In Amman, Jordan from June 14 to June 18 2012, the Middle East Young Women’s Regional Meeting entitled ‘Young Women as Agents of Change’ took place last week. The training was organised by all four YWCA member associations in the Middle East: Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt, with input and support from the World YWCA. It has been a long term objective of the region to develop a young women’s leadership strategy and therefore one of the goals of the meeting was to create a joint regional strategy and project for young women in the Middle East. The meeting was initiated after the World Council 2011, after all four YWCA member associations agreed to develop this project through the support of the Power to Change Fund. The YWCA of Palestine did an amazing job in fundraising for the event, bringing in key partners from Y-Global, as well as YCare International and Norwegian Children and Youth Council (LNU) who are interested in working in the area. An Intergenerational team from the YWCA of Jordan, Reem Najjar and Najla Enkababian and the YWCA of Palestine, Mira Rizeq and Mayadah Tarazi organised in a very efficient way all the logistics of the meeting. And the report of the meeting is under the capable hands of our former World YWCA board member, Arda Aghazarian, who is right now the Media and Advocacy Coordinator in the YWCA of Palestine.The facilitator, Suheir Azzouni ensured the smooth running of the meeting during the five days.
More than 23 women and young women from the YWCA of Jordan, YWCA of Lebanon, YWCA of Palestine and the YWCA of Egypt gathered for the opening ceremony on the afternoon of the 14 June, special guests included Nadia Hachem, the Jordanian Minister for Women’s Affairs, the General Secretary of the YWCA of Palestine, Mira Rizeq, and members of the YWCA of Jordan . The president of the YWCA of Jordan, Reem Najjar, gave an opening speech and welcomed all the participants into Jordan. Each country then gave a presentation about their YWCAs and the problems facing youth in their country and how they are addressing these issues.
On the first day participants analysed the problems facing each young women within the region and globally. Mandy Nogarede, World YWCA Programme Officer Grant Mangement and Focal Point for the Middle East and Nagham Nassar, World YWCA Programme Associate delivered training on the strategic framework of the World YWCA. One of the activities: ‘I Have a Dream’ from the publication of the World YWCA ‘Empowering Young Women to Lead Change’, enabled the participants to use art as a creative tool to express their dreams and they had one common dream: Peace in their countries. During the day, the participants were trained by Hoda El Mankabadi, World YWCA Board member and YWCA of Egypt young woman. Hoda delivered training on Good Management Standards and Accountability (SGMA) and also gave an overview about the Arab Spring and its implications. The facilitator, Suheir Azzouni, gave a workshop about UN Security Council Resolution 1325 for the participants which was crucial component of the meeting.
The second day was focused on ‘Violence against Women’. Two speakers: Lawyer Asma Khader, the General Secretary of the National Commission for Women's Affairs and Lawyer Reem Abu Hassan, the General Secretary, National Commission for Family Affairs gave a presentation on: Laws on Violence Against Women in the Arab World and mechanisms to deal with it and on Violence against women forms and causes. It proved very informative for the participants to hear true stories of survivors of violence and to learn what laws still need to be implemented in order to protect women. The YWCA of Lebanon shared information about what programmes they run on violence against women and the shelter they have for women survivors of violence. Participants also engaged in group work about violence against women and ways to raise awareness in the region and some action plans that will be used in the young women strategy of the region.
The third day focused on Justice and Peace building. Two guest speakers gave a joint presentation on advocacy and campaigns, Mr Omar Barghouti talked about the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign in relation to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Mr Rifat Odeh Kassis talked about the Kairos "Moment of Truth" Document. The speakers provided information for the participants about the development, planning and implementation of the campaigns in order to demonstrate advocacy in action. In groups the participants worked together to talk about Justice and Peace building action plans.
During the conference, an intergenerational strategy group among the participants was created to discuss the outcomes from each day and identify the needs of young women. The discussions generated a Young women’s leadership Middle East draft strategy. The group shared the strategy with the participants who made some amendments and started to develop key goals and action plans for the next 3 years. The group selected three common issues to work on: Violence against Women, Peace with Justice and Young women’s Leadership.
Overall, the meeting was a success and now the next step is for all the national boards of the four countries to adopt the strategy. The young women believe they can make a change in the region and in the words of Ola Zawaidah, a member of YWCA of Jordan: ‘As long as I breathe, I can make a change’.