November 13, 2015
At the World YWCA Council meeting in Thailand, Yolanda Sullivan, Jennifer Caraway and Brenda Durham saw firsthand what a collective impact really looks like. As they exchanged ideas and brainstormed with women from more than 70 countries, they realized that the YWCA truly makes a world of difference.
“You don’t realize the strength of this organization and the impact it makes until you are part of something like this,” said Caraway, director of domestic violence services for the YWCA Central Alabama. “To see what so many strong women are doing throughout the world is powerful. We are truly working together to change the world.”
Held every four years, World Council is the largest gathering of YWCA members from around the world. The theme for the meeting was “Bold and Transformative Leadership” and delegates came together to elect the members of the World YWCA Board, to set priorities for the coming year’s work and to determine policies through resolutions.
The purpose of the World YWCA is “to develop the leadership and collective power of women and girls around the world to achieve justice, peace, health, human dignity, freedom and a sustainable environment for all people.”
The Alabama delegation met a number of YW leaders who advocate for women who simply want to vote or be able to walk the streets alone. They talked with delegates from South Sudan, who focus on forced child marriages, and women from Kenya, who work to save young girls from the horrors of genital mutilation. “It really put things into perspective,” said Sullivan, CEO of YWCA Central Alabama. “On our worst days, we are so much better off than so many.”
Durham, chief housing officer, said the trip was the opportunity of a lifetime. “It was an awesome way to see how we fit into the ‘big’ YW picture,” she said. “One of the objectives of the conference was on sustainability of the YWCA movement. YWs from Tanzania, U.S. Virgin Islands, Finland and Haiti were among those sharing how they are able to support themselves through social enterprise in order to forward their work and mission.”
Sullivan was honored to visit “the land of smiles” and have the chance to see the Golden Palace, Temple of the Reclining Buddha and the river houses that are home to many of the country’s poorest residents. She said the best part of the trip, however, was sharing ideas and hearing how YW women are affecting change in war-torn countries and working to provide educational and empowering opportunities for women and girls.
“I left even more energized than before,” Sullivan said. “Although the focus of each YW affiliate may be different, we all have many similarities. We are part of a global sisterhood, and we are working together to lead social, political, economic and civic change.”
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