Kate Sowers From YWCA Spokane Attends 2019 World YWCA Council In South Africa
As the proud and grateful recipient of a scholarship to join the YWCA USA delegation at the 2019 World YWCA Council, I’m pleased to share with you – my YWCA Spokane community – some stories and photos from the first few days of an unbelievable experience in South Africa.
You can view the original announcement about this incredible opportunity here.
GETTING TO KNOW MY FELLOW REPRESENTATIVES
After 36 hours of travel and a bit of much-needed rest, I joined the other 30+ members of the YWCA USA team for a welcome dinner hosted by YWCA USA.
Despite all of us being physically tired from travel, the energy in the room was palpable. Old friends greeted one another, and those of us who knew no one else in the group were welcomed with open arms. YWCA veteran Carolyn Flowers told us stories from past World Councils in Bangkok, Nairobi and Zurich, and Elisha Rhodes with YWCA USA surprised us with beautiful handmade fans purchased at a local market.
OUR DELEGATION HARD AT WORK
Though the World YWCA Council includes making new friends, mutual learning, sharing meals, and special events, the primary purpose of the Council is to meet as a governing body to make decisions on the World YWCA’s policy, constitution, strategic direction, and budget.
As a local association of YWCA USA, which is a member association of the World YWCA, these decisions do not have a great effect on the day-to-day operations of our work at YWCA Spokane. But as participants in a powerful global movement, it is inspiring to watch a room of 500+ empowered women leaders debate and make decisions with the goal of empowering women, young women and girls across the globe.
YWCA USA’s six voting delegates include women from YWCA USA, YWCA El Paso, YWCA Metro St. Louis, and YWCA Kalamazoo. They caucus together and sometimes with other delegations to decide how to vote on constitutional amendments and elections to the World YWCA Board and World YWCA Staff.
OPENING CEREMONY TURNED DANCE PARTY
The first full night of the Council ended in a formal dinner and opening ceremony. All Council participants were encouraged to dress in their national costume. After a cocktail hour in which we were able to chat with one another and admire everyone’s beautiful outfits, we proceeded into the main hall, entering alphabetically by country, to cheers from our fellow Y-Women.
After several moving speeches by inspirational speakers including YWCA World General Secretary Casey Hardin and South African Minister of Agriculture Thoko Didiza, our South African hosts surprised us with traditional music and dance by a local group of musicians.
After several songs in a row ended with a standing ovation, a few participants moved toward the stage and started dancing. Within minutes, the entire room of 500+ women erupted into a dance party – women of every race, nationality, color and creed, dressed in the colorful garb of their home countries, expressing their utter joy through dance. It was truly a sight to behold, and a memory I’ll never forget.
So much has happened already – but we’re just getting started! I can’t wait to share more about who I am meeting, what I am learning, and how I am being inspired by this group of powerful women leaders.