In the middle of this devastating situation, and as the coronavirus (COVID19) threat accelerates, we are called upon to reflect on all the good things in our lives, and challenged to “Keep Hope Alive”. Despite the excessive human losses, I call on you to concentrate on all the positives. First and foremost, I hope that our member associations, members, their families and communities we are serving are safe and able to cope. We need to realize that it is a very stressful situation, and more than ever what we need now is collective care, reach out to each other, provide emotional support, and take action to rebuild a world that promotes justice and peace.
Despite the graveness of this situation, I believe there might be some good things coming out of it. If anything, this virus has exposed unjust structural global systems and again demonstrated how crisis situations get abused and used by politicians and for promoting political systems. In light of this, our Goal to support young women’s leadership to transform global structures becomes more relevant today than ever. Can we start to imagine or hope that a new window is opening for us as a women’s social movement to “force” governments through lobbying and other mechanisms to rethink their economic development strategies, and focus more on human development? Could we start hoping for the emergence of new economic and political systems that are inclusive, would support and respect justice and human rights frameworks? Even the so called “strongest countries and strongest economies”, failed to respond effectively to this pandemic, simply because health and education have been put at their lowest point in the ladder of investment priorities, and more so because these political systems continue to be shaped by interest groups that cater for their economic and political power. So much of the global resources have been and continue to be controlled by a very small percentage of the population, and sadly, many of the fiscal budgets in these rich countries have been catering for the interests of the arms and other destructive industries whose mission is profit, so that when a crisis like the COVID19 arises, these governments were simply not ready, incapable or paralyzed.
The biggest lesson we have learnt from this crisis is that we are all equal as people. Whether we are rich or poor, black or white, men or women, live in the South or North, urban or rural, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever religion, this virus has hit us all and surpassed all these geographic, ethnic, religious, social and economic boundaries. Ironically this virus is not discriminating against us, on the contrary it is uniting us. I hope that after this is over, we will sustain all these lessons and values and unite our efforts to respond to real community needs. We ought to remind ourselves that global resources and environment have been extensively abused, and we have taken them for granted, and sorrowfully we as humans have not been merciful. I hope this will change.
We forgot the millions of people that have for years been living under blockage, siege, foreign occupation and colonialism or in conservation camps, and who have constantly been denied access to rights and basic supplies and needs. This experience should help us reflect deeply on the kind of world we want to build, the kind of future we want to secure for the generations to come. We are reminded again that this world is full of injustices and all forms of oppression that we need to fight against. Our struggle for liberation, justice and protection is global, our fight against hunger should be global, our fight for racial discrimination should be consolidated.
My sisters within the YWCA movement and beyond, I take this opportunity to wish you safety and good health. Life will not be the same after this crisis, let us work together to make this a better world. Let us be the agents of change that we need to be.
I take this opportunity to remind ourselves that as a women’s movement we are here to support each other, we need to move collectively and get ready to respond to the communities that most need us, we ought to be ready to offer assistance where needed. We need to be creative and think of how best we can be in solidarity and be ready at service. There will be a period of reconstruction once the pandemic is over, let us put our collective efforts so we enable our movement and especially the young women to be on the tables, and actively engage in shaping the world we want to see.
World YWCA General Secretary, Casey Harden and all the staff in Geneva are working from home, dedicated to offer maximum support and advice at this dire time. Our movement has survived through many difficult times, and we have always proved to be ready when needed, so we welcome your ideas and suggestions and stand with open minds and hearts to listen and act.