The trafficking of children and women came under the spotlight on International Youth Day when Ghana YMCA youth marched through the streets of Mpraeso District to present a statement to government to continue to step up the efforts at preventing the recent increase in trafficking.
Just a week previously, the police had saved 600 children between the ages of 2 and 15 years from being trafficked within Ghana, mainly from rural to urban centres. The 150 YMCA youth from seven regions in Ghana were joined by youth from Youth Challenge International in Canada and CVJM in Germany. They flashed red cards during the statement to symbolise the need for for immediate drastic measures to be taken on the issue of child and women trafficking which is now on the rise in Ghana.
The day also coincided with the launch of the national youth policy. The YMCA march was part of the annual Youth Convention of the Ghana YMCA, held from 11-15 August, which focused on building the civic competence of youth.
The Deputy Regional Minister Hon. Baba Jamal in a statement read by the District Chief Executive of Mpraeso South, District Hon. Joseph Omari,commended the YMCA for their work and said that the mission of the YMCA is in line with the plans of the government for the youth of Ghana.
He applauded Ghana YMCA for its hostel facilities which contribute to the tourism sector, the third highest income generating sector in Ghana’s economy. He asked that the YMCA links up with his office so they can support some of YMCA’s projects.
Newly elected President of the Africa Alliance of YMCAs, Mr James Ekow Rhule highlighted the importance of focusing on youth in empowering young citizens for future leadership. In his statement, he quoted the preamble from the African Youth Charter of the African Union “…that Africa’s greatest resource is its youthful population and that through their active and full participation; Africans can surmount the difficulties that lie ahead”.
This year’s delegates were privileged to have fraternal greetings from the newly elected President of the World Alliance of YMCAs, Mr Ken Colloton. In a speech read on his behalf, he said that he was inspired by the dynamic energy of the youth of the Ghana YMCA and that their commitment and passion for addressing Ghana’s challenges give him renewed hope for the future of the African and global YMCA movement. He stated …“As I humbly begin my journey as President of the World Alliance of YMCAs, I am comforted in knowing that I can count on highly motivated volunteer leaders such as you and our very capable staff to carry the YMCA mission into a new era”. He urged participants to continue building their skills as community leaders.
Workshops focused on civic engagement and servant leadership, empowerment tools, environmental health, investment and entrepreneurship, and volunteerism. Through this, participants were challenged to take up the principle of community building in their quest to become servant leaders and a people of change.
In a particularly interesting session on civic engagement, we were divided into groups based on the days we were born and then looked at the traits specific to our birth days. This was very pertinent for us as Ghana youth, as in our country we place much value on this, and many of us are named after the day we were born.
Juliet Nana Ama Baafi said, “I am born on a Saturday – Ama for women – and our traits are calmness and our gift is to bring peace to troubled waters. So the people in my group were challenged to use this, and to try to ensure peace in any misunderstanding in our communities.”
By: Harold Obeng-Yeboah, Ghana YMCA Youth President
The vision of the African YMCAs to empower the youth for the African renaissance has been given a boost with the signing of a preliminary agreement between the Fuhrlaender Company of Germany, Ghana YMCA, CVJM and the African Alliance of YMCAs to establish a hi-tech training centre in Accra with sub-centres in Takoradi and Apedwa. The partnership has culminated in the signing of a €2.5 million agreement which will result in the establishment, over time, of similar hi-tech training centres in other parts of Africa.
Once completed the state-of-the-art centre is expected to train young people from all over Africa and offer opportunities for the students to undertake industrial attachments with the Fuhrlaender Company in Germany. Designed to be an international training centre, it is expected to attract teachers from all over Africa and beyond and offer opportunities for young people from Germany to offer their skills as well as gain the necessary exposure through exchange visits.
While appending his signature to the initial agreement, Joachim Fuhrlaender, CEO of the Fuhrlaender Company, said that his passion to see economic empowerment of the youth in Africa become a reality drove him to enter this agreement with the YMCA.
He said further that he shares in the YMCA’s vision to empower the youth for the African renaissance and it is for this reason that he has committed his company to enter this joint venture. The training centre is intended to provide the young people of Africa with employable skills that will make them truly global citizens and give economic meaning to the AAYMCAs From subject to citizen (S2C). The centre is expected to offer training in various courses including new disciplines such as mechatronics, energy generation and hospitality management.
The Fuhrlaender Company believes in developing renewable energy resources with a specific emphasis on wind energy and operates in about 13 countries across the globe. As part of its corporate social responsibility it has provided similar training opportunities for young people in other countries such as Vietnam and Brazil.
