YWCA Canada holds 122nd Annual Meeting

YWCA Canada holds 122nd Annual Meeting

(Photo: Nyaradazayi Gumbonvanda, World YWCA General Secretary, and YWCA Canada CEO, Paulette Senior, flank keynote speaker Kim Crosby)

YWCA Canada holds 122nd Annual Meeting:  The YWCA Hamilton hosted an inspiring 122nd YWCA Canada Annual Meeting on June 6 & 7 with more than 150 Canadian CEOs and Presidents of local associations attending. Special guests were World YWCA General Secretary Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World Treasurer Carolyn Flowers, YWCA USA President Paula Penebaker and World Service Council Secretary Joelle Logue. In addition, the leadership of YMCA Canada was on hand since several locals there are combined YWCA/YMCAs. On a national level, the YWCA and YMCA collaborate on programs relevant to both organizations.

YWCA CEO Canada Paulette Senior and staff put on a first-rate conference with an intergenerational emphasis, titled “Legacy, Learning and Leadership.” Kicking off the two-day event was 90-year-old Elise Hartley, active in aboriginal organizations, who opened with a poem of Thanksgiving.

She was followed by a 30-year old phenom, Kim Crosby, whose rousing keynote speech challenged each and every one of us in every facet of our lives. An articulate and compassionate speaker, Kim is an award-winning multi-disciplinary artist and activist, and founder and Executive Director of the People Project. A powerful and artistic power point drove home her words and wowed attendees. Kim’s work has taken her passion across North America as she talks on equity, liberation and care.

Speaking about possibilities, re-imagining a more equitable world, breaking down constructions and stigmas, Kim’s topics covered a multitude of issues from violence against women, economic injustice, sexual orientation discrimination, missing indigenous women, misguided gun culture, global food problems, and health disparities. She asked all to discover their super power by “starting where you are, using what you have and doing what you can.” She closed by quoting the Lorax:  “Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, Nothing is going to get better, it’s not!”

General Secretary Nyaradazayi addressed the conference focusing on World YWCA program priorities such as young women’s leadership, violence against women, HIV/AIDS and a plan for the future born from envisioning sessions that will define the YWCA in 2035. She also mentioned that she has recently been named the African Union Goodwill Ambassador for the End Child Marriage Campaign. Paula Penebaker brought greetings from YWCA USA and told about her experiences as CEO of YWCA Milwaukee.

CEO Paulette Senior spoke about the work of the national office over the past year, in particular the launch of the Homes for Women Campaign to prevent, reduce and eventually end women’s homelessness; and a vigorous anti-violence social media campaign during the 17th International Week Without Violence. The Blueprint Project, a partnership between YWCA Canada, YWCA Halifax and YWCA Moncton delivered leadership projects to help women develop the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to take on leadership and decision making roles in their communities. The first Day of Big Change occurred in March when young women across the country coordinated rallies, vigils, events, workshops, blogs, online activities, and all kinds of creative actions to raise awareness about the power of young women on key issues.

Advocacy Director Ann Decter gave an entertaining and informative look at trends and statistics, and World YWCA VP Jess Notwell raised money for Young Women’s Leadership Miles by challenging locals to bridge a $400 gap between what was already raised and the goal, more than tripling what was required.

A session entitled World Café with roundtable discussions addressed issues of Reconciliation, Economic Security for Women, Housing and Young Women’s Leadership. Workshop topics included: Leveraging Networks for Greater Impact, Why does every Non-Profit Agency need a Strategy, Bridging the Gap from Planned to Mobile Giving, Saying Yes – Effective Shelters to serve Women with Mental Health & Addiction Issues, What’s Now and What’s Next for Women’s Advocacy, and Women’s Leadership through Social Enterprise.

An Awards Dinner, bathed in blue lights and decorated with blue table decorations, highlighted those who had achieved career milestone years and those with outstanding services and programs. Outgoing national president Lynne Kent was recognized and incoming president Colette Prevost was announced.

The two-day sessions closed with heartwarming stories of survival and success from three women who found their voice in YWCA Hamilton’s outstanding Speak Now program. Hamilton, under the leadership of Denise Doyle, is celebrating its 125th year.