Reflections on the Dochas 2016 Annual Conference

On Thursday 5th May, the Dochas AGM took place in the Croke Park conference centre and it was with great excitement that the YWCA of Ireland attended to hear Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, General Secretary of the World YWCA, speak to the assembled audience of leaders and staff of the Irish global development sector. The day was colourful and inspiring day from the speeches made to the networking with colleagues and the opportunity to sit down for dinner with our World YWCA General-Secretary. Nyaradzayi delivered her address as a member of a distinguished panel discussion which included Erik Solheim, Chairperson of the OECD Development Assistance Committee and soon to be Executive Director of UNEP, and Seán Healy, Director of Social Justice Ireland. The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, kicked off the proceedings a stirring and challenging keynote address.

President Higgins challenged the NGOs of Ireland to play their part in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. His speech deeply resonated with the agenda of the World YWCA and with the discussion that took place during the YWCA World Council in October 2015 in Bangkok. He spoke about the essential role that young people play in demanding better from our world leaders; how young people should not be satisfied with the current paradigms on global decision making, financial flows, migration, debt, trade, environment, and ethics. He highlighted the new possibilities for advocacy in the global agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals – to give voice to the marginalised, to be brave in speaking up and challenging power dynamics and inequality and to seek to bring about transformative development globally.

After an opportunity to meet and greet the President, Nyaradzayi delivered her remarks in her customary style of wit and wisdom, along with her fellow panellists. She reminded the audience that it was not enough to speak the language of development but necessary to make the resources available in order to achieve development. Like President Higgins, she urged us to be unsatisfied with the current systems and to demand more: more political will and more resources to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

After the conference, we sat down to dinner with Nyaradzayi and shared reflections on the day. We spoke to her about our current programme of work for the YWCA in Ireland, about the exciting work we are doing on the peace and justice project in collaboration with the YWCA of Palestine and the YWCA of Great Britain. We shared our visions for the YWCA in Ireland, Europe and globally. Nyaradzayi offered us her insight and support and lent us some of her great ideas for progressing our work.

It was a privilege to spend the day surrounded by inspiring and accomplished people. Reflecting on the day, I considered the opportunity that the YWCA have as part of a network of women worldwide, to advocate, as President Higgins suggested, for the most marginalised in our societies. I wondered how we could act on the mandate we are given through the Sustainable Development Goals and what opportunities are available to support citizen literacy on global development and social justice. Throughout the day, we were encouraged to recognise how deeply interconnected our world. As an organisation advocating for the rights of women and girls around the world, it is highly important that we recognise this interconnection and we raise our awareness and voices on matters of economics, environment, peace, debt as well as women’s rights.

A thought which lingered with me after the day was the saying “it’s not about what we give but how we live”. I wonder how we can live better in order to achieve more for women and girls worldwide.

By Janet Horner


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