Journey of Leadership Begins with You: Reflections from the World YWCA Leadership Cohort Programme 2020

Early October of 2020, the World YWCA welcomed ten young women leaders from different corners of the world as members of the newly designed World YWCA Leadership Cohort Programme. 

Considering the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme was adapted for cohort members to collaborate remotely with World YWCA and virtually experience its international community-building, work, and reach. Additionally, the young women had the opportunity to work closely with their YWCA in their country and lead on different initiatives such as promoting women and girls’ sexual reproductive health and rights, creating safe spaces, while advocating for a world free of gender-based violence

Session with Naomi Woyengu

The group’s diversity contributed to building on cohort members’ transformative leadership skills and nurtured sisterhood using peer-to-peer learning and a supportive network as the programme’s main approach. In December 2020, when the programme came to its conclusion, the global group of interns shared their reflections on what they are taking away and using in 2021 and ahead, as they continue their work on gender equality. 

As shared by Aallyah Thomas from YWCA Trinidad and Tobago: 

“Connecting and learning from inspirational young women leaders in the programme helped me overcome initial feelings of insecurity. Their support and continuous encouragement represented a light in my leadership journey and made me realized how powerful sisterhood can be.”

Zahra Al Hilaly from YWCA Australia also voices the value and power to connect and collaborate with her cohort peers:

“Working together with gender equality activists from across every realm of this earth emphasised that our fight for equality is stronger than ever. The notion of perseverance has been profound and has reminded us that we have support across the world.”

For Adaeze Muonyelu, from YWCA Nigeria, the programme served to boost her confidence and reinforce her leadership approach:  

“The Leadership Cohort programme gave me the platform, skills, exposure and opportunities to share my voice, tell my community that being a young woman is a responsibility and not just an age identity.”

Throughout the ten weeks of the programme, cohort members used a variety of digital tools to share knowledge, and enhance skills related to leadership, advocacy, strategic communications, good governance, and accountability towards movement building. 

Expanding knowledge on accountability was a major highlight for Nerat Pam-Hworo from YWCA Nigeria who shared:

“The most important learning and achievement I accomplished was moving towards becoming an accountable leader. A culture of accountability sometimes seemed to be a mirage, but I have learned how to make it a reality.”

For Rajina Neupane from YWCA Nepal, connecting with other young women leaders from the YWCA gave her insights on feminist realities:  

“Learning feminist realities, contexts, and scenarios was a major thought-provoking lesson for me. I realized that the definition, perception, and needs of women and young women might vary. However, the ground values and core goals are the same for women’s movements worldwide.”

Similarly, for Hannah Athaliah James from YWCA PNG, this opportunity inspired her to reflect on feminist principles and her role as a leader in the wider YWCA movement:

“This opportunity gave me a better understanding of World YWCA’s work and how to lead by example. It has also given me hope and reenergised me to continue working together with the YWCA to transform power structures and dismantle harmful gender norms that prevent women and girls from leading.” 

“The most important learning and achievement I accomplished while being an intern at World YWCA were sharing ideas and getting exposure in international platforms.”

Reflects Roni Shakya from YWCA Nepal. She refers to the international virtual events she attended as a part of the cohort where she interacted with civil society organisations and key stakeholders raising the agenda of human rights globally. 

Session with Kate Gilmore former
Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

The programme for 2020 was unique as it was redesigned to suit the realities of 2020. However, its flexibility and approach enabled the cohort members to discover themselves in their transformative leadership journey. 

Yedidiyah Allen from YWCA Trinidad & Tobago shares this beautifully when she says:

“From a very introverted and shy person, it’s really a marvelous thing when you acknowledge your anxiety and imagine it passing as a cloud because you can experience amazing opportunities. To improve on your leadership, take small steps to come out of your comfort zone.”

This year, the World YWCA team will be reflecting and assessing the programme for 2021, to ensure it continues to respond to the unique challenges that evolve with the pandemic while offering an opportunity for growth to young women towards achieving World YWCA’s goal for 2035

As an invitation for future young women from YWCAs to apply to the programme, Mayowa Oni-Orisan from YWCA Nigeria adds: 

“I encourage incoming interns to be open-minded and believe that they’re able to acquire the skills they desire to fulfill their lifelong dreams.”

Virtual session with World Service Council

Acknowledgement 

  • The World YWCA takes this opportunity to express deep thanks to the YWCA World Service Council, for their continuous support to this programme for more than 30 years, and for their unwavering commitment to young women’s leadership worldwide. 
  • World YWCA acknowledges YWCA member associations in Australia, Nepal, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, The Gambia and Trinidad and Tobago, who worked together to ensure the programme’s success.

Donate to The World YWCA to invest in present and future leaders to make a better world.

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