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Welcome to the Twenty-Ninth YWCA World Council


Once every four years member associations of the World YWCA gather together for the World Council meeting.  The World Council is the highest decision and policy-making body of the global movement of the YWCA.  This year, the 29th World Council will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 17 to 22 November 2019.  It is expected that between 300 and 500 delegates and observers from different countries across the world will take part in this most important meeting in the life of the YWCA movement!

The YWCA World Council, apart from being a governance meeting, is also other things.  It provides an opportunity for collective discernment of the global situation and how the YWCA can creatively and more effectively address global challenges.  It offers a space for mutual learning and the sharing of stories.  It is a space to build community, nurture friendships and develop new leaders.  Adding all this together, the World Council has the power to regenerate the worldwide movement of the YWCA, strengthen its impact at community, national and global levels and transform lives.

This virtual site will accompany the journey to World Council and serve a number of purposes:

  • Provide an overview of the World Council process – before, during and after World Council;
  • Facilitate the registration of delegates;
  • Serve as a repository of information, programmatic and logistical;
  • Enable access to World Council documents and resources;
  • Invite sponsorships and donations for World Council, and
  • Give the latest news on the preparations and a preview of what awaits those travelling to South Africa for the 29th YWCA World Council.

Welcome to the 29th YWCA World Council!


Basic information


The Twenty-Ninth World Council will be held at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Center, from 17 to 22 November 2019 (arrivals on 16 November and first departures late afternoon on 22 November).  Between 300 and 500 delegates, observers, guests and other participants are expected to attend, with the YWCA of South Africa and the World YWCA jointly hosting this major gathering in the life of the global YWCA movement.


  1. Fulfill all the tasks required of World Council as provided in the Constitution. These are:
    • To accept the minutes of the previous World Council meeting
    • To accept the report of the World Board on its activities and the management of funds since the previous World Council meeting
    • To accept the report of the General Secretary
    • To approve the report of the Treasurer on the budget framework and affiliation fees until the next World Council meeting
    • To approve the rules of procedure for the World Council meeting
    • To approve policies, guidelines and resolutions until the next World Council meeting
    • To conduct elections for the World Board members including Officers, and the Nominations Committee
    • To provide opportunities for mutual learning and exchange between member associations
    • To deal with other business.
  2. Undertake a collective reflection on the theme of the 29th World Council, in relation to the internal and external challenges that confront the YWCA and young women in particular.
  3. Ensure the full integration of young women in the programme and process of the 29th World Council.
  4. Celebrate faith through prayer, song and liturgies that strengthen community and solidarity among World Council delegates and participants.
  5. Engage World Council delegates and participants in a discussion on the state of the YWCA movement and its purpose.
  6. Facilitate the sharing of knowledge and skills between member associations through workshops.
  7. Learn about South Africa, its history, culture as well as the challenges its women face through inputs, face to face interactions and creative presentations.



The theme chosen for the 29th World Council is “Young Women Transforming Power Structures for Gender Equality.”  This theme is rooted in Goal 2035 which was adopted by the delegates at the 2015 World Council in Bangkok.  This goal states that:

“By 2035, 100 million young women and girls transform power structures to create justice, gender equality and a world without violence and war; leading a sustainable YWCA movement, inclusive of all women.”

Unlike previous World Council meetings, the 29th World Council will not start with a Young Women’s Forum.  The hope is that young women’s voices and leadership will be built into the core framework of the World Council programme.  In order to ensure that young women delegates can participate actively in business sessions, a training and orientation session for youth delegates, the Council’s Rules of Procedure will be organized on the first day of World Council.


World YWCA Council is a space for mutual learning and the sharing of stories.  It is a space to build communitynurture friendships and develop new leaders, under the theme: “Young Women Transforming Power Structures for Gender Equality.”

The logo for the 29th World YWCA Council was inspired by the calabash as a symbol for more unity, celebration and solidarity. Calabash is the term used for artefacts made from the hard shell of a fruit in the gourd family that is commonly used in the African region. Hollowed-out and dried, calabashes are a typical utensil in households. They are used to clean rice, carry water, and as food containers. Smaller sizes are used as bowls to drink palm wine, and in other regions in Africa, they are used as instruments. 

Acknowledging that the calabash may come in different shapes, the design was conceptual rather than literal, and it suggests a divergent perspective of the calabash viewing it from the top. The design also seeks to be bold, simple, clean, smart and dynamic, while capturing other African elements like traditional wear and fabrics.

At the same time, the circular design symbolizes – focus, cycles, unity, wholeness, centring and revolution.

The palette of colours used are a combination of vibrant warm and earth colours, and existing ones that are part of the current World YWCA branding.


The development of this creative process was only possible thanks to the support of our honorary host association, the YWCA of South Africa, the feedback provided by the World YWCA Global Communication Group when selecting the final design, and the talent, skills and commitment of graphic artist Olivia from Sri Lanka, who you may reach to by clicking here.