All parties in the agreement expressed gratefulness for the opportunity to contribute to youth development and are more than prepared to get this project off the ground from October this year.
(12 August, Hong Kong) Participants at the ‘Youth, Global Citizenship and Economic Justice: Food issues and Hunger’ workshop of the 17th World Council of YMCAs called for more action to eradicate hunger, saying that the ‘great divide’ in the global food distribution has caused the polarised problems of obesity and starvation.
“There is enough food to feed everyone in the world but we have problems on both sides of our lived realities that hinge around food,” said Dr. Pablo Prado from Guatemala who is a YMCA volunteer and social science professor with the University of San Carlos.
Based on the United Nations' estimate in 2009, one sixth of the worlds 6.6 billion people suffer from hunger, whereas around 1 billion people are considered obese.
Dr. Prado, who is also a YMCA delegate to the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA), an international network of churches and faith-based organisations, introduced the ‘Food For Life’ campaign last year to promote three objectives: just production, just consumption and the right to food.“We can’t depend only on goodwill to fulfil a need as basic as food. We need to fully understand and promote the right to food,” he said.
Dr Prado said chronic hunger was taking a serious toll on the physical and mental development of children in his country. He said the system was perpetuated as operators of major companies in the country wanted to maintain the cheap labour force so as to drive profits for their businesses.
“If a child doesn’t eat properly for a prolonged period of time, his or her body and brain won’t develop fully. They tend to perform poorly in school, and thus have their future compromised,” Dr Prado said, adding that many of them ended up in menial jobs earning meagre wages.
“The rich people in the country are not interested in changing the situation as they need the cheap labour force to boost the profits,” Dr Prado said.
Cardin Kumm of YMCA Germany said children in the developed economies should be taught to value food. “Our problem is not so much about being overweight. From my work with young children, I can see they don’t understand the value of food. They always complain that the food is not good enough and that once they get enough food, they throw the rest away.”
“We need to educate children to treasure food and how other people are dealing with hunger every day,” she added.
Samual Wohns of YMCA of USA said it was important to have education campaigns at the community level. “We eat to live but should not live to eat. People have to approach food from a social justice perspective,” he said.
Almost 1 200 YMCA delegates from 85 countries were gathered in Hong Kong from 17-24 July 2010 to discuss and map out the future of YMCA for the next four years, especially with respect to its role in global issues ranging from poverty and hunger, youth advocacy, gender equality to climate change and environmental protection.
Find out more on the Food For Life Campaign at http://www.e-alliance.ch/en/s/food/
World Alliance of YMCAs
Tel: +852 5167 9520
Ms Anna Lee
Tel: +852 2864 4882
The World Alliance of YMCAs is a global ecumenical, volunteer-led movement that works for social justice and peace, with a particular emphasis on youth. As a Christian-based organisation, we work with communities irrespective of religion, race, gender or cultural background, to ensure a more just social order and youth empowerment for a better future. Formed in 1844, and active in 125 countries with 45 million members, the YMCA is one of the largest and oldest youth movements in the world.www.ymca.int
(03 August 2010, Hong Kong) It has become an almost global phenomenon that young people will queue for hours, waiting anxiously to buy the latest iPods, Blackberries and other ‘must-haves’ when they are launched in various cities. But amidst all the fanfare, how often do we pause to think about the workers who toil at the factories to churn out these fashionable products.
As part of the discussion of "The Forum on Global Citizenship Education" held in July 2010 and organised by the 17th World Council of YMCAs, participants were asked to take part in a role-playing game to imitate workers in the China-based factory which is a main manufacturer of iPhone. They were given a quota to meet to make ‘paper” iPhones and told not to talk or request washroom breaks – otherwise their wages would be reduced or they may even be dismissed from the plant.
After participating in the game, Carmen Hui, a university student from Hong Kong, said, “Non-skilled workers are under tremendous pressure to make ends meet and are often subjected to harsh working conditions.”
“They are in a disadvantaged position when it comes to bargaining for a fair, respectable and reasonable employment environment. This is why it is important for organisations such as YMCAs to empower the workers by providing them with labour rights education,” Ms Hui added.
Kenny Tang, Deputy-in-Charge of Knowledge Management and Strategy Section of the Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, who led the workshop said opportunities of real-life exposure should be provided for youth to get a taste of how people are under-privileged or exploited in other parts of the world.
“Young people, especially those growing up in Hong Kong, don’t have compassion for social problems facing other people living in a less fortunate state,” Tang said. “Even though they learn about these issues at school, surrounded by the hedonistic and materialistic lifestyle of Hong Kong, these problems seem remote to them.”
