Young Women in the YWCA of South Sudan

Looking to the Future

I was born August 25th, 1988 in Yambio, South Sudan. I am a South Sudanese. I completed my O’Level exams (High School) in 2011 and I am currently serving as Treasurer in my local YWCA on a voluntary basis. My vision is to study and complete my further education and become a full staff of YWCA in the nearest future. Also, I want to become a full participant in all the activities of the YWCA.

Singba Stella Simon

Singba Stella Simon

My future plan towards YWCA

I need the YWCA to concentrate on: Love, Peace, Honest, Unity, Liberty and Prosperity. Furthermore, what we really need is the empowerment of young women, sustainability and development in terms of education.

Currently, we are running the following programmes:

  • Create Awareness based on HIV/Aids.
  • To Stop Gender Based Violence (GBV)
  • To stop early pregnancy

As a young South Sudanese woman I’m facing a few challenges.  I’m from an economically poor family and my father is living with disabilities and we are about seven children in the family. I work in casual service to support my school fees and I pray that God may help me to achieve my goals. I thank the YWCA for all their support and help.

Written by Singba Stella Simon.

Education Changing and Advancing Lives

My parents and I took refuge in RCA when the war reached West Equatorial State in 1990. My parents died when we were still in the Republic of Central Africa (RCA). Their death had a great impact on my future plans and life. One such impact was that I had to drop out of school in Senior 2. I had no means and somebody to help me go further in Education. I first heard of YWCA in 2002 while I was in Tambura. This was from some members who had come from Yambio to introduce and open a branch in Tambura. I became interested in the association and joined it sometime later. I was one of the three members who were selected to come from Tambura and participated in the board elections. Furthermore, I was elected as one of the YWCA Board Members since then. I had to relocate to Yambio. The women and the girls including myself have benefitted greatly from the association. This has been through Capacity Building of members through Education, English courses, HIV/Aids Awareness, Ending Child, Early and Forced Marriages, and Gender Based Violence programmes among others.

Victoria Albert Mokisi

Victoria Albert Mokisi

I became interested in politics when NCP Party came to our area with their programmes that attracted me to join politics. NCP promised to sponsor the youth that would join it. I thought and saw that my childhood dreams of completing my education would be achieved through joining politics. I joined and contested in the 2010 Elections as one of the MPs. Unfortunately the party didn’t do well in the election and I was never elected. However, I still hope to complete my education and I am committed to the YWCA!

Written by Victoria Albert Mokisi.

REFLECTIONS ON THE AFRICA REGION ICPD

By Nelly Lukale, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Champion, YWCA of Kenya

Following a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on the follow-up to the International Conference on Population and Development “ICPD Beyond 2014”, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) undertook an operational review of the implementation of the Programme of Action (PoA) on the African Continent. The ICPD was first held in 1994 in Cairo with the purpose of linking population issues with development. It declared that gender, education and health, including reproductive health, were areas important for balanced development. The conference adopted a Program of Action and set specific goals to reduce infant, child and maternal mortality, universal access to reproductive health; and provide universal education.

An African Regional Conference to review evidence of progress, challenges, gaps and emerging issues in relation to the achievement of the goals set out in the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) took place in Addis Ababa Ethiopia from 30th September to 4th October 2013. The conference was expected to chart a new course to scale up its efforts, and establish new ways of approaching population issues.

Nelly Lukale

Nelly Lukale

African youth met for a two day pre-conference before the main conference and set out their priorities. The forum brought together Ministers of youth, youth leaders, UNFPA senior staff and other youth groups from different countries that work with adolescents and youth to review progress, challenges and key human rights issues for youth. It was organized to create a platform for dialogue and sharing experiences so as to make recommendations on the post International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD beyond 2014).

These recommendations will eventually feed into the regional intergovernmental conference on ICPD in Africa, for the next twenty years. The youth discussed a number of important issues including sexual and reproductive health and rights, education, youth employment, family planning and maternal mortality as well as inclusive participation, security and governance.   They called upon their governments to ensure there is actual fulfillment of promises on youth matters and programmes. They also appealed for more investment and allocation of resources particularly for rights-based health interventions for young people, who account for the overwhelming majority of the continent’s population.

I was privileged to attend a two day Advocacy in Practice (AiP) workshop organized by International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) and other partners. This is a workshop that is held in advance of any important regional conferences or UN negotiations. It gives participants the opportunity to take what they have learned into practice and action. It was an intense two day event that helped participants strengthened their skills to effectively advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights at the national and international levels.