Programme and methodology


The programme of the 29th World Council will have six main components:

  1. Governance and business sessions
  2. Thematic plenary sessions
  3. Thematic and skill building workshops
  4. Worship and morning prayer
  5. Zenzele marketplace
  6. Opening and closing ceremonies

Business sessions of the World Council will be guided by the Council’s Ways of Work and Rules of Procedure which is updated and approved on the first business session of the Council.

The thematic and skill building sessions will make use of participatory and creative methodologies and will be held in plenary and small groups.  Skill building sessions will mainly be in the form of workshops offered by member associations.

Worship will take place every morning and will be organized around different themes.  It will be participatory, creative and reflect the diversity of the worldwide movement in terms of songs, languages, prayers and symbols.

The Zenzele marketplace will be a multi-purpose space where local artisans and YWCAs can showcase their work and products for offering and selling to the delegates and participants, a safe-space for youth delegates to meet and share stories, an open space for engaging with members of the local YWCA, for networking with other participants and hanging out for a relaxing conversation and coffee.

The opening and closing ceremonies will be jointly organized by the South Africa YWCA and the World YWCA.  The opening ceremony will be a formal event where delegates are expected to dress in their national costume.


Exciting World Council 2019 Workshops Update


During the World Council, two rounds of five parallel workshops will be offered to attendees as a part of the programme. As strategic skills-building initiatives, the workshop topics have been tied to the theme of the Council both in content and form and essentially speak of the practical ways in which Goal 2035 can come to life. Each workshop has been designed to share more than just good practices, engaging the expertise and experiences of participants. A number of suggestions and requests on workshops were received from the member associations and while it wasn’t possible to include them all, the process of strategically placing workshops aiming towards Goal 2035, helped in finalising and working with member associations for combined workshops designing.

Participants coming to a workshop will be able to get the following:

  • Get access to existing tools, real-life experiences and replicable practices on the issue to have the confidence to drive change in communities, countries, regions and even in member associations, wherever presented with a challenge.
  • Have access to existing and developing approaches to consultation, knowledge/capacity enhancement and mobilisation for contributing to achieve Goal 2035 in local and national contexts with women and young women leaders as advocates and drivers of coalitions and campaigns to address issues that hinder the full realisation of the Goal.
  • Understand the good practices from both inside and outside the movement on issues of movement building, governance, thematic areas of programming, faith, communications and social media in advocacy, resource mobilisation etc.

All workshops will be interactive and engaging, led or/and co-led by young women from across the world, inside and outside the movement. Workshops have found their source in the outcomes from the last survey of member associations, developments since last council, findings from ongoing work and programmes, funded initiatives, campaigns, ongoing trends and opportunities that impact the YWCA movement, and/or findings from the initial young women consultation work.

If you had submitted a request for workshop during the call for workshops we sent out earlier this year and haven’t heard from us, please write to for more information.


Zenzele the World Council Marketplace


Zenzele is a Xhosa and Zulu word which means “self-reliance.” For the YWCA of South Africa, Zenzele carries a much deeper meaning rooted in their history and in the empowerment of black women.  During the apartheid era in South Africa, black women were excluded in the YWCA.  This exclusion, however, did not stop them from organizing themselves and mobilizing other black women and establishing their own YWCA which they called “Zenzele”.  By naming the YWCA Zenzele, they were declaring their freedom and independence to do what they thought best at the time, to struggle against apartheid and empower black women in their communities through Zenzele.  They had only themselves to rely on and that was enough.

At the 29th World Council, we shall capture the spirit of Zenzele at the “marketplace” (which shall be called Zenzele) – a place to meet as a community to share stories, exhibit our work, marvel at the arts and crafts of South Africa, to sing and dance, to cry and protest, to make friends and celebrate our sisterhood. More specifically, Zenzele will offer the following:

  1. A marketplace where arts and crafts from South Africa and YWCAs may be exhibited, offered as gifts or sold
  2. A storytelling space which will feature women storytellers from South Africa and across the world
  3. A healing space to benefit from healing practices from South Africa.
  4. A youth space for youth delegates to meet, conduct their own activities and hang-out
  5. A networking and dialogue space for those seeking partners for their work
  6. A space to accommodate spontaneous actions and activities

In order to give life to Zenzele, Member Associations are invited to participate through the following ways:

  1. Reserve a space on which to exhibit the work of your YWCA and chat with delegates and participants who might be interested to meet with you
  2. Contribute a story
  3. Share a healing practice to those who might be interested or in need of healing
  4. Mount an exhibition on a theme that is close to the heart of your YWCA



Dr Ellen Blekie was born on 1 of May 1932.  She grew up in the Nigel/Heidelberg districts. At the age of 11 her parents sent her to the well-known Lovedale Education Centre in Alice, Eastern Cape. She was a brilliant and hardworking pupil and after matriculation she attended Fort Hare University, where she completed her BSc in 1953.

She was then allowed to study Medicine at Wits University, one of a small group of black women who were the very first to study Medicine.  Dr Blekie worked as a medical doctor in Durban, Benoni and the Baragwanath Hospital. From 1968 to 1971 she was invited to work in Swaziland, where she met several exiled members of the ANC and other banned organisations.  She became part of the struggle for liberation from the Apartheid regime.