He added that the YMCA in Hong Kong had sent youth to countries such as Myanmar and the Philippines to expose them to poverty and hunger. “Young people returning from the trip are telling their peers about their experiences and their new-found compassion and empathy with the poor. The exchange opportunities have a long-lasting impact on them,” he said.
Workshop participants shared their opinions about global citizenship which is both an awareness and act of commitment rooted in the spirit of global consciousnesses and interdependencies of the world.
Goshi Ito from Japan and member of Asia Pacific Alliance of YMCA Youth Committee said, "Global citizenship entails having a sense of making changes for a better world, and global citizenship education is about inspiring youth to make a better world."
“In becoming global citizens, young people should read the newspapers, explore different issues and pay attention to problems faced by other people,” said Jose Varghese, Executive Secretary for Programmes of Asia Pacific Alliance of YMCA.
Almost 1 200 YMCA delegates from 85 countries were gathered in Hong Kong from 17-24 July for the 17th World Council of YMCAs. They discussed and mapped out the future of the YMCA for the next four years revolving around the theme of “Striving for a Global Citizenship for All”.
By: Gil Harper, for World Alliance of YMCAs
In a place as economically successful and growth-oriented as Hong Kong, it may seem rather anachronous to be learning lessons on micro-financing from the Bangladesh and Ecuador YMCAs. But this sharing of ideas fell under the spotlight at the 17th World Council of YMCAs, themed ‘Striving for global citizenship for all’ which was held in Hong Kong from 17-24 July 2010 and attended by almost 1 200 YMCA delegates from 85 countries.
Current economic buzzwords are impetus, imagination and initiative, and these certainly apply to how the lives of the indigent population in their respective countries have been changed through YMCA micro-financing initiatives.
Largely agrarian, 60% of Bangladesh’s population lives below the poverty line (on less than USD1 a day). Twelve YMCAs in Bangladesh, with just 2,000 Christian members support and develop 447 small self-help groups, each with around 20-25 members. Of these, 427 groups are comprised of women.
Since 1998, through community-based micro-financing, these groups have increased their initial net worth of USD 106 000 by 50%. “In six years, we have advanced small loans to over 6,000 people. Many of these are agro-economic, which benefits the poorest of the poor. The entire co-op group stands as guarantee for a single borrower and in this way, we have ensured that our repayment rate is 100%,” said Duncan Chowdhury, National Secretary, YMCA Bangladesh.
The social impact on the indigent communities is enormous, according to Chowdhury, who has witnessed the income-level of this section of the population steadily increasing. The far-reaching spin-offs are felt in improved schooling, health, sanitation, safe drinking water, social forestry, poultry, and cattle-rearing.
An innovative success story in Ecuador is that of a partnership between micro-credit institution CESOL and YMCA Ecuador, involving ‘economia solidaria’. This economy of solidarity includes millions of marginalised people who were pushed into poverty by the dominant economic pattern.
YMCA Ecuador has been active in the country for the last 50 years, committed to comprehensive development of young women and men, children, families and the community, mainly in Quito, Portoviejo, and Santo Domingo de Los Tsachilas. CESOL stimulates productive and economic ventures through micro-credit and training.
“We work using a concept of social credit, which involves social groups and promotes responsibility and social commitment among partners and the community through proper training. Development areas include managing credit, gender relations, self-esteem and computer skills,” said Ms. Silvina Gernaert Williams, National Secretary, YMCA Ecuador.
Some 650 men and 1,950 women are associated with this enterprise, and 13,000 families in the southern region of Quito, the city of Portoviejo, and the province of Santo Domingo de Los Tsachilas have benefited from this programme. Small loans have been granted to around 4,000 beneficiaries so far, with the volume of loans disbursed rising from USD66,000 to USD2 million in a couple of years.
By: Anjan Mukherjee, YMCA of India
The first night, an energetically played full piece drum kit resounds through the middle-class Johannesburg (South Africa) complex. The second night, sounds of a loud and violent fight between a man and his girlfriend reverberate through the area, her screams chilling the still night air. The difference, according to the new social experiment conducted by POWA (People Opposing Women Abuse), is that night one saw an influx of complaints from neighbours who arrived on our drummer’s doorstep with varying levels of polite patience to make their complaints, and on the second evening the warring couple may as well have been on Mars. No neighbours complained and intervened on the blatant assault of their neighbour. It seems the drum kit rallied the neighbours in ways that the pummeling of girl cannot. Interestingly, it is understandable that people may themselves be too afraid or lazy to intervene, but no one phoned the police either and that speaks to more than we realise. That the police or complex security were not called, and that the latter themselves did not intervene implies that it is not the culture of violence that most undermines us, but instead social inaction and the pervasive culture of silence that threatens our footing.