Over 20 young women and youth activists from Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Liberia, and Zambia participated in this AiP. Participants identified priority areas that needed to be included in the final document such as ensuring the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and adolescents, including access to safe and legal abortion, modern contraception, comprehensive sexuality education; ending harmful cultural, traditional, and religious practices such as female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage; eliminating gender-based violence, including marital rape and intimate partner violence; and ending violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The activists also wanted to ensure that governments are held accountable for promoting and protecting the rights and health of their citizens. The AiP partners were present at the main conference tweeting live and also keeping a close eye on the government negotiations and how they addressed the critical issues and recommendations from youth and CSOs.

Civil society organizations who also had a two day pre-conference and came up with recommendations called upon governments to ensure there is comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and it should be freely available through the primary health care system, accessible to all without discrimination, and provided in a way that respects human rights, including the rights to privacy, confidentiality, informed consent, and bodily integrity.

With only a few months left to the end of the ICPD PoA; many of the promises to young people set out in Cairo remain unfulfilled. Millions of girls and women worldwide are still without adequate sexual and reproductive health services and universal access to comprehensive sexuality education for young people is yet to be delivered. It’s noted that Equal access for the youth to health, education and economic opportunities doubles the potential for development and helps societies to break the cycle of poverty which is still prevalent in Africa. Young people still do not have seat at most decision-making tables and there is need for inclusion of the youth in decision making as it is the best way to address their issues. Governments should emphasize on inter-generational leadership hence promote age and gender balance.

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Challenging Barriers: Living with Disabilities

BY INUNONSE NGWENYA, Project Worker from the YWCA of Zambia.

“For whatever reason, it happened to and it can happen to anyone else.  By being disabled I will not condemn myself to suffer for the rest of my life. I believe this information can inspire many who are in the same difficult situations in their lives. People give up in life because the lack inspiration never should a persons living with disabilities give up because along the way they will meet amazing people who will make their dark day bright.” – A young woman living with disabilities from Zambia.

inno2

INUNONSE NGWENYA,

Persons with disabilities remain amongst the most marginalized in every society. In every region in the world, in every country in the world, persons with disabilities often live on the margins of society, deprived of some of life’s fundamental experiences. They have little hope of going to school, getting a job, having their own home, creating a family and raising their children, enjoying a social life For the vast majority of the world’s persons with disabilities, shops, public facilities, transport, and even information are largely out of reach.

Zambia Federation of disability organizations (ZAFOD) was formed by 11 member NGOs in Zambia. Under ZAFOD, the Zambian civil society, including YWCA, envisions a society where persons with disabilities, enjoy equal rights and opportunities that are generally available in society and are necessary for the fundamental elements of living and development, including education, employment, health, housing, financial and personal security, family life, participation in social and political groups, religious activity, sports, access to public facilities and freedom of movement.

So far, there is an uphill task by CSOs for realizing such a vision. The good news however, is that some private companies have began to take heed and have employed chefs that are deaf in their restaurant. Secondly Ms. Patricia Jere, a woman living with disabilities was appointed the permanent secretary in the ministry of Justice back in 2011. She is one the highest qualified Women Lawyers in Zambia. These cases encourage YWCA Zambia and other CSOs in Zambia to deliver programmes for young women living with disabilities. Pick n Pay stores for instances employed some people living with disabilities as cashiers. It is our call, as YWCA Zambia to call all key stakeholders to join and expand such bold initiatives by government and private sector to create such opportunities to empower young women living with disability.

Gender issues in disability

Women with disabilities have got equal rights as women without disabilities and should be treated at par with those without disabilities. They also have equal rights with men with disabilities. Zambia’s environment still perpetrates unfair treatment and discrimination of women with disabilities hence violating their human rights. YWCA Zambia’s programmes are attempting to addresses this on a general programming level.

Under the new five year strategic plan (2013-18), YWCA Zambia places women’s empowerment as one of  5 strategic priorities.

  • Youth,
  • Disability,
  • Gender balance
  • Sports and Recreation

YWCA Zambia subscribes to the position that sporting and recreational facilities should be accessible to all disabled people more so, the young people as a matter of right as opposed to just leisure.  Although there are commendable attempts to provide various sporting and recreational activities to young people in Zambia, YWCA Zambia has observed that most of these facilities are not user-friendly with young people living with disabilities. Civil Society needs to takes up cases of inaccessibility to such facilities to the duty-bearers so that the affected youth can enjoy their rights. Notable challenges faced by young people with disabilities in Zambia includes; inaccessible infrastructure and denial of entry.

 

Young Women’s Voices Taken to Heights

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Madam Amina J. Mohammed, special advisor of the Secretary- General on the Post-2015 development planning and Kgothatso Mokoena

By Kgothatso Mokoena, World YWCA Programme Associate.  Kgothatso recently attended the consultation meeting on the High Level Panel 2015 held at the UN Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Below she shares her experience. 

