Day 5: What’s Next?

Throughout this conference, women from all over the world came together to discuss the issue of women on the move. Every short lecture, every activity, and even break-time and lunch discussions added to the atmosphere of positive change surrounding this issue. Each person brought a perspective, their voice to share, and patience to listen and discuss the concerns of others. Time and again I was blown away by the respect that the members of this study session showed for one another, in their words and their actions!

However, as the study session came to a close there was a need to figure out steps to begin to change and address the larger issues… How can individuals step forward to change the atmosphere and possibilities for refugee and migrant women? What can we do to address gender based violence, particularly within this population? How can we help ensure the needs of these women are met and that they can develop into their best potential selves?

While these questions seemed much too large to tackle at the beginning of the week, some clarity around the issues came to light as we continued learning from one another and the guest speakers. Without giving too much away before the public announcement by the European YWCA, the participants at the study session were split into groups to come up with potential solutions to the problems migrant and refugee women face. In the end, five recommendations were put forward to help YWCAs and communities promote positive changes for migrant and refugee young women. These were then presented in five different formats, created by participant groups including a formal PDF declaration, infographics, short videos, and social media promotional material (all to be released in time). However, the participants left feeling empowered to address the issues at large, and begin personally stepping into their communities to begin positive change.

While it was an exhausting week, I left the study session feeling more empowered and able to change my community (and thus the world) than I have ever felt previously. The knowledge that there are so many amazing women around the world with open hearts for people who are hurting, passion for helping others, and a desire to empower people walk their journeys with dignity and grace gives me such hope for the future. When these women walk boldly with a shared vision of a better future, change will happen.

And to celebrate, the last night participants dressed up and showered gratitude and inspiration on one another at the Empowerment Gala. During the week, each person was assigned another participant to watch for positive behavior, and during the Gala each one was presented with an award for how they inspired others. There was also a fun runway activity where each person said something positive about themselves, walked the runway, and then invited the next person with a positive affirmation. Throughout the night, there was music and dancing from everyone’s culture, some happy tears, and many hugs shared. I was blessed to have been a part of a group in which everyone speaks so positively about each other. It was a great ending to the study session and left one day for final goodbyes and an exploration of the city!

By Brittany Steckel


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