|World YWCA Day 2007 & World YWCA Council 2007 |
World YWCA Day
published: 11 Apr 2006 16:13
last modified: 28 Mar 2007 12:04
Since 1950, YWCAs have taken one day out of the year to affirm their involvement in a global movement of women and girls working for justice, peace, health, human dignity, freedom and care for the environment. Over time, that day has come to be known as World YWCA Day and is celebrated every year on April 24. The YWCA Round the World Breakfast has been a vital part of days events since 2003, serving to connect YWCAs around the world and raise awareness of our global impact on the lives of women and girls.
We invite you once again to join the biggest breakfast in the world. This years theme is the theme for World Council 2007, Changing Lives, Changing Communities. We encourage you to join this global celebrationthe event can be as big or small as you wish and is an ideal opportunity to expose members, friends and other community members to the YWCAs work globally.
This year we are asking that at your event you reflect on what the theme of World Council means. Below are thoughts from Musimbi Kanyoro, General Secretary of the World YWCA. Please use these as a way to start thinking about what this theme means to you and your YWCA and how the YWCA changes lives and communities.
WORLD COUNCIL 2007
THEME CHANGING LIVES, CHANGING COMMUNITIES
REFLECTIONS BY MUSIMBI KANYORO, WORLD YWCA GENERAL SECRETARY
What gives women in communities the power to change in face of great injustices, discrimination, violence, and economic hardships? How do women equip themselves to confront new issues of our times such as the HIV and AIDS pandemic and its ravaging effects on communities? How do women enable children, the elderly, the handicapped and the socially outcasts to have dignity, to access basic health care, education and nutrition? How do women contribute to development, peace, justice and the care for the environment? What is the story that has sustained the YWCA for 150 years?
The Theme of the World YWCA Council 2007 Changing Lives, Changing Communities will enable YWCAs to provide some answers to the above questions through personal testimonies and through tracing the work of the YWCA movement in the middle half of its second century. 150 years of history and a presence in 125 countries worldwide gives the YWCA movement credibility to speak from experience and to celebrate how women change lives and change communities. Women as individuals as well as a global community are the ones that keep the inner core of communities around the world moving forward. Without women, the material world stops.
Think local and act global is a practical statement for the YWCA. Local actions inform the global agenda of every YWCA. The local association is the base and the place where change is defined. It is the things that we experience in our personal lives, in our community and in our countries, which motivate us to act. First we experience them at personal level, then we share our experiences with others and when we find that commonality, we get encouraged to act together. The YWCA is a safe place from which women equip themselves for acting on behalf of others. Through participation in the YWCA, women empower one another and gather the strength to be part of the global solidarity of the womens movement. A pioneer in the womens movement, the YWCA have helped women to form other organizations and in the more recent history, women of the YWCA have joined others to create a womens global agenda through participation at the UN conferences.
Changing Lives, Changing Communities is about accountability to the World YWCA vision to create a world where justice, peace, health, human dignity, freedom and care for the environment are promoted and sustained through womens leadership.
This vision affirms women as leaders and also embraces a human rights framework for global advocacy. The language of human rights cuts to the core of womens and girls inequality. Denial of human rights means denial of fundamental components of being human. It is the dehumanization of women that fosters and supports discrimination and violence against women and girls, from rape in wars across cultures to economic exploitation of women. A human rights perspective helps to illustrate the complicated relationship between gender and other aspects of identity such as race, class, religion, age, sexual orientation, and HIV status. The forms that discrimination and violence against women and girls take are usually shaped by how gender interfaces with such other factors.
YWCAs make a difference where dehumanization is the greatest, and that often means where people are in bondage to poverty, conflict, discrimination, war, disaster, epidemics and debased environment. YWCAs have established a reputation as an effective, independent, women led network that has demonstrated capacity to deliver effective programs to communities at local, national and global scale. Thus, YWCAs today are trusted partners with governments, private sector and civil society at local, national, regional and international levels. The Council 2007 invites YWCAs to share their stories of outreach to communities. This is the time to reflect about partnerships, resources and opportunities for scaling up the impact, addressing the challenges and making commitments for a better and brighter future.
YWCAs know that change requires strong leaders who can identify and develop the most effective solutions to the social and economic problems of people and their communities. It requires strong programs that look beyond the symptoms to address the root causes of suffering and injustice. It requires strong organizations, rooted in local communities, with ability to mobilize actions for the common good. Changing Lives, Changing Communities is about developing strategies to implement the YWCA vision and to sustain the desired change. Sharing of success stories of YWCAs and identifying best practices is one way of assessing what works well. Four areas are most important for the work of the YWCAs:
1. Leadership development and organizational capacity building;
2. Education, skills, information and services to vulnerable groups (e.g., displaced persons, the elderly, the handicapped, widows, orphans, children with learning disabilities, teen mothers, battered and sexually abused women, girls and children and people living with HIV /AIDS);
3. Advocacy for change at local, national and international levels to address policies and practices that deny people of their dignity;
4. Management, governance and resource mobilization.
Where are the challenges? Equipping Women to Lead
Educate a woman, you educate a family; give a woman health care and a family has health care; an economically secure woman means an economically secure family.
