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Young Women's Leadership

Young women’s leadership continues to be a global priority for the World YWCA movement. The World YWCA has been at the forefront of young women’s empowerment, continually advocating for young women becoming leaders both within and outside the YWCA movement, building their confidence and encouraging peer training and sharing of experience. As young women play a central role in sustaining the work of the World YWCA, the movement has a constitutional mandate, adopted at the World YWCA Council 2007 held in Kenya, to allocate 25% of all decision-making positions to young women aged 30 years or under.

Globally, despite recent attention to their role in development, young women and girls continue to experience human rights violations, gender inequality, and exclusion from many gains made under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Young women are too often subject to harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation and child marriage, which increases their risk of maternal mortality or childbirth injury, HIV infection, and domestic violence. Young women from marginalised social groups, girls living without their parents, and displaced girls are particularly vulnerable to violence (UNICEF, 2010). Keeping young women and girl’s safe and addressing their needs and rights in these critical years is imperative.

Young women face multiple and complex barriers to education, including the burden of domestic work from an early age, security issues and poor sanitation. Greater investment in access to formal education, meaningful training opportunities and work will enable young women to obtain skills and knowledge for economic empowerment and will also equip them with the skills needed to break the escalating cycle of gender inequality by strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Young women must be involved and represented at all levels of politics and policy making. This includes becoming members of parliaments, representatives in advisory groups for policy development, and being involved in the implementation and evaluation of policy. It is only through significant improvements in the representation and participation of young women in these processes that programmes will be truly human rights based. Young women must be recognised and included as decision makers, and not just considered as victims or recipients of assistance.

Young Women within the YWCA movement: The Y in YWCA

The World YWCA equips young women for the challenges of leadership through internships and leadership training opportunities at all regional and global events. Furthermore, as part of the World YWCA Strategic Framework 2012-2015, women’s intergenerational leadership was adopted as a goal; with women providing transformative, shared and intergenerational leadership in upholding and respecting women’s rights. Today, young women constitute 40% of the World YWCA board members and therefore have a direct influence on policies designed to empower them.

 The World YWCA affirms that it is essential to:

  • Encourage and help build a culture of good succession planning, of nurturing and of  mentoring young women throughout the movement.
  • Ensure the implementation of the resolution stating that at least 25% of young women should hold leadership positions.
  • Recruit and retain more young women members.

Young Women and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and HIV: My Body, My rights

Young women are among the most vulnerable to SRHR violations, maternal and infant mortality and HIV transmissions. Following the different consultations that took place with young women from the movement over the last years, several issues emerged that young women considered as hindrances for the full enjoyment of their sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as factors of higher risks of transmission of HIV; such as traditional harmful practices, lack of access to treatment, lack of economic empowerment and lack of freedom to make decisions concerning their own bodies and sexuality.

The World YWCA affirms that it is essential to:

  • Advocate with governments for all young women to have available, accessible, good quality and appropriate health facilities, in conformity with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966, and to be free to enjoy their private lives, in accordance with the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights of 1966.
  • Train and mobilise young women on SRHR and HIV through extensively using Human Rights treaties and declarations, and encourage young women to replicate this training.
  • Engage with national and local religious institutions to advance the rights of women, young women and girls and challenge harmful religious and cultural practices and norms.

Eliminate violence against women: Creating a Safe World

Violence against Women is a worldwide phenomenon that affects women and their families everywhere. Often seen as easy targets, young women may experience sexual harassment at the workplace or at schools and universities; domestic violence or violence and rape in abusive relationships; violence in times of conflict and occupation, or even violence coming from the media impacting on their body image.

Physical and sexual violence has serious and ongoing impacts on young women’s physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health. It prevents young women from contributing to public life, making decisions about their future, earning an income and fulfilling their potential as leaders.

The World YWCA affirms that it is essential to:

  • Train and mobilise young women on women’s human rights and on their right to live free from violence, in conformity with the United Nations Charter, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and other Human Rights Treaty bodies.
  • Stretch our outreach to young women survivors of violence, build partnerships and alliances with them, and create young women only support groups, to help them build back their self esteem.
  • Advocate with governments to legislate and implement violence against women laws that are in compliance with Human Rights Law.
  • Advocate for the presence of available, accessible, good quality and appropriate structures and services to receive and to refer young women survivors of violence.

Download our flyer on World YWCA and Young Women's leadership Priority:

Young Women's Leadership Programme

The World YWCA equips young women for the challenges of leadership through internships ; leadership training opportunities at all regional and global events. The YWCA has always affirmed the importance of partnership across generations, and therefore, also encourages both formal and informal mentoring relationships.