With South Africa’s National Women’s Rights and World Humanitarian Day falling so soon after our international exposure through the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, it is perhaps time that South Africa, and Africa itself, begins questioning the legitimacy of our roles as global citizens. Over the past few years, the new trend-phrases parroted through public discourse and political rhetoric seem to be those marked by Africa’s fledgling entrance into the global village as a citizen of the world. The hosting of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup on African soil necessitated an awareness of the cosmopolitan nature of global citizenry and during the tournament, tolerance and cooperation seemed to be in evidence everywhere. For a period of time, we were not merely South Africans… we were the representatives of Africa and through each tourist we met and shared experiences with, we ultimately chose how South Africa and Africa would be represented and remembered by members of an international community.
If a global citizen is defined by their social action and their involvement with human rights and social development, then South Africa’s positioning within the global environment is not determined by the millions spent on infrastructure or the successful organization of international sporting events but instead by the simpleness of our desire to act for the good of those around us. It is the desire to act that defines the new cultural elite, the cosmopolitan many who orchestrate, plan and act out internationally significant social development strategies. The global citizen sees it as their place to counteract and prevent the worldwide abuses of women, the degradation of the environment and the vulnerabilities of migrant labours. The global citizen’s concerns and actions are global and as these increase, so too do their bonds with their own immediate neighbourhoods and communities begin to splinter. The culture of silence and inaction evidenced in the POWA advert is a direct result of the lack of unity communities now feel.
To belong to a community used to mean adhering to an agreed upon set of rules and standards of behaviour for that community. These behaviours were often determined and shaped by the dominant culture or religion in the area, but with a splintering of spaces and the cosmopolitan melding of different people and interests, community is now more often defined by location than by social characteristics. Belonging to this community requires little more than a lease, and places virtually no burden of action on its members. Which means simply that the global citizen will look to resolving the problems on distant shores as their own neighbourhood burns.
Recently the World Alliance of YMCAs and its members met in Hong Kong to host their 17th World Council where over a thousand representatives of the millions of youth development advocates and practitioners worldwide met to share best practices of their youth development activities. With millions of registered and active members worldwide, the YMCA worldwide stands as one of the most influential advocacy organisations on the planet and as Global Citizenship presented a strong theme throughout this year’s conference, it is safe to say it is a trend that is gaining more favour.
But, as activists worldwide begin to restructure their own community to include the multilingual and multicultural worldwide communities, a strong reminder must also come for an awareness of home.
That people are now able to see beyond their borders and relate to the struggles and triumphs of a multitude of heterogeneous peoples is a great sign of social growth, but this awareness and action will not last if it undermines our awareness of the immediate needs of our community. We cannot become a nation of people who are blind to the struggles at home, as we work to make ourselves more internationally acceptable and involved. This would ultimately just makeus the worst kind of hypocrites.
To watch the original POWA commercial please visit www.youtube.com/user/4rmsubject2citizen
By: Christine Davis, AAYMCA Communications Volunteer
A three day youth civic engagement training, organised by the Liberia YMCA National Youth Council, has begun in Monrovia, the capital city. The civic engagement programme will run from 2-4 September 2010, at the YMCA of Liberia Conference Hall.
According to the President of the National Youth Council of the Liberia YMCA, Alston Armah, the training will be occur under the theme, “From Subject to Citizen: Liberian Youth claiming their space and influencing positive change.” It brings together over 50 participants from all YMCA branches around the country.
Other participants are drawn from The Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY), Liberia Council of Churches Youth Desk, representatives from the Student Council Government of Stella Maris Polytechnic, and the AME Zion University.
Participants are to hold discussions on the concept of citizenship; the ways in which young people can transform themselves from subjects to citizens; becoming aware and conscious of their youth and human rights; and governance structures with a particular emphasis on democratic governance.
According to Armah, “The training is also intended to empower a pool of young people who are trained in the civic engagement processes, who will also use their training to build the civic competence of their colleagues and train others to actively participate in civic engagement processes at various YMCA branches around the country.”
Moreover, the event is part of the Liberia YMCA National Youth Council’s strategy of preparation to become involved in the civic engagement process leading to the 2011 elections.
During the training, participants will be shown a documentary on the 2007 post election violence in Kenya. For Armah, the documentary provides an opportunity for participants to put a personal face to the failure of a free election process and to learn from the bitter experience of election-related violence and its devastating consequences.
By: Liberia YMCA