Members of the World Service Council, YWCA USA and World YWCA members and guests came together virtually for the 101st meeting of the Council Oct. 22, 2021 to kick off our next century of service. Calling on all generations of visionaries, the event aspired to re-imagine a more equitable world for women and girls.
Keynoting the event was Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who just stepped down as Executive Director of UN Women where she has served since 2013. Considered one of our own, Phumzile was Youth Director at the World YWCA from 1983 to 1989 during which time she focused on job creation for young women and promoted development education in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In her address Phumzile spoke about the illusion of equality that some women in the world might have while ignoring the numbers that accurately dispute that fact. She emphasized that while women and girls continue to make progress they have not come far enough. Representation of women leaders is a problem with only 24% percent as global leaders politically and only 10% leading in the private sector. She added that not only did the pandemic disproportionately affect women negatively citing increased gender-based violence and lost income, but women are under-represented in fixing what occurred during the pandemic. Digital literacy and limited access to virtual platforms created enormous lost revenue for women. It is time for intergenerational leaders across the world to join together to address these issues and the YWCA has always been a foundational model for putting women in spaces where they are heard.
Attendees also heard updates from World YWCA General Secretary Casey Harden, and YWCA USA National Board President Tina Herrera on their plans moving forward in these challenging times. Casey assured all that the World YWCA was able to quickly transition to a virtual model during the pandemic with new ways of sharing and communicating. She stated that the World YWCA is not static but is “humming and moving,” and she thanked the World Service Council for its efforts to support the YWCA in having a safe space leadership model and for supporting its ground work.
In addition, perspectives were shared on a foundation from which to build by former World General Secretary Musimbi Kanyoro who served in that role for eight years, World YWCA President Mira Rizeq, a longtime General Secretary of YWCA Palestine, plus Muna Killingback, one of the first interns to serve at the World YWCA.
To get a younger perspective we explored how to strategize on what lies ahead for women and girls with a panel of young women featuring Annie Priyanka Kumar from YWCA Secunderabad and Hannah Athaliah James from YWCA Papua New Guinea. Musimibi joined the panel as well and Muna moderated asking insightful questions. Discussed were challenges in how to transform power structures, eliminating privilege in decision-making instances, gaining financial independence, overcoming western patriarchal norms that came with colonization and elevating voices outside of political structures. It was noted that the World YWCA had the foresight to always lead the world on issues that barred women from equal status – all members having an equal number of votes at the table, addressing child care spaces for women, and denying privilege and promoting inclusion in all its policies.
A highlight of the meeting included honoring exceptional past Chairs of World Service Council, Joyce Mims and Connie Tate. These women have been true leaders whose devotion and dedication to the work of the Council has maintained the international support that began a century ago while reinforcing the strong bond between the YWCA USA and the World YWCA.
In addition, Dr. Wanda Hendricks, who attended the 2018 World Service Council Annual Meeting, spoke about her book, The Life of Madie Hall Xuma: Black Women’s Global Activism During Jim Crow and Apartheid, which is about to be released. The book follows Madie Hall from her YWCA experiences in the USA to her marriage to Dr. Alfred B. Xuma and her move to South Africa, where she was involved with starting YWCA groups in villages. It continues with her role on the World YWCA Executive Committee, plus international leadership roles on women’s rights, etc. More information can be found on the Illinois press website http://go.illinois.edu/s22hendricks
This event, guided by current World Service Co-chairs Elaine Carlson and Mildred Morrison, was a true celebration of the work we’ve done during our first century while we ardently explored new ideas and actions for the century ahead. View the presentation below.