Happy Birthday to the YWCA of Korea !
World YWCA 15/05/2012 10:20 am
Kyung Ai Cha National President of the YWCA of Korea
On April 20, 2012 the YWCA of Korea proudly celebrated its 90th Anniversary together with 300 participants including members, donors and partners.
Thanks to the efforts of its three co-founders, Kim, Park and Yoo, and despite a difficult political context, on April 20, 1922, the YWCA of Korea was officially established.
From its inception the YWCA of Korea focused on women’s rights and in the 1920s – 1930s, it initiated the Marriage Registration Campaign. In the 1940s – 1950s, and especially following the Korean War (1950-1953), the association began to provide much needed education to underprivileged rural women. In the 1960s – 1980s, during the Korean Industrial Revolution, the main focus became women labourers, and a national campaign for women workers’ rights was organised by the YWCA of Korea. As of the 1990s, the YWCA of Korea continued its trend of focusing on the needs of the time, and thus became concerned with environmental issues and promoted a national campaign on recycling.
The YWCA of Korea currently carries out a number of projects, in particular those related to peace with justice and women’s leadership. Leadership training is being offered to some 10,000 youths and students, who then have the opportunity of participating in decision-making processes through councils. Women’s leadership development is also carried out through various international programmes.
Core training courses are provided for YWCA of Korea staff, volunteer leaders, and board and committee members, so that they may better understand and share the vision of the YWCA movement.
A key concern for the YWCA of Korea is that of the reunification of the two Koreas. The association supports North Korean refugees living in South Korea and helps them to become fully integrated. North Korean women are assisted with education and employment, and a mentoring service and an internship programme are provided. In addition, the association promotes a fundraising campaign by national members to send powdered milk and underwear to North Korean children suffering from cold and hunger. In 1995, an international programme for young people from Asia and the Pacific to come to Korea to share values such as justice and peace and to engage actively in peacekeeping activities in the community was initiated by the YWCA of Korea.
The many guests at the 90th Anniversary celebration, which took place in the YWCA building in Seoul, included the President of the YWCA of Japan, Naoko Matano and the Vice President of the YWCA of Japan, Ritsko Mibae who congratulated the YWCA of Korea on its special anniversary and thanked it for its support and relief donation during the devastating earthquake and Tsunami which struck Japan in 2011.
During the celebration, the YWCA of Korea also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Korea Women’s Leadership Award, created in memory of Esther Park, one of the founders of the YWCA of Korea. The award honours women who made a great contribution to society through women’s leadership, as well as a young woman leader showing creativity and professionalism. This year’s recipients were Lee, Hyo Jae, a renowned scholar on feminism and the first feminist activist in Korea, and Im, Young Shn, who has travelled the world to deliver a message of peace to conflict areas. A special award was also attributed to Park, Sung Young, a congresswoman active in the campaign against sending back North Korean refugees by force.
The celebration was festive, moving and symbolic. In the words of national President, Kyung Ai Cha, “For the YWCA of Korea, celebrating our 90th anniversary did not mean simply celebrating our history, it is also an opportunity to prepare a vision for the future. We consider the 90th anniversary as the first step towards the 100th anniversary of the YWCA of Korea – for the next decade we will listen to God’s voice as he directs us in building a society with justice and peace, in developing women’s leadership and in improving the environment for the future generation”.