A Discussion on the Post -2015 Agenda on High level Panel Report

In partnership with the Post -2015 Development planning team of the Secretary General , UN –non-governmental liaison services is facilitated a   civil society consultation in Geneva to  take a critical analysis  from their  perspective on four reports submitted to the  UN Secretary General;

1.    High level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post -2015 Development agenda (Post-2015 HLP)
2.    UN Sustainable Development Solutions network (SDSN)
3.    UN Global compact (UNGC)
4.    UN development Group (UNDG) “ The global Conversation begins”

These reports will serves as the Secretary General’s input to the UN Secretary report to the September 2013 General assembly special event on the Millennium development Goal (MDG’s) and the Post -2015 Development agenda. It was thus an official platform for civil society to provide analysis of the findings of these reports and to propose alternative approaches.

World YWCA was part of this consultative meeting on the HLP 2015 , which discussed the following issues intensively
•    Allocation of Resources
Questions : the participants raised  questions about the  heavy focus on private sector and how will  the new development agenda be financed given the  on-going global economic crisis  . Another question was the criteria for resource allocation and implication for regions such as sub Saharan  Africa, where 90% of poverty is anticipated, and who   have limited access to global markets. The last was a concern about the increasing reliance of the UN on High Level Panel which don’t include CSO , making the  inter-governmental processes  out of reach for  marginalised and excluded groups..
•    Private Public Partnerships.
Civil societies were encouraged to strengthen their linkages between the Private Business sector and  the development  agenda, and though the  various  initiatives exist ,  to develop a coherent strategy for including all as the  slogan for process is leave no one behind.. It was suggested there’s  a urgent need for good innovative programmes which can influence PP partnerships contribute ahuman rights perspective to the post-2015 agenda. A specific  intervention would be the strengthen and expand work being  done ,  with a particular focus  on  social accountability and  increasing opportunities of employment and investment for all citizens in economically unequal countries  .
•    Climate Change
Various questions were raised on how  to  combat climate  change.  It was also noted that  social and environmental  indicators  were weak and there was no direct link to their implication  for peace ,in countries where conflicts are driven by  limited access to resources such as water and carbon fuels.

The answer was there is commitment  for capacity building of CSOs in these contexts to be more involved in linking peace building to sustainable development . There will be a conscious allocation of resources to an ecosystem based approach to disaster management and investment in local adaptation capacities to counter climate change and conflict driven by social exclusion from natural resources.

Being one of the very few young women in the meeting, I was rather disappointed that less was said on Women’s human rights  and nothing on youth , in particular young women in poor urban settings,  rural  villages and conflict zones . I had hoped that at this stage HLP report will put emphasis on;
•    Investing in young women’s education and training particularly the over 15 million that are out of school and already married.
•    Measures to be taken to protect the  economic and social rights  of these young women , particularly  rights to  identity and property , without which they cannot vote , open a bank account or own land , this defeats the  objective  of the HLP  Report of  ensuring  that no one goes hungry no more.
•     Climate change and  environmental  degradation has a profound impact on these young women as they are responsible for  providing water  and fuel for the household , and are often  caught up  in the conflict  for natural resources ,  raped and abducted  forced to be wives of combatants .
•     Efforts must be made to include their voices in any discussion on sustainable development, peace building and climate change.

The UN Women paper advocating for a transformative stand-alone goal on  gender equality, women ‘s rights and women’s empowerment   was  as key resource for the Post-2015 HLP report 2013, and provided critical content for the gender goal , which highlights the importance of ending child marriages , but in  conclusion  I believe that much still needs to be done before September, to include the needs and voices of all young women  and particularly those  who are already married or are in difficult  circumstances and socially excluded  at community  level.

I felt it was my responsibility as an activist and Young women Champion to share on the World YWCA “the Future Young Women Wants” document , which captures the voices of young women from our movement  which is in 120 countries and reaches young owmen in over 22,000 communities, I highlight some of the key  recommendations  suggested for inclusion in  the Post-2015 agenda:
•    Women access to land/ Natural Recourses
•    Women and young women participation in decision making
•    Recognition on the roles and responsibilities of women participating in Peace processes
•    Women and young women’s role in development and policy review dialogue
•    Youth development:  employment, training and education opportunities.
•    Special attention to be given on Climate change and Justice Issues.

Copy of the “Future Young women wants” was then handed to Madam Amina J. Mohammed, special advisor of the Secretary- General on the Post-2015 development planning.

