International Youth Day

European YWCA: Empowering young women for 160+ years

[Brussels, 18 August 2022] Each year on 12 August, we mark International Youth Day – an opportunity for the world leaders and society as a whole to draw attention to issues concerning young people worldwide.

As the largest umbrella of women’s organisations in Europe, the European Women’s Lobby is once again using this occasion to highlight the work of its members. The struggle to achieve a just, prosperous and feminist Europe requires dedication, passion and a strong will to create space for the next generation of feminists, and the following story about the work of European YWCA shows how big of an impact these efforts can accomplish.

The vision of the European YWCA is of a fully inclusive world where justice, peace, health, human dignity, freedom and care for the environment are promoted and sustained through women’s leadership, with a special focus on young women.

The European YWCA was established to unite YWCA member associations in a European movement. It is a women-led, faith-based organization which seeks to model shared, intergenerational leadership, ensuring at least 25% of its leadership positions are held by young women 30 years and under. The European YWCA represents YWCAs in 24 countries in Europe, which are driven by women and girls in local communities committed to the YWCA purpose.

The European YWCA has a unique role to play in the region, particularly in lifting the voices and perspectives of young women with partners. As a member of the European Women’s Lobby, the European YWCA works to bring in a stronger youth perspective.

YWCA Virtual Safe Space Toolkit

Since its founding in 1855, the YWCA has provided safe spaces to women and girls of all ages in the heart of local communities. This began with the first YWCA in London, which provided safe housing to young women coming to the city in search of employment during the Industrial Revolution and continues today in many forms. From emergency shelters for survivors of violence, to safe spaces for young women to discuss harmful traditional practices and cultural taboos, to support groups for women living with HIV, and inclusive and accessible spaces for women with disabilities, YWCAs are synonymous with safe space.

For the past 160+ years, YWCAs have expanded safe spaces to reach millions of women, young women and girls in 100+ countries. Providing access to economic, social, political, and cultural opportunities to fulfill their potential and actively contribute to the development of their community, country and world, YWCAs are providing spaces where women, young women and girls become champions of their rights and their lives.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the YWCA developed a Virtual Safe Space Toolkit. The toolkit provides an introduction to why we need safe spaces for young women and girls, tips on how to conduct a virtual safe space, as well as suggestions for discussion topics - and is just as relevant today.

If you wish to apply this toolkit in your own women’s association, find the YWCA Virtual Safe Space Toolkit here.

The YWCA Advocacy Toolkit Podcast

As the world’s largest women’s movement, the YWCA has empowered women to transform themselves and their communities for over 125 years. From war zones to refugee camps, prisons to universities, the YWCA movement is at the forefront of advancing social justice.

The Advocacy Toolkit Podcast is a four-part series produced by the World YWCA. It looks at successful campaigns from recent times within YWCA and the larger women’s rights movement, while talking about the stories behind them. With in-depth interviews, high quality sound editing and a visual backdrop of stunning global images, this podcast is a hands-on guide to advocacy success.

If you need help advocating for change on issues such as gender-based violence, ending child marriage, and improving girls’ education, listen in for some practical tips and some inspiring stories to get you going with your advocacy.

Tune in for an insightful conversation about the state of women’s rights, human rights, and social justice by checking out the first episode here.

This article is a part of the International Youth Day 2022 series. For more stories about young feminist engagement from EWL members, please visit this section of our website and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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EWL event "Progress towards a Europe free from all forms of male violence" to mark the 10th aniversary of the Istanbul Convention, 12 May 2021.

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