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Elizabeth Nash (Consultant, Young Women's Leadership, World YWCA and GCSP Alumna) participated in the Women’s Leadership course in 2016. Here is her account of how this course enabled her to meet inspiring peers and make a positive change.
A colleague at the World YWCA office in Geneva nominated me to attend the GCSP’s Women’s Leadership course in 2016. As I took my place and glanced around at faces and nametags, it was Angela Kumpl, the Manager of IKEA Vernier, who drew my curiosity. I got my first Billy Bookshelf at age 6 after my parents’ divorce; beanbags in my adolescence for parties in the basement; but really, IKEA shaped my daily reality when I moved overseas and had children. So, out of an entire room of fascinating and intelligent women, IKEA won me over first.
At the end of the course we were urged to actively expand our professional and personal networks and reach out to one another. My first goal was a lunch of Swedish meatballs and elderflower soda. Angela and I didn’t immediately find a common project or obvious way to connect our professional goals, but we kept in touch. The idea came a year later, when I reached out to Angela with a possible IKEA - World YWCA collaboration for young women’s leadership. She was no longer in Geneva, but she pointed the project in the right direction and made sure it got where it needed to go.
The idea for a Young Women-led Safe Spaces Makeover was born from a conversation with Linnea, a younger colleague who voiced an interest in exploring a feminist design structure that would express our dedication to championing the human rights of women, young women, and girls around the world. We wondered how the YWCA could utilize a cohesive interior design that creates safe spaces and empowering environments for women of all ages to work together.
The World Office of the YWCA is a big old house with a huge garden in Grand Saconnex. This lovely property, however, is in need of a serious makeover, but instead of in-house aesthetics, our organization has consistently chosen to ensure funds are spent on projects in support of young women’s leadership, eliminating violence against women and girls, and ensuring the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women, young women, and girls.
So I sent Angela a proposal for a Safe Spaces Makeover Project for Young Women’s Leadership that would be a collaboration between IKEA’s design expertise and the leadership, ideas, and creativity of the young women in the World YWCA office. We certainly found our common ground. IKEA has been helping people create Safe (and beautiful) Spaces for decades; and creating Safe Spaces is at the core of YWCA work in over 110 countries. Furthermore, by ensuring that young women lead the project, both organizations are fostering strong female leaders.
The young women of the YWCA have strongly expressed that there should be no obvious distinction of rank or hierarchy in the decoration or style of YWCA offices. YWCAs promote inter-generational and shared leadership whereby young women feel both safe and empowered to contribute and participate. They will be working with IKEA to create a continuity in all the workspaces that is welcoming, promotes equality, and shows the passion that goes into their work.
The project has been given the green light and the YWCA young women have already met with IKEA designers, shared mood boards for possible ‘looks’, and identified the key Safe Space concepts and principles that they would like translated into our interior space. Now IKEA designers will transform the YWCA values of Respect, Equality, Inclusivity, Diversity, Solidarity, and Safety into a physical reality.
Both IKEA and the World YWCA are looking forward to showcasing this Safe Space for Young Women’s Leadership. A housewarming party at the beautifully redone big old house is definitely in the pipeline, with the GCSP as a key guest. After all, it all started at the GCSP event.
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