table and participate in real negotiations and discussions will ensure continuation of the women’s rights and feminist movement.

Kindly recognise the sacrifice every young woman has made to attend CSW and take this into account before you speak and before you exclude. I spent over 40 hours on planes, left my seven year old son and missed the first 3 weeks of my academic year in order to be here, not to mention the community effort it took to raise the funds. I am determined that the sacrifice I made will not be in vain.

Maternal Health in Latin America and Caribbean

By Sophia Pierre-Antoine – YWCA of Haiti

On March 15, during the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women/Beijing+20 (2015), Sophia from the YWCA of Haiti gave a speech and shared her story on mental health and sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) from her perspective of Latin America and Caribbean (LAC).

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Sophia Pierre-Antoine YWCA of Haiti

Over the last 20 years it is true that if we take a look at the statistics on maternal health in the LAC region, the fact that jumps out the most is that maternal mortality has been reduced by 40% in Latin America and 36% in the Caribbean. Yes, this is very much a victory to celebrate; however we are still dying.  Pregnancy and birth related death remain one of the leading causes of death of young women and girls.

I will share a quick story:  Although I speak on behalf of the region if you could please take your imagination to Haiti. This is my home country, where last year, a girl not yet 14 took her own life after her father threatened to kill her once he found out that she was pregnant. I was not able to find out if the sexual relations which led to her pregnancy was consensual or forced, but what I do know is that a 14 year old girl is dead. What can we do to stop this?

I share this story as a reminder that maternal health is also very much linked to the health of the person, the woman, the young women, the adolescent girl, as much as it is about the future or recently born child.  Haiti has the highest child death rates with 76 children who do not reach the age of five for every 1000 who lives, and as my YWCA sister Paola will mention, Bolivia is the 2nd highest with 57.

Access to good health services and health education has proven time and time again to reduce maternal and child mortality as we have noticed in Cuba and Costa Rica with 7 per 1000 and 11 per 1000 respectively. Now compare that to Haiti and Bolivia.

Lack of access to sexual and reproductive health education, medical services and skilled professionals poses a great barrier for young women and girls especially rural women, indigenous women, lesbian, bisexual, transgender women, and women living in poverty where diabetes, malaria and HIV (21%), high blood pressure, infections, hemorrhages, and unsafe abortions claims the lives of many. These deaths are preventable. Let’s remember our promise of the 5th MDG to, and I quote, “improve maternal health”. I repeat, each of these deaths are preventable.

It is important to remember that the LAC region differs widely in wealth, size, and culture and so statistics, even when they are done with the proper tools and resources, are often skewed. As a matter of fact, stats from different sources give different findings.  To illustrate this, let us look at the disparity in women having a 1 in 44 chance of death in Haiti to 1 in 560 in Belize, and 1 in 1400 in Cuba and Costa Rica. Now imagine for a moment the inequity between the richest and poorest in these countries. It seems as the inequality reflected between countries, can also be seen within countries.

That said, it’s disheartening to hear that the average government expenditure for the region for maternal and child health is only 7%. Before I end, here is a key factor to maternal health that I want to emphasize. Child marriage, legal or not, bound by the state, the church, or by informal deal between families causes girls as young as 12 year old to become mothers, children birthing children, often born with complications and underweight, or to die in the process. We are gathered here today to share experiences, think about what worked and what didn’t work in our programs for the betterment of our future programs on maternal health, and to make sure that pregnant young girls are never excluded from safe spaces and further isolated. As a young women, I say the ball is in our hands, in your hands, too make sure no more young women or girl has to suffer through these hardships in Latin America and the Caribbean.   If the young women who passed had access to inclusive and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care and education, chases are that she would have been capable of exercising her right to be healthy, to contraception and safe sex barriers, and to choose when and if she wants to become a mother. Thank you.

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