Former World YWCA General Secretary Musimbi Kanyaro was the keynote speaker at the 99th annual meeting of the World Service Council held in Washington, DC June 7 in conjunction with the YWCA USA Conference. Just ending her role as the CEO of the Global Fund for Women, she spoke about her plans to return to her native country of Kenya and looking forward to participating in a project in Antarctica related to climate change. But most of the time, she focused on a colleague and mentor, Mildred Persinger, who passed away last year at age 100 following a storied career in advancing women’s status through her advocacy at the United Nations.
Mildred was instrumental in getting women to the United Nations’ policy tables and after sitting in on an all-male committee planning session for a conference on population, she moved to act! Her reaction and her strategy forward were inspiringly shown in a video provided by her dear friend Jill Sen and beautifully configured by Elaine Carlson who obtained assistance from video professionals. In the video, her ire is on display as she said she complained to UN and USA government officials while garnering women around the world to protest their governments. To her, it was absolutely ridiculous that women would not be involved in issues on population since they have much to do populating the planet. It was Mildred at her best and she never stopped advocating. Her efforts, along with others, led to future UN conferences on Women and eventually the formation of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Mildred lived by a code of respect for others even in her fiercest of fights for women’s rights. She learned to accept others as persons and dissolved barriers of her own making. She respected the rights of others and demanded no special privilege. Sensitive to the needs of others, she sought ways of finding answers for them, and she sought to know those different from herself. Cultivating objectivity of thought and opening her mind to beliefs she did not share was important to her. She believed we should speak from knowledge and be accountable for the statements we make. She felt all should be humble in the limitations of understanding and not waste time, talent or substance that might get in the way of working for human benefit. Lastly, she wrote: “I will know that as I build, so is the world built and as I destroy, destroyed is the world.”
Casey Harden, General Secretary of the World YWCA, spoke about the upcoming World Council meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa Nov. 17-22, and focused on the support needed to countries facing the expensive costs of international travel. Many are do not have the fundraising capabilities especially in regions such as Latin America, Caribbean, Middle East and Pacific. The theme for the quadrennial meeting is “Young Women Transforming Power Structures for Gender Equality.” Appreciative for the funding received from the WSC for the internship program and young women’s movement building, Casey acknowledged the value of the WSC -World YWCA partnership. She also spoke about the structural changes at the World office and the focus on meaningful data collection and accountability.
The business portion of the annual meeting began with the introduction of new officers for next year: Elaine Carlson and Deb Stock as co-chairs, Joelle Logue as secretary, Tracy Yellen as Finance Chair, and Carole Markus and Mildred Morrison as Membership Co-Chairs. Elaine acknowledged outgoing co-chair Connie Tate for her leadership over the past 10 years.
In her report, Elaine highlighted a first ever WSC initiative to connect YWCAs from USA with YWCAs in other countries during World YWCA Day this past April 24 and referred attendees to read the annual report for information on the UN Commission on the Status of Women sessions last March and the 98th annual meeting last October.
Elaine also announced that a WSC donor who wished to remain anonymous has offered a challenge grant of $3000 in the form of a matching grant for the first $3000 donated by WSC members to help delegates from other countries be able to attend as delegates to the World Council in November in Johannesburg, South Africa. The YWCA USA will also assist in helping support delegates from regions unable to raise enough in their own countries to cover all the travel, accommodations, food, visas, etc. needed to attend.
Membership Co-Chair Carole Markus announced four new members of the WSC: Carole announced that there are four new women joining the WSC. They are Danika Ali, assistant executive director of YWCA Union County; Becky Hines, vice president of Member Services for YWCA USA; Lauren Schoenfeld, former executive director of YWCA Rock Springs, WY; Tycely Williams, vice president for Development at YWCA USA.
Elaine reminded everyone that next year is the 100th Anniversary of the World Service Council and it will be commemorated with a very special meeting. Stay tuned for details.