International Women's Summit

The World YWCA is hosting its fourth International Women's Summit (IWS) under the theme "Women Creating a Safe World ”. The IWS will be held in Zurich, Switzerland, on July 12-13, 2011 as part of its 27th World Council. This follows on the 2007 summit whose theme was "Changing Lives, Changing Communities: Women’s Leadership Making a Difference on HIV and AIDS".

Following the ground-breaking International Women's Summit (IWS) on Women’s leadership on HIV and AIDS held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2007, the World YWCA and its partners will host World Council 2011 and its fourth IWS in Zurich, Switzerland from July 12-13, 2011, around the theme: “Women Creating a Safe World ”.
The IWS will broadly discuss this theme and further define equitable, safe and inclusive spaces and programmes for women, thus advancing CEDAW and MDG commitments.
Safe space is about the personal, economic and political security of women and girls, their right to live free from violence, to make choices about where to live and work, to move freely and participate in all facets of democracy, as well as to have full access to sexual and reproductive health services, including universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

With community centres around the world, the YWCA is renowned for helping provide safe places where women, young women and girls may become empowered and lead change in a setting free of discrimination, stigma or prejudice.


International Women's Summit

The 2-day Summit:

  • Focuses on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), HIV and AIDS, violence against women (VAW) and peace with justice, especially for women living with HIV
  • Creates a safe space for experience sharing, good practices, dialogue and exchange
  • Is grounded on the experience, practice and work of the YWCA movement and partner organisations
  • Upholds human rights based approaches affirming women, the empowerment and leadership of young women and girls
  • Takes an inter-generational approach that affirms young women’s leadership
  • Shares experiences of faith through the lenses of feminist theology
  • Defines models of work for the next decade
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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.

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International Women Summit

Programme at a Glance

Tuesday July 12, 2011 and Wednesday July 13, 2011

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