YWCAs Around the World: Beyond Beijing
2010 marks the 15th anniversary of the Beijing World Conference on Women. The fourth in a series of World Conferences for Women, the conference defined a clear direction for women’s advancement by adopting the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) and many YWCAs have since worked to promote the BPFA in their communities.
YWCA of Liberia combines psychosocial counselling with vocational training for ex-soldiers
During the armed conflicts in Liberia, women and children were the most marginalised and vulnerable to domestic and sexual abuses, violence and torture. Some were even kept as sex slaves. The YWCA of Liberia’s vocational skills training programme integrates psychosocial counselling to help rehabilitate these girls and aid their reintegration back into their various communities.
Between 2006-2009, the YWCA trained 525 war affected younger women and girls associated with fighting forces: 277 were young women or girls, 200 were adult women. In interacting with these girls, the YWCA counsellors were able to get firsthand information about their experiences. To increase their gender sensitivity and facilitate reintegration upon return to their communities, men and boys were also included in the programme.
As well as sports and other recreational activities, the programme’s health components included HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment. A total of 48 young women and girls in the programme were HIV positive.
The YWCA concentrated its work in six counties that have high numbers of girls out of school as well as suitable commercial activities. These were Nimba, Bong, Bomi, Montserrado, Grand Bassa, and Margibi. Vocational skills choices included auto mechanics, brakes making, pastry making, and agro-processing. The programme was funded by the United Nations Development Programme.
YWCA of Guyana Makes Girls Education a Priority
With over 60 years of achievement in providing girls with vocational training, the YWCA has demonstrated the power of the old adage that when you educate a girl, you educate a nation. The YWCA of Guyana’s programme to educate girls has not only helped the girls to gain productive skills, it has contributed to poverty reduction and placed the issue back onto the government agenda.
YWCA of Guyana General Secretary Glynis Alonzo-Beaton explains: “It’s important we address the issue of women and education in Guyana as over the years women and girls were never on the agenda of those in authority. With the YWCA constantly keeping education a priority, it slowly caught on and crept back on the agenda of those in decision–making positions.”
Offered to girls 14 to 18 years old who dropped out of the traditional education system, the two-year programme provides an opportunity to learn skills and gain economic independence. Over 70 students participate annually, usually in rural areas and the course has included HIV positive girls.
The programme has had an “amazing impact” on the lives of young women participants and has “changed many lives.” Alonzo-Beaton says that, “More than 95% of young women who completed the course have gained a skill and become productive. If they did not have this opportunity, they would have remained uneducated and unemployed, increasing the poverty in Guyana.”
The training includes design, entry-level administration, cosmetology, plumbing, dancing and life skills with sexual and reproductive health education and physical education.
YWCA of Korea: Job Training Helps Migrant Women Build New Lives
Single women who migrate to Korea generally come for employment opportunities. However, married women are often “trailing spouses” following their husband’s career path. They may arrive in Korea without any job experience or their own life plan. Therefore, economic empowerment of married migrant women through job training is one of the YWCA of Korea’s main priorities.
According to recent statistics, there are approximately 128,000 married migrant women in Korea.The YWCA of Korea, supported by Lotte Homeshopping, offers them financial education and vocational training. Research identified potential vocations for migrant women: clothes mender, nail artist, counsellor, folk artist, barista, multicultural education instructor, English instructor, hair stylist were selected as vocations.
The women also receive career information and an employment fair was held for them. The Ministry of Gender Equality provided women who had finished the training programme with a job practicum in a social enterprise industry or local YWCA cooperative.
The programme requires basic Korean language skills which means some of the newer migrants may need to participate in the YWCA of Korea’s language study courses first. The programme is advertised both through these courses and by local newspapers and broadcasters, flyers, banners, etc. In 2009, 109 women participated.
The YWCA of Korea plans to extend this project to enhance the social participation of married migrant women and raise their status and self-confidence through economic