Would like to thank the World YWCA for their continuum efforts to provide  spaces for young women to participate  in such high  level policy making platforms and their commitment to support care and nurture for  us as future Leaders

The Portrayal of Women in the Media

By  Amy Smith

Amy is from the UK.  She works for a project by Sheffield YWCA in the UK called “Peile Court and Tulips” and her role there  is to support teenage parents to learn the skills they need to live independently and be successful parents to their children

She is a participant at the European Study Session taking place in Strasbourg and shares her views on the objectification of ‘women’ in advertising and media today.

Amy Smith

Amy Smith

 

I am lucky enough to be here in Strasbourg, representing YWCA GB at the European study session with a focus on young women’s leadership, gender equality and human rights.  Parts of ta session that I attended left me feeling extremely disconcerted. The session looked at the portrayal of women in advertising, and while I was aware women can be portrayed in a negative way, I was left shocked by the advertising campaigns that some very high profile brands have used. There were some common themes that we looked at which I will now explain here.

Sexism

Gender stereotyping is a key theme in many adverts, portraying women as typically young and physically attractive and filling the stereotypical ‘good housewife” role. Many adverts display women in these roles that are derogatory to women.

Subordination

Another common theme in advertising is the presentation of women as subordinate to men.  They are often presented as though their worth is determined by their appeal to men.  Women are also positioned in inferior ways or in sexually related positions.  Women are referred to in a sexually derogatory manner, suggesting they their role is to fulfil a man’s sexual desires.

Sexual Violence

Something about the session that particularly troubled me was the disturbing use of images showing sexual violence against women. I was appalled, for example,  to see the Dolce & Gabanna advert that depicts a woman being pinned down by a man while other men stand over her looking nonchalantly. Dolce & Gabanna is a brand many women buy yet they are using scenes alluding to gang rape to advertise their brand!

The Objectification of Women

I felt both saddened and shocked at how widespread this kind of imagery is in the advertising world, especially in such well known and high profile branded products! I will certainly be paying closer attention in the future to the portrayal of women in adverts to inform my product choices. I will certainly boycotting those brands that depict women in a derogatory manner. A stronger stand needs to be made against this type of advertising and we need to challenge the way women are viewed in our societies.  I hope this article encourages others to join me in boycotting brands that portray women in such degrading ways!

América Latina, comencemos a caminar – Latin America, start walking

Vicky Rojas Araya

By: Vicky Rojas Araya

This is a reflection piece from a young member of the YWCA of Valparaíso, Chile and is part of the World YWCA delegation at the Conference in Vienna.

Esta es una reflexión proveniente de una joven miembro de la YWCA de Valparaíso, Chile, que participe en la Conferencia Internacional de SIDA 2010.

La Conferencia Internacional de SIDA del 2010 sin duda dejará una indeleble marca en mi, no sólo por todo lo que he aprendido sobre diferentes aspectos involucrados en la prevención, tratamiento, cuidado y apoyo relacionado al tema del VIH/SIDA, sino también por encontrarme con “el mundo”, con la diversidad, con las culturas, con los lenguajes. Pareciera que una muestra aleatoria del planeta se encontrara todos los días entre  esas paredes, y sobre todo en la colorida Aldea Global (diversa y respetuosa de esa cualidad).

Sin embargo, entre tantas luces y colores, me preguntaba que pasaba con mi región, con Latinoamérica, y es que cuando te encuentras con el mundo, los procesos identitarios no sólo se encuentran con tu país, sino con aquellos que representan una cultura similar, con quienes compartimos una historia y hablamos la misma lengua.  Y era a esta región a la que buscaba, quería saber qué pasaba con la gente que la conformamos, pero aparecían solo goteras,  y ninguna articulada entre sí.

Ante este escenario llegue a la Sesión Regional de América Latina, fue un tremendo agrado entrar y escuchar mi idioma, me sentí como en casa, y a medida que las exposiciones se desarrollaban confirmaba que somos una sola región, a la vez que compartimos culturas e idiomas, compartimos también problemas.

Claramente, como dijo  uno de los relatores “somos demasiado pobres para sentarnos en las mesas que tienen poder de decisión mundial, pero demasiado ricos para recibir ayuda internacional”, lo que crea una sensación de injusticia, que se suma la sentencia mencionada por otra relatora,  respecto a que “somos la región más inequitativa del planeta”; y quienes estábamos presentes no lo sabemos por datos estadísticos, lo sabemos porque lo vemos cada día, y lo sentimos en nuestros pueblos. Todo esto sumado a la violencia de género, a la corrupción en manejos presupuestarios a niveles gubernamentales, a las políticas conservadoras en materia de salud sexual, y al estigma y discriminación que enfrentan los HSH, LGBT y trabajadores/as sexuales, hace que los derechos humanos de toda la población se vean afectados (no sólo de las PVVIH sino también de todos quienes vivimos en estas tierras).

