New head of world YWCA is Zimbabwean Catholic woman

By Ecumenical News International
July 17, 2007

Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, a Roman Catholic woman from Zimbabwe, is to be the new general secretary of the World Young Women's Christian Association - writes Fredrick Nzwili for ENI.

"I am really excited to come to the World YWCA," Gumbonzvanda said soon after the announcement of her appointment on 11 July. She added, "I think this is a calling. When I am called to serve I don't say no ... I also ask for perception and inspiration because I think I am just a mouthpiece of a multitude of energy and voice and vision of women."

Gumbonzvanda's appointment came at the conclusion of the YWCA's council meeting held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 1 to 11 July.

She has worked for the United Nations for the past 10 years, and, since 2001, has been the regional programme director for the UN Development Fund for Women in the East and Horn of Africa.

Gumbonzvanda has also worked as a national child rights adviser in Zimbabwe, and a human rights officer and chief of section on rights promotion and communication for UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, in Liberia.

The new YWCA leader said she believed her organization has the potential to bring women's issues to important decision-making tables.

Still, she noted, "Women's issues are not as well funded as mainstream issues ... the World YWCA must be equally resourced in order to deliver for the 25 million women and girls it reaches." She added, "Women's organizations should not work in poverty," and she saw the existence of a lack of resources as a major challenge to such groups.

Gumbonzvanda, aged 40, earned a master's degree in law from the University of South Africa, and did postgraduate studies in conflict resolution at Uppsala University in Sweden.

Currently, she is the first international coordinator of the women's committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, and chairperson of the advisory committee of the African Women of Faith Network. Gumbonzvanda is also an adviser to the Centre for Land, Economy and Rights of Women.

She replaces Musimbi Kanyoro, a Kenyan who has been the World YWCA general secretary for the past eight years.

During the organization's gathering, Susan Brennan, aged 37, an Australian barrister who practices in administrative, town planning and environmental law, was elected president.

"I am very optimistic about the future of our movement," said Brennan, a former president of the YWCA of Australia.

Both women will lead their global women's organization for the next four years, and through to its next council meeting in 2011. This meeting is planned for Zurich, Switzerland.

The headquarters of the World YWCA are in Geneva. Founded in 1855, the YWCA is today present in 125 countries.

[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

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