REPORT: YWCA Osaka’s Asia Pacific Sisterhood Exchange Program!

In July of 2018 I left Australia to travel to Osaka Japan to take part with YWCA Osaka’s Asia Pacific Sisterhood Exchange Program. I was one of seven other young women in the Asia pacific region to take part in this exchange, during my 26 day stay I was blown away at the inclusivity and enjoyment I had with the other sisters and YWCA Osaka members.

To explain, for our weekdays we were enrolled in YWCA Osaka’s Summer Intensive Language program and studied Japanese there. I and the other seven sisters were all in the one group: class 1A. Here I got to not only study with these wonderful women but also become quick friends: Rizza was from the Phillipines, Anu was from Nepal, Perty was from Thailand, Lisa was from Taiwan, Iris was from Korea and San was from Myanmar. None of us could speak or write Japanese so we had a great deal of fun and would often plan after class activities so we could all relax together and join in with activities organised by Osaka YWCA.

Forward to August 9th and it’s graduation day from the Intensive Summer program, we all get to wear Yukata’s and I even cooked and decorated a pavlova for the party (and other sisters also made traditional sweets from their home country as well). I had a lot of fun and wished it wasn’t over, but our next trip was to the international forum held at KOKO PLAZA. August 10th we all travel by train or bus to Shin-Osaka station to prepare for this next part.

We were there to represent our countries: to present a national report on our YWCA and a number one issue that affects our country. For my number one issue I chose to speak on Domestic Violence as my area of employment at the YWCA is in this field and it is a major issue within Australia. Whilst at KOKO PLAZA we were separated into groups to work with as we attended leadership training seminars and discussed issues affecting the regions around the Asia Pacific.

A special guest arrived and partook in this forum: Andrea, the World YWCA Vice Chairman. She presented speeches on issues in Honduras and other areas around her and asked us to reflect on human rights and what we can do as women to support other women and girls to be safe and empowered in their own communities.

This forum lasted three days: from Friday to Sunday. Sunday night we all had a farewell party as all of us would be either leaving tonight (the locals from Osaka) or tomorrow morning (Myself and the other sisters). This was the best part ever, I had so much fun and felt such a sense of connectedness with all these women. When I left I left feeling inspired, I wanted to be stronger in confidence and conviction and these ideals still drive me now.

Honestly, this experience changed me for the better. All I can say is Arigato Gozaimashita minna-san(thank you everyone)!

Courtney Watson (YWCA NSW Region).