The virtual annual meeting of the World Service Council was held Oct. 20. WSC Co-chair Mildred Morrison opened the meeting by briefly commenting on the history of the WSC and briefing attendees on the work of the Council over the past year: holding an in-person meeting of the WSC in collaboration with the YWCA USA’s June conference, participating in World YWCA zoom meetings, and raising $95,000 to mainly to support the World YWCA’s young women’s cohort program. She also memorialized four of WSC Trailblazing leaders who passed away. (see separate article).
The highlight of the meeting featured reporting by two members of the World YWCA’s Young Women’s Leadership Cohort, Amara Killen from USA, and Yvonne Ogollah from Kenya. Their conversations were facilitated by Anne Marie Schwerin, CEO of YWCA Walla Walla. Both young women praised the life-changing training provided by the World YWCA, and discussed their work with other women in the cohort along with the work they are doing in their own countries.
Amara, who is a nominee for the World YWCA Board, has played a major role at the YWCA Walla Walla in Washington State by leading YWCA Mariposa groups at local elementary schools. In her work with Latina children, she provided opportunities for them to develop and practice leadership and decision-making skills. Amara handled program logistics, expanded the program in other school districts, and recruited and hired new leaders. As part of the World YWCA Leadership Cohort, she connected with YWCA Palestine young women and worked against gender-based violence in Palestine. Already fluent in two languages, she is learning Arabic to better communicate with the people she serves in her refugee work. During her presentation she acknowledged she is a Jewish woman who sees the injustices in Gaza, and advocates for a cease fire of the war. She initiated a moment of silence for peace in the meeting. Being part of the cohort has enabled her to meet leading peacemakers around the world.
Ogollah remarked that the cohort experience revealed that despite cultural differences among members, all faced similar barriers. As a trained leader by the YWCA, she is a champion of reproductive justice and is proud to be part of an advisory committee in her community that shares needs and points out gaps in an effort to transform cultural structures. The committee investigates legal and social norms and socio-economic components. Trained as a community organizer she now brings voice to climate justice on a planning committee that works in collaboration with the YWCA.
Acknowledging Week without Violence, Amara and Ogollah shared a visually powerful video created by the cohort that pointed out everything women around the world face including body shaming and bullying, gender violence, labelling, unheard voices, inequities in education, etc., but the second part of the video showed a rejection of those barriers and promotion of women’s empowerment.
World YWCA General Secretary Casey Harden began her report by describing her job as incredible, acknowledging that reciprocal mentorship is so important. She thanked the WSC for providing the insurance needed to do impactful efforts with young women who are catalysts for transformational change and felt the goal of 2035 to engage 100 million young women and girls is on track due to strategic priorities and key initiatives. Signature tools such as the creation of Safe Spaces, Rise Up and Feminine Methodology, much of which was developed by young women, has proven to be transformative. Seeing this YWCA social platform as a recipe for success, next steps are to share it by expanding and scaling it up as a worldwide initiative. A plan to publish an international guide that could be monetized will help local and national associations achieve the 2035 goal that will have an intergenerational impact. The YWCA is already part of six youth global organizations on its way to creating community fellowship programs and ambassadors working digitally despite the lack of bricks and mortar.
YWCA USA Board member Maria Wilcox Chavez chairs the Global Relations Committee that works with the WSC. She spoke about the YWCA USA’s priority around the global movement in working on international partnerships and finding new pathways for young women to thrive and be heard. The CEO of YWCA Seattle, Maria is a woman of color, an immigrant with ties to Ethiopia and Johannesburg, and a member of the WSC, joining other members of the WSC as a woman with a global vision who cares about our changing world and champions the work of the YWCA.
YWCA USA CEO Margaret Mitchell began her remarks by saying her heart was with our YWCA sisters in Palestine and then described how she was educated about the WSC and the work of the World YWCA when she stepped into her position. Inspired by Casey’s work with young women and WSC’s financial support of the World YWCA cohort program, she emphasized YWCA USA’s unyielding commitment for doing its part by following the World YWCA Young Women’s blueprint. Citing climate justice as gender justice and the critical need for reproductive justice, Margaret is re-engaging the movement around the 2035 goal. The tools and opportunities now available have deepened her commitment to re-energize and re-imagine the world as a place where there is no violence, no inequity and provides dignity for all.
WSC Membership Chairs Becky Hines and Claudia Poster spoke about the need for the WSC to become more vital and engaging. After consultation with many YWCA sisters, there is an effort to explore the concept of membership, how to expand our network, how better to inform local YWCA Boards and staff, re-engage those who have left the YWCA, create discussion groups and educational sessions and provide international opportunities through zoom or travel. In terms of structure and governance, the Membership Committee wants to explore more efficient and strategic models. They welcome anyone interested in joining the committee in these efforts to contact Becky at email@example.com or Claudia at firstname.lastname@example.org WSC Co-chair Gloria Chun Hoo closed the meeting by thanking all participants and those who attended. She passionately spoke about the need to support the transformative work of the World YWCA with tax-deductible donations to help reach the World YWCA’s grant request of $120,000.