Work Experience in Geneva!


Bonjour de Genève

Warm wishes from a very sunny and warm Geneva, the weather here has been sitting around the 30 degree mark with cool mountain breezes, perfect for swims in the lake and evening strolls, perfect summer weather!  

The months of July was jam packed. As mentioned in my previous update the World YWCA Board meet face to face here in Geneva there was a lot of preparation for this meeting as it is the only time in the year the Board is together in person so lots of updates and reviews of progress to date on governance and strategic priorities and planning for World Council 2019 in South Africa.

I work largely on two specific areas of governance while here on my internship, the first the new annual accountability membership survey content and digital platform rollout and membership compliance and movement building. Both of these areas are interconnected and focused on good governance and movement building towards Goal 2035 a strategic goal of the World YWCA and both areas were presented and discussed at the July Board meeting. I prepared a paper for the Board called the ‘Vitality of the Movement’ an in-depth analysis of the movement in relation to membership compliance of all 109 member associations and from this they made key decisions in the area of membership, disaffiliation of dormant members, affiliate new members and approved the suspension criteria for temporary suspension of member associations that are significantly not in compliance. The Board then agreed that the movement is negatively affected by the inclusion of inactive or dormant member associations, and those members who are not working to the aims and the purpose of the global movement action must be taken.

To facilitate this, the World YWCA office has extensively reviewed the membership survey to ensure it tracks towards Goal 2035 the “By 2035, 100 million young women and girls will transform power structures to create justice, gender equality and a world without violence and war; leading a sustainable YWCA movement, inclusive of all women” and contains a section that captures information on conditions of affiliation and accountability so the movement can identify areas of improvement and build capacity were needed. I presented the work the office has untaken in this area and present the plan for the coming months to the Board and showcased the new digital survey platform explaining how it will provide greater analysis on compliance and stated how we designed it in a way that will allow greater visualisation of information from member associations on a variety of maps and graphs making it easier to show the depth and breadth of our movement across the world and highlighting all the amazing work of the YWCA. The aim is once the surveys have been completed by members and reviewed the World Office will share a report back to the movement by the end of the year. The launch of the survey in all 3 World YWCA official Languages, English, French and Spanish is expected for August and members are asked to complete it by the close of September so analysis can begin.


During July I also attended the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) at the United Nations. CEDAW is one of the strongest UN mechanism that exists and requires member States who have signed up to the convention to submit a report to a committee of experts in the area of gender on the States progress to implement the CEDAW convention into law and policy to ensure a fulfilment of rights for all women and girls. In parallel to this report civil society also submits a report to the CEDAW committee outlining existing issues being faced by women and girls in that country and failures of the State to ensure their rights are being protected.

Every four years the state then attends a session with the CEDAW committee to discuss the report submitted and is asked to answer questions from the committee on areas they feel is lacking policy and challenge the state to be accountable. At this review session civil society organisations (CSO’s) make a 10 minute statement to the committee and state prior to the commencement of the review session, this statement is a high level overview of the main issues being faced by women and girls of the country with any additional developments that have taken place since reports were submitted, they are often late to the CEDAW committee so there is always a time lag in reporting.

 I was very privileged to not only attend a CEDAW session and see this mechanism in practice but I was able to attend Australia’s committee review and attend a 3 day civil society training with a host of other Civil Society Organisations from Australia like the Kingsford Legal Centre, Australian Council of Women, ACOSS and Human Right Law Centre and many others. The training was run by International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW) who expertly supports CSO’s to get deeper knowledge of the CEDAW mechanism the founder and CEO was a former CEDAW committee member. The training equips CSO’s with different strategies to more effectively ensure the state is challenged and held accountable for the failings of law and policies to protect women and girls. This training brought CSO’s and NGO’s from Australia together to collectively advocate for the issues they see as important to Women and Girls in Australia and prepare the joint statement to the committee as one group so it is more powerful and impactful. In additional IWRAW arranges a private working lunch with CEDAW committee members and State CSO’s before the review session, allowing the CSO’s more time to advocate directly with committee members on specific areas of issue such as Education, Health, Safety etc and highlight grave areas of concern that the State should be challenged on. The lunch time brief allows the committee members to hear directly from the people working on the ground and opens up a wider dialogue with many committee members giving the group their business cards allowing the CSO delegation to raise questions directly with committee members as the review session is happening, allowing CSO’s to indirectly challenge the Australia state as they answer questions from the committee incorrectly or misleadingly which often happens. It is interesting to watch the State answer questions so carefully to avoid admitting outward failure and then minutes let see a question posed from the CSO delegation challenge them again on their answer, essentially it is like watching the State on trial with 23 experts berating and quizzing them on their actions or lack thereof.

Getting to meeting other CSO’s and NGO’s from Australia and work with them to craft a statement to the CEDAW committee and point out key issues we all face was an amazing experience. To share the space with so many powerful and strong people who are working to change the lives of Women, Girls of all diversities and intersections across Australia was empowering and the highlight of my internship so far. 


You can watch the session on the United Nations TV here.

The report raised key concerns in Australia’s progress to eliminate discrimination against women, stating major areas of concern being Australia needs to adapt a federal Charter of Human Rights to fully incorporate the Convention in to domestic law, consistently improve protections and access to reproductive health and rights across states and territories, endemic nature of violence against women in Australia and a legal system that is not fair or supportive noting the access to justice alone is a challenge for women. Other issues raised were LGBTI rights and challenges faced by refugee women and women seeking asylum. The two articles below from Kingsford Legal and The Human Rights Law Centre are a great summary of the committee’s report. Check them out here and here. 

Best Wishes