On returning from Swaziland in 1971, she and her husband, Layton Plata, a journalist, settled in Thaba ‘Nchu. There she started a medical practice in which she worked for many years until she retired some time ago. All these years she has been a well-known and much loved doctor, dedicating herself tirelessly to her patients – all coming from the desperately poor communities of the area. She often treated persons for free or sacrificed much to serve the community.

Dr Blekie has always been a very active and loyal member of the Thaba ‘Nchu Anglican Church, and for many years served as church warden.  She has been involved with the YWCA for many years and was the national president of the South African movement.  In this capacity she served on the National Executive Committee of the South African Council of Churches.

Dr Blekie also served on the national board of the South African National Tuberculosis Association (SANTA), a non-profit, volunteer and community-based organisation involved in anti-TB initiatives. For some years she was the deputy president of the national body of SANTA and also served as chairperson of the Free State branch.

Since the HIV and Aids scourge became such an overwhelming challenge in the 1990’s, she was deeply involved in the Free State’s Anglican Church’s Mosamaria organisation, doing wonderful work to support communities and families affected by Aids. Since its inception, she served as deputy chairperson (the Bishop is ex officio the chairperson) of this compassionate organization.

Dr Blekie, who has been a friend and colleague to many a struggle hero, like the Mandela’s, the Kathrada’s and Tambo’s, is a very humble and lovable person, who’s only goal in life has always been to serve others. This calling is based on her strong Christian convictions and loyalty to the church of which she has been a lifelong, active member. Even today, in her old age, she is still tirelessly involved in serving and is a member of the Provincial Executive Committee of the SACC Free State as the honorary president.

Dr Bekie has been a recipient of the Order of Simon of Cyrene – one of the highest awards bestowed by the Anglican Church. It is thus very appropriate that the first Letsema Award is presented to this remarkable woman, whose whole life has been – and still is -characterised by sacrificing herself and her manifold talents to the service of others.  I am convinced that her being the first to receive this award, actually contributes much in raising the prestige value of the Letsema award itself.


Mrs. Joyce Mokhesi serves as a Trustee of the YWCA Dube Charitable Trust since 1995 and has been responsible for sourcing capital to initiate the Trust. She has been an active member of the YWCA since 1975 and was the president of the Transvaal Region for 5 years, thereby progressed to be the National President of the YWCA of South Africa.

She is part of the leadership of Gauteng Region who came into assist the National office by consolidating the restructuring process and seconded the General Secretary to support the management.

Furthermore, she is a Treasurer of the Vaal Retired Nurses Association from 2009 to date.

Qualifications/Career Progression: Ms. Mokhesi holds a Nursing Qualification and has been a midwife and public nurse since 1954 and retired. She further pursued a career as a pharmaceutical rep for Wyeth Laboratories for 11 years.


WORK Experience

Greater Johannesburg        Nurse     1979 – 1996

Later promoted to Senior Nursing Officer holding a post in one of the busiest centers at 18 Hoek Street, Johannesburg.  She was involved in nursing and medical student training.

She was involved at the Treatment Centre for TB, Family Planning, STD and Child Health Clinics for patients who were employed.  Her key role was to:

  • monitor the progress of employee health and effectively communicate with their employers.
  • Supervise and allocate staff for the smooth running of the centre and give feedback on the progress of patients.

Glorina served in the Santa Charles Hurwits Community

Serving the YWCA South Africa, Ms Mohohlo;

  • has been instrumental and active in the organisation’s projects
  • She served the national office as treasurer and mentored other members.
  • Attended the World Council Meeting, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Is a founding member of the YWCA Trust Fund.


BSc Nursing Degree from UNISA


Michelle Mpho Tehedy, born on 6 January 2003 is the second child of Ms. Connie Mampho Borotho and Mr. Herve Tehedy. Her brother is Jonathan Tehedy.

Early Childhood

She attended Franklin D Roosevelt Primary School from 2009 to 2015, where the English teacher polished her speaking talent.  She join the school sound monitoring, choir, scholar patrol, debating team alongside with athletics and cross country.

Teenage Years

In 2016 Michelle was enrolled for grade 8 at Kings Gate High School in Lesotho, returning to Johannesburg in 2017, where she then enrolled at Dr Beyers Naude Secondary School; again joining the  debating team.

In 2018 she was recruited by the Naledi Leadership Programme and graduated.   Furthering her passions, she joined the school debate Television programme known as the Battle of the VS where she came out victorious.


Battle of the VS was the beginning of Michelle’s long string of accomplishments.  This year she led a very strong team that made it through the debating school rounds, semi-finals, finals and the district finals.  She participated in the CPU Official Southern Dialogue and Debate and won. Competing in group public speaking competitions, Michelle also won the District finals and was awarded best speaker for the Gauteng Provincial finals.

She has also successfully performed as master of ceremonies on two occasions.

The YWCA SA identified her on one of the projects and she was tasked to recite a poem with the theme; ‘Creating Space for Change’ at the intergenerational dialogue.

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