on Dec 19, 21

Supporting young change-making wahine

By Ellen Sinclair -

Each year, the YWCA honours a group called ‘Y25’, a collective of 25 young women across Aotearoa working to make change in their communities.

The Y25 programme provides a peer community and networking opportunities, to support the women to continue to thrive and create some incredible change throughout the country.

Donations to YWCA through The Good Registry go directly to the Y25 programme.

YWCA Programme Manager Rachel Cleary says this year, some of the Y25 group has asked to be called ‘heart leaders’, which she says is  “a beautiful, all-encompassing term”.

The programme strives to include young women working across different fields, including but not limited to, the rainbow community, climate change and the environment, and migrant, disability, and indigenous rights.

This year’s Y25 list includes Brianna Fruean, a Pacific climate change activist who recently spoke in front of world leaders at the global COP26 conference. It also includes Gala Baumfield, a karate and skateboarding expert as well as a mental health and youth advocate, and teacher Sana Ditta, founder of The Teddy Project, collecting donated teddy bears for refugees.

“The underlying connection point really is that they're actively out there trying to change the world,” says Rachel.

“You've got to be a young woman who's being epic. It doesn't matter where on your journey you are, you can be just starting out, you can be figuring out what your purpose is, or you can be slaying it.”

Being inclusive to women across the country is also important for the programme, says Rachel, because of the lack of networks and community opportunities otherwise available in more rural areas.

“For those girls, the peer community is really important, because they might be the only person that they know of that's in the process of creating change on a meaningful level on a regular basis. And so they are often quite isolated and don't have the same support networks as some of the ones that are, for instance, in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.”

Supported by partners, YWCA provides real-life connection opportunities for the women to meet with each other and hear from other inspiring wahine. They host a yearly launch event, followed by a three-day wānanga, allowing space for whakawhanaungatanga, the process of building relationships, and “learning about each other and their mahi, and figuring out how they can support each other,” says Rachel.

The programme then continues to connect with the women throughout the year, as well as cultivating an alumni network of previous Y25 participants. Rachel says one of her dreams for the programme is to be able to fund hosting an end-of-programme event, “to connect everyone back together.”

Rachel says the programme also allows for collaboration between women in different fields or different places. This year, Ruby Macomber, a writer who runs writing workshops in prisons across Auckland, and Talei Bryant, the founder of a youth movement empowering rangatahi in Whakatane to pursue their dreams, have connected and are planning to work together soon.

Growing up with her own strong female role models, Rachel says she has always been drawn to lifting up other women in her work.

“I honestly don't know who I would be or where I would be if it wasn't for strong women in my life,” she says.

“Women are amazing, they're magical, and they are going to change the world. I am so excited about my work life now - I get to help women transform the world!"

Rachel says the YWCA supports the Good Registry’s kaupapa, and she encourages conscious Christmas consumption, as well as considering need when choosing holiday presents.

“I don’t think the world needs more stuff, the world needs more love. And a really easy way to give love is to give what is actually needed,” she says.

“So to be able to give the gift of donating to causes you really care about is a really beautiful way to change the conversation around Christmas and change.”

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