Ante tal panorama, ¿qué es lo que se puede hacer?.  Los relatores expusieron diversos caminos, todos para mi gusto, necesarios y urgentes, como actuar a nivel legislativo y asegurar derechos sexuales y reproductivos en la población, protección legal a temáticas relacionadas al VIH/SIDA y Salud Sexual, asegurar una sanidad presupuestaria, trabajar respecto al estigma y discriminación, y abogar por la no criminalización de la transmisión del VIH/SIDA. Sin embargo, como miembro de una organización de la sociedad civil, llamo mi atención el llamado a la unión, a la formación de redes entre todos quienes trabajamos en pro de estos objetivos, ya que en la medida en que somos capaces de reunirnos, seremos capaces de visibilizar la urgencia de estos temas ante la región y el mundo.

Sin duda una meta que no quiere esperar….parece que nuestros pies quieren comenzar a caminar…

Comenzamos a caminar

CSW 2010 Looking Back, Looking Forward: Strategies to Promote Young Women and Girls’ Activism

By World YWCA staff Sarah Davies

I attended a very interesting panel today at CSW 2010 on young women and girls and their role in development. Co-organised by AWID, IWHC, CREA and Women’s Forum of Kyrgyzstan, the strategy session invited women’s rights and development organisations and youth activists to identify concrete strategies and share good practices that can be applied to initiatives focused on young women and girls.

It was agreed that there is greater acceptance of the importance of young women and girls in development work but the panel also raised some interesting reflections on how and why we include young women and girls as development actors.

When panelists were asked some of the principles they have for working with young women the responses were diverse as:

-          Realisation that young women have particular needs

-          Movement building aspect to engaging with young women

-          Multigenerational approach is critical if we are to truly address gender equality

-          There is also culture specificity when working with young women. Rights are universal but their application in cultural contexts is very important

-          Participatory process is key  – there must be a personal connection to young women and girls

-          Involvement of young women who have new and creative ways to find solutions to they problems they face

-          Full engagement of young women in the problem solving process

-          Young women need to be involved in the institutional processes of their organisations to ensure succession

There were also reflections around the issues of young women and tokenism. Some organisations tend to see young people as part of their constituency but the problems begin when that young person comes in and leads a programme. The same can also be said of minorities such as lesbians and indigenous women – power struggle between generations begin.

The issues of young women can also be pigeon holed. Young women only lead young women’s’ programmes and young women staff get given the youth work but we should be adopting strategies in our programmes and movements where young women can lead ANY programmes.

When asked what principles should be avoided when working with young women and girls, the following was said:

-          Empowerment programmes that are about individual self empowerment can alienate young people from their peers. Taking an individualistic approach can have a negative effect

-          Strategies that really work are when young women are empowered to influence communities around them

-           UN agencies are now targeting vulnerable youth groups such as IDU’s, HIV positive youth and sex workers which is important but policymakers need to address the diverse youth needs as youth in a holistic manner.

-          There is a big difference between youth led organisations and NGOs working for young people – this should be explored and acknowledged more.

What was also interesting was that CREA has a staff that is made up mostly of young women under 30 and the majority of them are leading programmes. As the panelist said -  it helps us practice what we preach.

The AWID panel was a thought provoking session to attend as it raised a lot of questions and reflections about tokenism and some of the intergenerational stereotypes and clichés we are all guilty of indulging in from time to time. It was also one of the few panels I have attended where the majority if panelists were young women – so well done to AWID and their partners for keeping it real.

http://www.worldywca.org

Natalia Cales reflects on AIDS 2008

vblog by Natalia Cales

Reflections on the XVII International AIDS Conference…

AIDS 2008: Youth participation has increased, says Alischa

vblog by Natalia Cales

I interviewed Alischa, 28, from Australia who shares her experience as a young woman who has attended five International AIDS Conference. This is a summary of what she says: “Youth participation has grown… when I first went to an International AIDS Conference eight years ago, there was hardly a handful of young people, we were a minority. A lot of people have worked hard to change that… there are 1000 young people this year, not just attending but participating, leading change, asking leaders to make real commitments…”

We need mentors, says young woman at ‘AIDS 2008′

vblog by Natalia Cales

I asked Angela, from Kenya, a young woman attending AIDS 2008 what she hoped the outcomes of the conference would be, especially as a young woman since young women are most affected by HIV. She said that she hoped young women would come out of the conference stronger and more empowered…

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