The World YWCA has been working for the empowerment and leadership of women, young women and girls for more than a century to advance their human rights. One core component to ensure inclusive-ity and that everyone has a voice in the process, is through the creation of Safe Spaces. A YWCA Safe Space is an environment characterized by a culture of respect, equality and accountability, ensuring that everyone can actively participate and meaningfully contribute to the best of their ability. They are designed to facilitate trust, confidentiality, dignity and respect.

According to the World YWCA, it is very important that the actual physical space provides a feeling of safety and comfort for ALL the participants in ALL their diversity.

The World YWCA Office is a big old house with a huge garden in Grand Saconnex. This lovely property, however, has been in need of a serious makeover, but instead of in-house aesthetics, our organization has consistently chosen to ensure funds are spent on projects in support of young women’s leadership, eliminating violence against women and girls, and ensuring the realisation of sexual and reproductive health and rights of women, young women, and girls.

The idea for a Young Women-led Safe Spaces Makeover came from a conversation with Linnea, a young advocacy specialist who voiced an interest in exploring a feminist design structure that would express our dedication to championing the human rights of women, young women, and girls around the world. We wondered how the YWCA could utilize a cohesive interior design that creates Safe Spaces and empowering environments for women of all ages to work together. This is when Elizabeth Nash, a consultant and a caring member of the movement for many years, reached out to Angela Kumpl, former manager of the IKEA store in Vernier, a well-known Swedish company that has been creating beautiful and functional home and work spaces in more than 50 countries worldwide.

With the support of the new IKEA Vernier Store Manager, Denis Bar, the Sustainability Coordinator Xabier Aranguren Sagasti, the design team, including Sylvain and Mathieu, worked with YWCA young women to create a feminist working space.

Over the past few months, a series of participatory engagements happened between IKEA and the young women from the World YWCA to share information, exchange ideas and propose solutions towards the creation of a Safe Space-Work Place. Led by  Nash, the process entailed teams visiting one another in their respective work spaces and linking the conceptualisation and implementation to a young women led-movement and a feminist work culture. This also included an laborious process of cleaning the old house, clearing up decades old stuff, and bringing in new furniture and ideas to the World YWCA office.

The teams at IKEA and World YWCA are working together, using the famous IKEA assembly process and creating together passion and professionalism. The process has been exciting and full of surprises, culminating with a beautiful outcome that you can see in the photo gallery.

The World YWCA takes this opportunity to thank the team at IKEA Vernier and Elizabeth Nash for helping us create a Safe Space that reflects the voices of young women across our movement.

This is an innovative partnership which reinforces our values, our participatory and engagement agenda, and our passion for young women’s leadership.