we are all gravity affected coconuts

For Five days in July, 16 young women from across the Pacific region were contemplating the meaning of leadership, the concerns of their fellow countrywomen and the eternal question of “how to inspire and connect with other young leaders”

To say that the week was exhausting and exhilarating is an incredible understatement. As a young woman myself with a passion for inspiring acts of adventure in others, and a penchant for generous bursts of energy and enthusiasm, the opportunity to spend a week with a bunch of spectacular young women was too delicious to refuse.

On Thursday 19th July I joined the pacific training team consisting of fellow “young woman” Julianne Wickham, community programs manager from the Solomon Islands, only just un-young woman and entreprenurial community development consultant (and local government candidate for the Shire of Ballina) Kiri Dicker, spectacularly special co-president of YWCA Aoetearoa New Zealand, Sina Moore the live-er and breather and walker and talker of the oft sited YWCA policy of intergenerational and shared leadership, the ever fabulous, pregnant ninja and cool-hand Tarusilla Bradburgh from Pacific Youth Council and the mother of us all and all the young women of the YWCAs of Asia and the Pacific, Juli Dugdale, in Suva Fiji.

Ahead of us was a daunting task, to inspire and equip 16 young women with the energy, skills and determination to overcome the challenges of leadership, culture and self doubt and run their own leadership programs in their home countries. From six countries they came, from the host country of Fiji, from the thriving YWCA of Solomon Islands (complete with a world board director), from the cautiously optimistic nations of Samoa and PNG and from the well resourced nations of Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia. 16 young women gathered at The Pearl, Pacific Harbour for five days of gruelling training and testing tasks.

Each country was delegated a “mentor” save for poor Australia and New Zealand who had to make do on their own! The task was set; develop a leadership program for young women in your communities before the end of the five days, complete a Power to Change application and have it approved by your executive ready to roll out over six months starting in September/October.

The week was chock-a-block with training starting at 8:30 and ending after 6pm most nights, plus optional worship and physical activities starting at 6:30am and extra circus activities at 6:30pm every day. There was little time for R&R but you’d never know it to talk to the participants who remained energised and excited throughout.

The training team, made up of a diverse selection of women from across the region modelled and demonstrated their own personal strengths and styles of leadership, facilitation and program delivery with five models of young women’s leadership presented as well as each trainer taking a day each to facilitate, keep time and rally the troops! the week was about many things, leadership, personal development, journeys of discovery, making friends, preparing for the future, trying new things, being physically and emotionally brave and standing tall with the power of your convictions.

To date we have three Power to Change applications signed and sealed (big shout out to YWCA PNG who were the first to cross the line) and another application under a little more review before they’re fully adopted. So this will be a big year for the Pacific, and we’re all excited to hear about the progress. And hear about it we will; each country will be receiving at least one more visit from their mentor and everyone will be reconvening in March 2013 with the Asian YWCAs to meet and share and evaluate the projects and their process and progress.

On a personal note I’d like to thank the World YWCA for this opportunity, particularly Juli Dugdale and secondly to thank Kiri who developed the program and managed the event, particularly for including my favouritest thing in the world, circus, in the program. Thanks to Kiri I got to introduce 16 young women to the joys of standing on each other as well as half a dozen adult women. Circus is essentially the core of my work at YWCA Victoria and to have it so heavily included in this program was not just a joy and a pleasure but testament to the power of the medium and I hope that funders back home will take note, that if circus can revolutionise the lives of women in the Pacific when they just get a tiny taster, imagine what it can do for women in Victoria, and across Australia.

Stay tuned to the world YWCA website for further updates on the projects happening across the region. It will be well worth it. xxx

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About MsElouise

MsElouise is a community programs worker and feminist from Melbourne Australia. She likes to travel, write, rant and make people feel uncomfortable about their assumptions. She hopes to one day be remembered for changing the world just a little bit. Right now she does this by proving that teenage girls are a higher order of beings.

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