The leadership development of women and girls is our defining trademark and it is where change begins. Womens leadership must be strategic, analytical and bold in its actions, and it should be demonstrated not only by what we say and do, but also by what we measure. It is essential that we have the data to clearly show the change we are making in the lives of women and girls. As we strive to lead change, we must also reflect on lessons learned to make improvements in future plans.
Leadership development is the key to developing strong programs and strong organizations. The World YWCA Council 2007 will celebrate the leadership of women and also intensify the focus on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Today the World YWCA is seen as a leader on HIV and AIDS prevention for women and girls. YWCA provides care services to the sick, orphans and affected communities. 72 YWCAs have programmes on HIV and AIDS. Many of the programmes focus girls and young women and that also give these age groups opportunities to be leaders. Changing Lives, Changing Communities is an opportunity to feature girls leadership. The International Women Summit (IWS) will feature one-day meeting of women living positively with HIV or AIDS and three days of sharing good practices, getting new skills and celebrating women leadership in confronting the AIDS epidemic.
Supporting communities through services and advocacy
The YWCA programmes incorporate services and advocacy because people in vulnerable situations or times need immediate support. Housing, child care, shelters, soup kitchens, day care for the elderly, home visits to AIDS patients are just a few samples of services that YWCA provide to communities. YWCAs know well that bandaging the wound does not stop the injury and that is why services are backed by advocacy to change attitudes and to adapt good practices that give women and girls dignity. Advocacy aims at change of individual behavior as well as policies and laws that enforce good practices. The World YWCA Council will be an opportunity to see the progress we are making in advocacy and to examine the quality and quantity of our services. This includes the state of our buildings and other instruments and facilities we use to deliver services.
Mobilizing resources for our work
If we are serious about being agents of change in our communities, we must obtain the resources to support womens leadership in providing services and advocacy in families and communities. Everybody says that women matter and women are the backbone of families and communities, but why is that not backed up with money? Changing Lives, Changing Communities is also about growing, nurturing and celebrating womens leadership in womens philanthropy. The Council will be a place to share stories of successful fundraising, get new skills for financial development and practice philanthropy. The 2007 Council will celebrate the end of the global campaign to secure a permanent fund for the leadership development of women and girls in the YWCA movement. The Power to Change Fund was created as a legacy to enable women and girls to advance social change around the world. It will strengthen the sustainability of womens leadership from generation to generation, ensuring that women are equipped to respond in all areas, with knowledge and skills learned through YWCA training and development opportunities. It will continue to build womens capacity to respond to rapid social, political and economic changes that impact on women and girls. It will grow from one generation to the next and ensure a brighter future for women and girls. This is the last round for the campaign. If member associations are serious about Changing Lives, Changing Communities and each association strived to meet a certain set goal, we could still have an opportunity to meet our goal of US $ 25 million dollars.
Today, there are many women in key positions of world leadership as well as women who have their own money. We need to model giving to womens causes as a way of claiming our own freedom. Women must also hold their governments and companies responsible for earmarking resources specifically for programmes that respond to the issues and needs of women.
Sustaining good management and governance
When communities entrust us with their lives and their resources, we must give account for the stewardship of their trust. Management and governance are the sure ways of measuring credibility and accountability of YWCAs. Various reports facilitated by the Executive Committee will show how the movement has lived out its commitments at world level. The delegates will review instruments such as the Strategic Plan, Standards of Good Management and Accountability and the World YWCA Constitution. New policies will be made through resolutions. This will also be a time for change by electing new leadership in form of the next Executive Committee. The new President and the Executive Committee will work hand in glove with the General Secretary and World staff to continue to steer the global agenda of Changing Lives, Changing Communities by telling the collective story of member associations.
The theme, Changing Lives, Changing Communities is accompanied by a logo featuring the YWCA triangle and a strand of beads, worn by women from the Maasai community in Kenya. Beads are common to many cultures. Often it is women who string beads into beautiful mosaic strands, which become ornaments. Beads symbolize beauty, celebration, diversity, solidarity and unity. A strand of bead is a necklace only when it stays together. Keeping them together is an art and maintaining a strand of beads needs care in committing each thread to tightly hold the beads together. For a movement to remain together it needs strong threads that keep it together. One woman alone does not change herself or her society. One association alone cannot make a world movement. Change happens in community, and celebration of change is a community event.
The YWCA collaborates with others in pursuit of common goals. Around the world, YWCAs collaborate with other NGOs, ecumenical and faith groups, foundations, businesses, governments, United Nations agencies, etc. to address unique local and global concerns. YWCA leaders build networks that transcend religious, political, and economic barriers. In todays world, crossing barriers of division is an asset of great value and the Council 2007 is the place to share, review and strengthen values of the YWCA.
The YWCA triangle that makes part of the logo is an affirmation of our history. Many associations still use the symbol. The triangle speaks to holistic change, which encompasses the whole person including her intellect, body and spirit. Therefore the YWCA is that place where women and girls also honor and celebrate the power of God. The World YWCA Council includes a time to worship. World Council 2007 will have wonderful opportunities also to reflect on how God is changing lives and changing communities.