GWI YMN hosted a virtual Townhall meeting on Saturday 3rd October 2020. There were about 60 participants registered from across the globe.
The session started with the opening remarks by GWI Executive Director, Stacy Dry Lara, followed by GWI Vice-President Eileen Focke-Bakker. Eileen reminded us a strong history of the GWI and founding members in 1919 – Dean Virginia Gildersleeve, Rose Sidgwick and Professor Caroline Spurgeon (the first President of IFUW). The founders believed that by fostering friendship and understanding we could create a peaceful, just and fair society.
GWI YMN Vice-President, Sudha Srivastava, welcomed the young members and observers on behalf of the YMN Board. She provided a brief history and purpose of the YMN, its mission and the current leadership. She elaborated the purpose of the meeting – to understand common and diverse issues arising for GWI young members around the globe during COVID-19.
The meeting further led by another member of the YMN board to discuss the three themes in breakout rooms:
- Opportunities provided by COVID-19
- New Challenges arising from COVID-19
- Existing issues that COVID-19 has made more challenging
The result from the breakout summaries showed members having mostly common experiences. To summarise:
- Mostly felt that the pandemic provided the opportunity to have more quality time with family especially young children
- Technological innovations to help keep going
- Businesses saving money by going virtual
- New virtual learning opportunities
- Balancing education, work and family life
- Job losses
- Keeping up with technology and less resources in poorer areas
- Existing issues worsened during COVID-19:
- Rise in domestic violence cases
- Rise in divorce cases
- Increased sexual violence
- Kidnapping (especially mentioned by a member from Nigeria where poverty and job loss made it worse during COVID-19 that kidnapping increased to get ransom)
A poll was created to find out the priorities for YMN to work on this triennium. Options listed below:
- Mentorship programme (to both learn and teach, flexible short- or long-term connections, also intergenerational)
- Boot camp/conference for YMN (an in-person meeting for YMN to come together and focus on a specific theme)
- Virtual meetings/quarterly town halls (regular meetings in this format, focused on particular themes or outcomes of this meeting
- Advocacy campaigns (driven by and relevant to YMN)
- Contributing to GWI policy/position papers (in particular, develop a YMN position paper to officially embed the YMN within the GWI constitution)
Most people voted for virtual meetings option followed by mentorship and policy papers.
The meeting was one of its kind and provided opportunity for young members to come together to get to know each other and share common experiences. Concluded with a message that even living in a restricted world, women are unstoppable!