Apply for the Mary Robinson Award for Young Women’s Leadership in Human Rights Today!!

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With the deadline for applications fast approaching (January 31, 2011), the World YWCA would like to share again information on the Mary Robinson Award for Young Women’s Leadership in Human Rights.

There are three award categories. The first two categories are directed at individual young women:

- A YWCA young woman human rights activist

- A young woman human rights activist from the broader community of partners and organisations working on human rights.

The third category is directed at human rights work and will be awarded to:

- A YWCA Member Association that demonstrates exemplary support and promotion of young women’s leadership in human rights.

Many YWCAs around the world are doing excellent human rights based work and there are good examples from every region in the movement. In Europe, a YWCA is supporting women in prisons. Most of these women are survivors of violence, and during their time in prison they produce goods that are sold outside the prison.. The money generated from these sales is deposited into an account so that upon their release the women have some income. This initiative addresses the right to economic human rights, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to a life free of poverty and the right to fair participation in the economy.

In the Asia and Pacific region a YWCA is using the radio as a tool for advocacy and awareness on reproductive and sexual health and other social issues, thereby promoting greater participation from the public and influential individuals, representing all levels of the community. Women are taking the lead in discussing contentious issues, such as sex and condom use. This has contributed to the breakdown in cultural barriers and has paved the way for open discussion on reproductive issues. Through peer education the YWCA has trained 100 pastors and 1,000 couples, including urban and rural out of school youth, in sexual and reproductive health. This life skills training generates the economic empowerment of women and girls and provides education on safe sex practices. This project addresses the right to information and education, the right to health care and health protection and the right to decide whether or when to have children.

In Latin America a YWCA implemented a programme that educates women on their sexual and reproductive health and rights and promotes the use of the female condom as a means of preventing sexually transmitted infections. 14 women (4 of them under 30) attended workshops organised around these core issues. An awareness campaign was implemented and 1,000 information guides were distributed in the community and at various conferences. Information on, and access to, female condoms were provided and 12 women received gynaecological care. This project addresses the right to information and education, the right to health care and health protection, the right to decide whether or when to have children, and the right to the benefits of scientific progress.

In the Caribbean a YWCA programme collaborates with five youth friendly barbershops and beauty salons which service approximately 800 young people (between the ages of 14-25) per week. During the first year of the programme, over 90 boxes of condoms were distributed to the barbershops and beauty salons. The impact of the outreach work shows that 75% of the clients who visited the services said they learned something new about HIV. This initiative is responding to the right to information and education, and to the right of scientific progress, the right to health care and health protection.

In Africa a YWCA runs HIV awareness workshops that have proved effective in supporting young people to dispel myths, misconceptions and cultural beliefs that surround HIV. The workshops have empowered the participants to make informed and safe choices and to address stigma. One success story recorded at a YWCA Drop in Centre was of a young woman whose guardians received a dowry for her to marry an older man. Before agreeing to marry him, however, the young woman demanded that they both go for an HIV test the day before the wedding. The man tested HIV positive, while the young women tested HIV negative. The young woman then presented these results to her guardians and expressed that she did not want to be married to this older man. However, she did not receive support from her guardians, and they were invited to the YWCA Drop in Centre where they were encouraged to listen to the young woman’s concerns regarding the marriage. Following this discussion the guardians paid back the dowry. This is an example that responds to the right to information and education, the right to liberty, the right to choose whether or not to marry and to start and plan a family, the right to decide whether or not to have children, and the right to the benefits of scientific progress.

These five examples demonstrate the different ways that human rights can be addressed, encouraged and ensured. Often times the excellent work that YWCA individual members and YWCAs are doing in human rights remains invisible because the link between work that is done at the community level and how it addresses human rights is not clear. the World YWCA hopes that with these examples we make that distinction more clear. We urge you to put forth your own application, or to nominate a young woman for this truly meaningful award.

For more information on the Awards please read the Mary Robinson Award Nomination Form. In this down-loadable document you will also find a summary of the different types of human rights activism (page 4), as well as more information on human rights in general.

The World YWCA has extended the deadline to January 31, 2011. We look forward to adding your application to the many excellent ones already received. Please share the information of these awards widely, and encourage an even broader pool of candidates from the movement to apply.

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