Every year on April 24, YWCAs around the world observe World YWCA Day. It’s a day to celebrate our common membership and achievements in creating positive change for women, young women and girls around the world.
This year’s theme is “Creating a a more inclusive world”. Have a look at the YWCA Day Toolkit and join us!
Here Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA General Secretary, shares her views on why we need to create a more inclusive world.
Every day, friends from around the world are able to share joy and sorrow as countries become more connected. This connectedness allows us to celebrate our diversity in all its forms and to reach out to others with whom we share common interests and identities. However, at the same time, the world is growing more exclusive. We see an increasing desire to quickly categorize people into “us” and “them” based on age, faith, race, sex, nationality, socio-economic status and other factors.
That’s why “Creating a More Inclusive World” is the theme for this year’s World YWCA Day. It’s a day to celebrate our common membership and achievements in a movement that advances the human rights and leadership of all women, young women and girls.
With more than 120 member associations across eight regions, the World YWCA weaves a rich tapestry of women from many different faiths, ages, backgrounds, beliefs and cultures. In fact, our inclusiveness was vital in passing a resolution on non-discrimination at World Council 2015. In this resolution, we agreed to work to eliminate all discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion or belief, health, status, age, class, caste, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression, including practices, attitudes, policies and laws in their communities and countries.
At the same time, we agreed to work together on one bold goal: “By 2035, 100 million young women and girls transform power structures to create justice, gender equality and a world without violence and war; leading a sustainable, YWCA movement, inclusive of all women.”
In order to accomplish this and to encourage inclusivity for all, we need to help drive a shift in the public consciousness. We need to continue to promote inclusiveness, both within and outside our movement, particularly for young women and girls. And we need to ensure we are welcoming the diverse skills, perspectives and experiences that we all contribute to help solve problems and drive change.
We can start by taking a hard look at ourselves. We need to ensure our YWCAs are truly inclusive, particularly when it comes to involving young women and girls. This may mean finding new and creative ways for young women and girls to participate, establish communities, and influence our movement. We also need to ensure we are truly sharing the power within the YWCA, in line with the Young Women’s Leadership Policy we adopted at World Council.
At the same time as we were adopting our important non-discrimination resolution at World Council, Hungary closed its Croatian border in an effort to stop the influx of refugees from Syria. The unresolved and prolonged Arab and Israeli war continues to impact many of our member associations both across the Middle East and also in Europe. Not only is it causing widespread violence and a humanitarian crisis, it’s also creating thousands of refugees and forced displacements. And this in turn is having a devastating impact on women and children, threatening their physical survival and their basic rights and needs, and putting them at greater risk for poverty, violence and aggression.
These refugees have left nearly everything behind and are hoping for something better—a safe place to live, some understanding, and the opportunity to start again. But instead of reaching out to them, world powers have largely turned a cold shoulder. Instead of the fresh start they had hoped for, these refugees are finding hostile attitudes, closed borders and posted signs stating that refugees are dangerous and should be avoided. Some countries have made it clear that Muslims are not welcome. Others have labelled refugees as terrorists. Still others have tried to send them back home.
From both a Christian and a human rights perspective, this kind of behaviour is unacceptable. What would Jesus say about this? And what kind of society are we when we refuse to acknowledge peoples’ basic human rights?
The attitude of viewing people from different places and cultures as “them” and ourselves as “us” is not new. But it comes at a time when we need inclusivity more than ever as the world attempts to tackle large global problems through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Inclusivity will not put a stop to every issue facing the world today. There will still be economic, political and social issues. But by taking steps to create a more inclusive world, we can help create a better world for all. Let’s ensure it starts with us and our YWCAs.