International Women's Summit

12 - 13 Jul, 2011

  • Location: Conference Centre of Zurich, Switzerland
  • Date: 12-13 July 2011

The theme “Women Creating a Safe World” ?

The World Council 2011 and the International Women’s Summit (IWS) will celebrate the achievements, learning and progress of the movement, and examine persisting gaps and challenges to ensure the fulfillment of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) including HIV and AIDS, and the eradication of violence against women (VAW) at the community, national and global levels.

The YWCA believes that women are entitled to live safely and securely, regardless of their HIV status, age, creed, race, gender, sexual orientation, ability or ethnicity. Women may reach their full potential through participation and leadership in creating a safe world, and at the same time, security could be improved for all.

Although laws and policies have been put in place in many countries to address these issues, without resources, strategies and education, they remain inadequate. As a result, community based organisations are actively involved in this challenge, despite a lack of matching resources.

YWCAs and other women’s organisations around the world have for many years been initiating and supporting programmes to address this issue. In some 22,000 communities worldwide, YWCAs provide safe and empowering spaces, free of discrimination, stigma or prejudice, for women, young women and girls.

A safe space for women and girls is about:

  • personal, economic and political security
  • enjoying universal human rights and being free from discrimination and stigma
  • the right to live free from violence both in the private and public spheres, to make choices about where to live and work, to move freely, to participate in all facets of democracy
  • having full access to sexual and reproductive health services, including universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support
  • demanding a robust effort in prevention and in addressing issues of peace and security in a world of conflict, wars and violence.

This core notion of a safe space requires continued reflection, analysis and renewal. World Council 2011 and the IWS will discuss the many facets of this theme and further define equitable, safe and inclusive spaces and programmes for women. The World Council 2011 and the IWS will be a space for sharing experiences and knowledge and exploring opportunities to expand this work, while recognising the key underlying issues of vulnerability, such as poverty and climate change.

The Issues

The World Council and the International Women’s Summit (IWS) will focus on the following main issues of major concern to the YWCA movement. They will be an important platform for discussion, for the sharing of information and experience and for solution finding.

Strengthening Work on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and HIV and AIDS

The lack of contraception and unsafe sex are crucial risk factors for death and disability in women of reproductive age. The sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of women living with HIV are often ignored and one fifth to a half of girls and young women report that their first sexual encounter was forced.

The World YWCA has extensive expertise and global programming on HIV and AIDS with YWCAs in over 70 countries implementing programmes on SRHR. The institution has adopted an approach to SRHR and HIV that builds on the 2007 Nairobi Call to Action, as well as integrating experiences from the YWCA movement and partner organisations.

The key elements of this strategy are:

a) providing comprehensive prevention;

b) building the leadership of women, especially young women, in advocacy and provision of services;

c) creating and sustaining safe and inclusive spaces and access to full and comprehensive information;

d) ensuring comprehensive communication, monitoring and evaluation.

The recommendations of the World YWCA Regional Training Institutes (RTIs) held in Africa, Asia Pacific and Caribbean region in 2009, where a majority of member associations endorsed SRHR, HIV and Violence Against Women (VAW) as being the key priorities of the movement, will inform and strengthen the IWS dialogue.


Expanding Knowledge on YWCA Responses to Violence Against Women and Girls and Peace with Justice

The elimination of all forms of violence against women (VAW) is a priority of the World YWCA. Globally, six out of ten women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.

Conflict, wars and violence continue to destroy lives, communities and the future, with huge negative impacts on women and children.

The World YWCA has been at the forefront of responding to crises and eliminating VAW throughout its history. YWCAs in nearly 70 countries in all regions have diverse programmes for women and their children facing violence and abuse. These programmes range from the provision of emergency shelter, counseling and psycho-social support, policy advocacy for legislation, as well as working with judicial, police and health systems to running telephone ‘hotlines’ for women who have experienced sexual abuse, including rape.


Linking Community Services and Programmes with Policy Making and Accountability

There is a global disconnect between community actors, their knowledge, experience and perspectives with accountability and resources. Gender mainstreaming, that has been adopted as the dominant approach in the last 15 years, has shifted the transformative agenda of women’s empowerment to more a technical and instrumentalist approach defined by institutions, and embedded in programmes. This approach has transformed community centred organisations and movements like the YWCAs into the realm of implementers of programmes.

IWS participants will explore and dialogue on ways to reclaim the space for women and girls through advocacy and community action. While women contribute to creating a safe world, the primary responsibility for provision of services, safety and security lies with the duty bearers – states and their public government institutions. YWCAs, as part of civil society, need to engage and monitor states to ensure they fulfill their promises and commitments under international law. With the breadth of experience in providing community-based programmes and services, YWCAs are well positioned to use this knowledge base in advocating for effective national and regional policies that are put into action with adequate resources.

The IWS will be a space for sharing experiences, generating knowledge and exploring opportunities for deepening and expanding this work, while recognising key underlying issues of vulnerability, such as poverty and climate change.