Young women of the Pacific lead the way
“ I saw a child of about 10 years carrying a baby in her arms. I admired how healthy and huge the baby was. I shifted my gaze to the road ahead and the conversations in the bus. My attention was drawn back to the child because the baby was crying. With urgency, the child lifted her blouse and tried to feed her baby with no breasts. In fact her baby was half her own size. I was shocked and couldn’t bear the sight. I was overwhelmed, closed my eyes and prayed for her. It made me more determined to advocate for women, young women and girls rights to be respected and their right to say No to any form of Violence in which ever environment they live in” – Matilda Parau, YWCA of Papua New Guinea
It was reflections such as this that filled the room in Zurich, Switzerland at the inaugural launch of the Pacific Young Women’s Leadership strategy in July 2011, during World YWCA Council. Susan Brennan, World YWCA President, in launching the report said, "This strategy puts young women at the centre of our efforts to strengthen women's leadership to create safe communities.”
Every day we hear stories of women and young women who have overcome impossible odds, including violence, poverty and discrimination, to become leaders. This document is the first of its kind and marks a new way of collaborating and connecting at a regional level to reach our objective of developing young women's leadership in the Pacific region.
The report highlights five key areas for work to ensure young women and girls are:
- safe and involved in peace and security issues
- respected and respect themselves with their cultures
- included in important conversations
- connected and sharing skills particularly through intergenerational dialogue and mentoring
- accessing education and training and meaningful work
The strategy was developed after consultations with young women in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, Australia, Solomon Islands and New Zealand and with remote input from Tonga and Bougainville, an expert reference group of representatives from regional organisations, including the Commonwealth Youth Programme, Pacific Youth Council, Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, New Zealand Family Planning, Leadership Solomon Islands and FemLINKPACIFIC. Key UN Agencies, amongst which UN Women, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNFPA, and UNESCO, were invited to further develop the strategy.
“The strategy is a comprehensive agenda for any organisation or individual wanting to engage young women and girls in their work to ensure young women’s voices, leadership and human rights are realised in the Pacific. We are committed to ensuring our young women are safe, respected, included, connected and skilled,” concluded Susan Brennan.