The 96th Annual World Service Council (WSC) annual luncheon meeting this year, held just recently at the Colony Club in New York, was diverse in topics and rich with information. Led by Co-chairs Connie Tate and Deb Stock, the business meeting told of a successful year raising gifts for the World YWCA, totaling close to $90,000. The WSC also assisted YWCA delegates at the UN and co-hosted a reception for World YWCA delegates during the UN Commission on the Status of Women sessions.
World YWCA President Deborah Thomas led off the morning session by speaking about the selection of a new General Secretary for the World YWCA. She is Malayah Harper, from Canada and the U.K., who has been head of UN Aids work for the last 10 years. Deborah also described the incredible work of three interns (from Honduras, Haiti and Tanzania) who focused on rebranding, the Leadership Academy and sexual and reproductive rights) and who are supported by WSC funds. World YWCA support to several countries was also mentioned such as helping to relocate the YWCA Nepal office after the 2015 earthquake and helping YWCA South Sudan carry out its work from Kampala, Uganda, because of the conflict in its country. The WSC has contributed to the World YWCA Emergency Fund each year since 2011.
Dara Richardson Heron, CEO of the YWCA USA, gave an inspiring account of our national organization and its progress over the past four years with respect to financial stability and four-star charity status, programming outreach and the successful refresh of our brand, “The YWCA is On A Mission.” She also acknowledged the successful collaboration between YWCA USA and the WSC on its work toward having a bigger impact in the global movement. Jenna Foster, the YWCA USA member on the World YWCA board, presented a power point and video on the progress of young women’s leadership emphasizing that the goal is to reach 100 million women and girls by the year 2035.
Carole Markus introduced seven new members of the World Service Council: Katherine Compagni, Pamela Drexel, Catherine Hickey, Elizabeth Jacks Scotts, Natalie Fisher Spalton, Elizabeth Titus and Michaela Walsh.
Mildred Morrison gave a moving tribute to those members we had lost over the past year: Mamdouda Bobst, Laura Rockefeller Chasin, Nancy Ogburn, Glendora Putnam and Ann Shaw. She also acknowledged the passing of Jewel Graham who had played such a major role in the YWCA movement.
The morning session concluded with WSC member Rima Salah, a UN Deputy Under Secretary, giving a fascinating account of her peace work at the UN where she has served on a prestigious Peace Commission that has traveled to areas of conflict assessing what’s happening on the ground while promoting the engagement of women at the peace table and early childhood education. In her spare time Rima also teaches Early Childhood Education for Peace at Yale.
The afternoon session featured two incredible presentations. The first was given by Michaela Walsh, a new member of WSC and founder of Women’s World Banking, whose outstanding work in helping to create financial viability for more than a million women in 50 countries was sparked by the First UN World Conference on Women held in Mexico City in 1975.
After the Mexico conference, the UN General Assembly in 1976 adopted a Resolution urging “all financial institutions and all international, regional and sub-regional development banks and bilateral funding agencies to accord high priority in their development assistance….to promote the integration of women in the development process… with priority given to countries with limited financial means.” Michaela acted on that by reaching out to others who helped to teach women about finance and to unite them with banking institutions that would work with them. It was never about giving women money but teaching them how to get money. Her fascinating book, Founding a Movement – Women’s World Banking 1975-1990, describes her journey in this incredible endeavor and pays homage to all who helped along the way.The afternoon concluded with filmmaker Kamala Lopez presenting highlights from her well researched and inspiring documentary Equal Means Equal that addresses just how unequal USA laws are with respect to the gender pay gap, rape and sexual assault, domestic violence, pregnancy discrimination and healthcare and reproductive rights. Her impassioned plea was for all of us to revive the Equal Rights Amendment and fight for its passage. The film, which won the Best Documentary Audience Award at Michael Moore’s 2016Traverse City Film Festival, can be downloaded on Netflix and Amazon and can be rented on several cable networks. Kamala is hoping it makes it into the documentary category for an Academy Award.