Interim YWCA USA CEO Casey Harden made a point in her opening speech to the 400 conference attendees July 15 that YWCA USA has taken on the strategic goal of the World YWCA to actively engage women, 30 and under, in all aspects of the organization – from leadership down to grassroots. She announced the newly produced Persimmon Paper on the YWCA USA Generational Imperative that identifies a path forward to effectively support the generational mission. It specifically highlights YWCA’s commitment to young women, contributions made by young women and the reasons why young women are essential to our work.
The focus on young women’s leadership, in fact, was the predominant theme in most all of the keynote speakers who literally told older leaders to “move over,” and “open up the table” to millennials. This culminated in a video interview with World YWCA General Secretary Malayah Harper on Saturday morning. Stressing the goal of reaching 100 million young women and girls by 2035, Malayah outlined the challenges at hand, anticipating how different the world might look in 2035. Formation of a Young Women’s Council, a Young Women’s Leadership Academy, advancing digital media for meetings and messaging, working closely with strong YWCA member partners like YWCA USA, and focusing on sustainability are key steps in reaching the goal. She also mentioned how important the World Service Council was to the World YWCA, particularly around the internship program, and proudly mentioned that one of those interns produced the video we were seeing.
Preceding the interview was a presentation by staffer Tiffany Wang on some history of the World YWCA and the YWCA USA links to the World YWCA via a merger between the Global Relations Committee and World Service Council. Heather Redman was introduced as the young woman selected to serve on the World YWCA Young Women’s Council from the USA. She joins representatives from New Zealand, Palestine, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Myanmar, Australia, Sweden and Honduras. Also introduced, in absentia, was Jenna Foster, YWCA USA’s representative on the World Board. World Service Council Co-Chairs Connie Tate and Deb Stock, Secretary Joelle Logue and Board Member Mildred Morrison were recognized as was Global Relations Committee Chair Katherine Compagni. Other WSC members in attendance were Martha Kamber, Deb Ullman, Judy Hutton, Rita Ryder, Danielle Moss-Lee, Carole Coppens, Jean Carroll, plus USA staff leader member Elisha Rhodes.
In addition to the Generational Imperative, attendees took home a well-researched racial training manual and were able to participate in workshops on key subjects such as the federal outlook for funding maternal health, state advocacy, philanthropic mission, public relations, our social justice roots and board leadership. More than 260 YWCA women stormed Capitol Hill preceding the conference to have their voices heard on issues and proposed legislation that threatens women’s health care, child care, pay equity and more.
During the Friday night gala hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry, three major awards were given to YWCA USA associations for excellence in their programs; WSC member Martha Kamber, CEO of Brooklyn, won for Women’s Empowerment programming and WSC member Jean Carroll, CEO of Rochester, won the Racial Justice Award. Greater Atlanta was recognized for its work in Advocacy. The Four Women of Distinction Award recipients were Sameera Hafiz of the National Domestic Women’s Alliance for Advocacy & Civic Engagement; Jen Jackson Brown of Nordstrom for Corporate Sponsorship; Melissa Mark-Viverito of NYC Council’s Young Women’s Initiative for Women & Girls’ Empowerment; and Charlene Carruthers, National Director of the Black Youth Project (BYP100) who took home the Dorothy Height Racial Justice Award.