YWCAs mobilise to end violence
As the World YWCA International Training Institute (ITI) came to a close in Seoul, Korea, 50
women representing YWCAs from 30 countries committed to provide stronger leadership to
address violence against women (VAW) and peace building. Participants, including 40% young women, contributed towards a strong vision for ending violence and securing peace by 2035 and identified innovative strategies for global campaigning.
“Responding to violence against women and girls and building peace are at the core of our mission as YWCAs. We set ourselves a goal through this ITI to mobilise the collective power of the World YWCA movement towards eliminating violence against women and girls and creating lasting peace in our communities and our countries”, said Michelle Higelin, World YWCA Deputy General Secretary at the closing of the six-day training.
Participants endorsed the basis of a global position paper to guide their common efforts on VAW and peace building under the banner of the YWCA movement. The position paper highlighted that gender inequality is the root cause of VAW and girls and as long as there is gender inequality and imbalance of power relations and access to resources, violence against women will prevail.
Participants recognised VAW and girls is a systemic violation of women’s human rights and that development cannot be achieved without a culture of peace and an end to violence against women.
ITI participants have called for the post 2015 development agenda to include a strong emphasis on the elimination of violence against women, underscoring that any development process can only be achieved if there is peace, justice and respect for basic human rights. YWCAs also reaffirmed the equal dignity and rights of all human beings, including the right of women and girls to live a life free of violence.
As part of responding to violence and conflict, YWCAs will seek to mobilise communities,
strengthen services and advocate for change, including through the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions on women, peace and security. Participants also recognised the need to partner for impact and work with men and boys to contribute to behavioural change.
The six-day intensive training included sharing experiences and promising practices across regions in addressing VAW and peace building, and developed skills and understanding of international mechanisms for the protection of women’s human rights, including CEDAW and the Commission on the Status of Women. Among sessions run during the week, participants were inspired by the YWCA’s efforts in Zambia’s to create legal reform, Australia’s outreach strategies to men and boys and Liberia’s work on challenging harmful practices. They also examined how to apply the human rights based approach to their work on VAW, examining the underlying causes and the human rights issues involved, as well as using tools to identify the types of actions that will ensure women can fully claim their rights and duty bearers meet their obligations.
Throughout the week, participants were challenged to dig deeper into the Bible to find the often hidden stories of women who have spoken out about rape and injustice, and to not be passive participants in religion but agents of change in challenging traditional interpretations of women and socially accepted norms around violence.
YWCA of Korea, the host association for the ITI, also enabled participants to visit the Korean
Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea with a goal of promoting peace and
reunification on the Korean peninsula. This was part of advancing the World Council 2011
resolution calling for greater attention to the situation of women and children in North Korea.
women leading change
Filmmaker and founder of Peace is Loud, Abigail Disney, was among the invited guests at the ITI to launch the Women, War and Peace series. Ms Disney highlighted the unique role YWCAs can play in advancing peace and justice in their countries, and ending impunity for grave acts of violence committed during wartime against women. A representative of the UN Secretary General’s UNiTE campaign to end violence against women, Gihan Hassanein, was also involved in the ITI to explore collaborative strategies and share the UNiTE campaign platform.
The ITI was held from November 8-13, 2012 in Seoul, Korea and was supported by EED,
Norwegian Church Aid, YWCA of Korea and many individual donors. Over the next four years, the World YWCA is convening a series of International Training Institutes on the priority themes in its Strategic Framework 2012-2015, namely Violence Against Women and Peace Building; Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and HIV; and Young Women’s Leadership
Present in over 120 countries, in 22,000 communities and with an outreach of 25 million women and girls, the World YWCA movement has nearly 160 years of experience in community interventions on violence against women, and is currently supporting survivors of violence to rebuild their lives and dignity in more than 70 countries globally.