This should be fun.....and funny. Occasionally a little serious....but mostly humourous!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

World Council

Yesterday was a very exciting day! After all of the elections were finished, we had great success for the US and our North American region. Carolyn Flowers of YWCA USA is now the treasure of the YWCA World Board of Directors!! Also, our own Luna Lee, a young woman, was elected to the YWCA World Board. Jessica Notwell from Canada, who was also a candidate (and my first choice) for Board President was successful in becoming the World Board Vice President for the North American Region! We were certainly successful in getting some of our own into key positions at the world level.

There were 100 countries represented in total at World Council. I count myself lucky to have made friends with women from other countries across the globe including Taiwan, Australia, Zimbabwe, Canada, Japan, Egypt and Palastine. I can never express fully what this opportunity has meant to me. It has been truly life changing. Thanks again to everyone who helped me get here!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Opening Ceremony and World Council

Today was the first official day of the World Council part of the conference. It started this morning with the parade of countries and opening ceremony. I could describe it, but the pictures speak volumes....true culture.


Ireland and Thailand

US Virgin Islands- affiliated 7/14/11


Haiti-Affiliated 7/14/11

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Catching up....Young Women's Leadership Dialogue and International Women's Summit

The best advice I have received, "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken."

The last 3 days have been an adventure, a truly amzing journey I will never forget. The power and the stories of the women here......Wow! I have participated in many plenary sessions and break out disscussion groups, and it still amazes me that I continue to hear so many different perspectives on the issues.

The Young Women's Leadership Dialogue took place on Monday. It started with an opening plenary with high profile speakers. The YWCA World Board President, Susan Brennen- Australia, opened the dialogue by pointing out how important the voices of young women are to this organization. She told us her own story about joining the YWCA as a young women and the journey she has made since then. It was truly inspiring to hear her story and to know that she truly is advocating for young women to have a voice in the decision making processes at all levels of the YWCA. As discussions began taking place, it was abundantly clear that not all YWCA women feel as strongly about the presence of young women at the table. A woman from a country in Africa told us that her Genreal Secretary (CEO) told her before she left for World Council, "I am sending you to World Council, but do not think that you can run the YWCA. You are not mature enough." That language coming from a woman who is suppose to be supporting her made me realize how very fortunate I am to be in Lubbock with Glenda Mathis.

Glenda has worked to create significant change to the diversity of people at the table in Lubbock. I believe that mentoring comes as second nature to her. Talking to other women from other local associations even within the United States only highlights how blessed we are to have Glenda's leadership and support in Lubbock. Looking even further proves that there are really fantastic people at the YWCA of Lubbock. There is peer-to-peer support in our organization that is rare and must not be taken for granted.

International Women's Summit
Some of the stories are simply hearbreaking. Just today, I was in a session about domestic violence put on by the YWCAs of Finland and Germany. They have an exhibit called Rossenstrasse 76 (76 Rose Street in English) that they take to churches, shopping malls, schools and many other public arenas. The exhibit is set up like a house with a bed room, living room, kitchen and a child's bedroom. As you walk through there are cards attached to various items that tell you a story about what happens in that house. The object is to point out that although the house looks like the ones most of us live in, terrible things take place there behind closed doors. It was powerful. As we went through the session, a woman from Nigeria stood up and said that she understood why they created it, but that it would never be allowed to be shown in her country. She said that men there beat their wives as a normal part of life. They cannot even get help because it is such a normal part of their culture. She told us about how their YWCA does pre-marital counseling for couples so that they can teach both men and women that domestic violence is unacceptable. In that same session, a woman from YWCA USA told the group what her YWCA does for victims of domestic violence, and the group, in general, looked at her in shock. They simply could not believe that domestic violence happens in the United States. It goes to show that perception and reality are two different things.

 The types of things that happen in other parts of the world are not on our radar for the most part. For example, there are many countries where families will give their daughters for marriage while they are still children, sometimes as young as 10 years old. 10 million girls are given as "child brides" every year. As inconceivable as it is, parents choose that life for their daughters as a way to protect them. Sometimes early marriage is so deeply engrained into their culture, that the people do not really know the risks. In South Asia, 46% of girls are married and have their first child before the age of 18. The same is true for 36% of the girls in Sub-Saharan Africa. Fortunately, the YWCAs in those countries are working togther with The Elders, UNWomen, Save the Children UK and many other organizations to bring education to the places where these practices are common as well as effecting policy making to criminalize this practice.

Very quickly I will mention that every American needs to research the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW, (cedaw2010.org) read about it then call your state representatives, and take a stance on it one way or another. While there are many components to CEDAW, there is a part of CEDAW that specifically addresses child marriage. I will let everyone make their own decision about their feelings toward it.

Statement of fact: Every country in the world, EXCEPT The United States of America and Somalia have ratified CEDAW.

 Us and a 3rd world country.

I would also like to point out that their are many countries that are significantly futher along on the gender equality spectrum than the US. Many of them, just under 50% of their elected officials, legislative bodies and leaders including presidents and prime ministers, are female.

Enough with the heavy....

Last night was "Swiss Night." Everyone went out to a "large" restaurant in Zurich. We started on the patio with a sampling of various kinds of cheese, vegetables, fruit and fondue. The we went in for dinner. There was a lot of entertainment during the evening and a vitrual train ride around the country. We learned about the culture and the different cities in Switzerland. It was really great getting to know people better and spend a relaxing evening enjoying each other's company. There are truly AMAZING women here. I am so thankful that I have the oppurtunity to experience this!!

And a few random pictures

General Secretary, World YWCA

 Women of the World, left to right
Lucia (Honduras), Fathima (Palastine), Rosaline (Liberia), Leanne (USA), Audrey (Zimbabwe), Florence (Sierra Leon)

 Natalia, Leanne, Kyla

Kind of a funny story....ask me when I return :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Young Women's Dinner and Leadership Dialogue

Last night we had our first event of the conference. After meeting with the other young women at Kongresshaus, we were taken to a fantastic camp site for our dinner. The YWCA/YMCA Switzerland function much like Girl/Boy Scouts. They take youth to these campsites where they learn to build campfires and do team building activities. It was a neat cabin type building surrounded by a lush green forest. It was really great to have the oppurtunity to see the rural side of Zurich. They had these really interesting logs that had been cut "pizza style" about 3/4 of the length. Then they set the logs on fire. (pictures to follow) They were really interesting to look at, and if it had been cold, they would have been perfect. However, we were basically surrounded by them as we ate, so the smoke and ashes blew all over us. I didn't really expect to come home from Zurich with clothes...or hair....that smelled like a camp fire. In a more open, colder environment I would have thought they were amazing :) We sampled food from Switzerland, Asia and Italy. It became clear very quickly that sausage in the US is very different from the sausage in Switzerland. The sausage here had a very smooth consistency. It was interesting. Otherwise, the food was pretty good.  After dinner, there was a diversity catwalk. People from different countries dress in their native dress and walked the calwalk with a new friend of their choice. It was really fun to see the elaborate costumes of particular countries. It was such a fantastic experience to learn about different cultures and talk with different people. Fantastic night!!

Leadership Dialogue to follow.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Zurich Day 1

It has been quite a day. It all began at about 3:30am. I had to get up super early to catch my ride to the airport for my 6AM flight to Zurich. The lovely concierge at the hotel was so very helpful and told my driver that I needed to be dropped at terminal 3. When we arrive at terminal 3, I see a giant sign that reads "Virgin Atlantic." The driver helps with the luggage and drives away.  I was a little nervous. It was a new airport for me. I felt like I was running late. So, I walk into the terminal and very quickly realized what the Virgin Atlantic sign had suggested. I was at the wrong terminal. I frantically found someone to tell me the correct terminal (1 of course) and the way there. He says, "oh, simple, take that lift (elevator) down 1 level then follow the signs to terminal 1." So, I did. He failed to mention the fact that the terminal is about a mile away via underground tunnels, and walking is the only option. Remember how I felt like I was running late? I basically ran. With my luggage.....I finally arrive at terminal 1. I found the airline, went through security, checked in. I was ready to go, and I had about 15 minutes to spare. (According to the boarding time on the ticket.) By then I was feeling pretty good. As I walked through the airport, I stopped at a screen to check which gate I needed (33b.) I followed a sign that pointed my direction. Finally, I am good, just need to get to the gate, but I have time. Then, I see another sign that gives approximate walking times to the various gates. Guess what, gate 33b should only take about 15 minutes. Geez Louise!!!  I made it, running again,.....but I am fairly certain that gate 33b is directly above the entrance to terminal 3. By the time I sit down at the gate to wait for boarding, my hair is basically wet, and I am burning up!!! Then I sat there for 30 minutes before we board. Hahaha....isn't life funny!

2 morals to this story.....

1. Don't pack clothes, buy new ones when you arrive. Luggage is a burden :) The alternative is to pack for 3 days and cylce your outfits.

2. If they let you check in at the ticket counter, don't worry about missing your flight, they don't board when they say they will anyway.

Now, I am in Zurich! It is absolutely beautiful. Just outside our hotel there is a great little open air market with fresh flowers, fruits and veggies, spices and herbs. They even had bread and cheese trucks. I met up with Keri Jones from Salt Lake City and Kris Silvestry from New Jersey early this morning. We took a walk around the market and surrounding neighborhood while we waited for our rooms. We even had time to enjoy the pool for a little while. I ended up with a room on the 28th floor of the 32 story hotel, and the view is fantastic. The 32nd floor is the spa and pool. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Tomorrow is the first event for young women. Stay tuned for more.....