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WSCF Asia-Pacific in 2006:
Evaluation and Reflections

 

Leadership Formation Programme

The Student Empowerment for Transformation (SET) Programme

The 10-day SET Programme concluded with a cultural and solidarity night together with the Thai students staying in the Student Christian Center where both groups exchanged knowledge and inspiration as students and youth in a world where pressing social issues need to be resolved with the support from each other. The SET participants then evaluated on the programme which many conceded that it has given them the inspiration and motivation to explore into the importance of Interfaith Education as a form of alternative education to become a fuller and wholistic Christian.

Regional Women’s Programme

RWP - Australia SCM JWP: The Face of Women: Themes of Identity

This Women’s Conference is a first after many years. Women’s issues and concerns have largely been neglected since the ASCM struggled with major organisational obstacles for a few years. The ASCM is now back on track with committed area-development workers who serve on a voluntary basis. However, even when the work and structures are firmly set up, women’s issues and concerns were still not taken up and are pale in comparison to more ‘national’ issues such as human rights. Moreover, there was a general perception that the Australian SCM and society at large have reached a good level of gender equality whereby there are equal opportunities in terms of job, education and voting rights. This general situation is similar to the developments of SCM Aotearoa/New Zealand in recent years. With the passing of legislature on Civil Union (which means legal marriages between all forms of gender), SCMA had a general perception that gender equality and equity have been achieved. However, what is being ‘perceived’ and what is ‘real’ or ‘reality’ is debatable.

The current National Coordinator and former women’s officer of ASCM, Bronwyn Hatwell and Kate Watts, were keen to co-organise a RWP-SCM Joint Women’s Programme in Australia as both strongly felt that women’s issues and concerns in Australia need to be addressed and given the much-deserved priority again after being sidelined for a period of time. Understanding that SCMA shares a similar situation, ASCM invited seven women of SCMA to the Women’s Conference that was held in Melbourne.

This experience proved to be enriching for both SCMs as they both learned, exchanged and shared together their own experiences as women, as women in relation with other women and men in their family, church, SCM, university, social movement and general society. Their similarities have thus become their strength to overcome obstacles in gender oppression and discrimination. Not only having learned the value of community life and sharing of talents, the participants were also conscientised by the sessions and inputs that took place in the 3-day conference, prompting new and renewed knowledge and understanding on gender, patriarchy, kyriarchy, oppression, feminist theologies and strategies to overcome them.

Though the Women’s Conference was only held for 3 days, it proved to be an inspiring event for the participants. There are plans from ASCM that the Women’s Conference could be held annually and a new women’s officer has been elected to see into the planning. In SCMA, one of the participants in the conference was elected as SCMA’s Women’s Officer to continue women’s programmes in SCMA itself. Overall, this Women’s Conference has proved to have re-energised the struggling women’s programmes in both of the SCMs.

RWP - KSCF JWP: Gender Sensitivity Training

As KSCF re-energises its movement, it needs to search for a guiding model that could connect faith to action leading into a praxis of reflection and action within the student community where trust, sharing, people-orientedness, and equal relationship between the women and men members in the movement thrives. This women’s programme was able to provide a glimpse of such a model as the participants learned from the first day in sharing personal stories to feel and journey with each other’s struggles in life. They went on to learn the many struggles and oppressions in the exposure that were experienced by the marginalised sectors in society and in the world, bringing a comprehension of solidarity and journeying together. The concrete inputs by the resource persons facilitate a deeper conscientisation and reflection on humanity and life-giving principles of being a follower of Jesus that relate to the participants’ daily practices in life.

In the 10-day programme, the participants learned the meaning of sharing in a people-oriented community as they debated, argued, felt frustrated with each other and with the cases of oppression they witnessed. But at the end, they learned how to listen to each other, solve problems as a community and re-build the trust that they have put aside as they misunderstood and misconceived each other in their frustrations. This programme facilitated a deep impact on the participants who underwent an experience that they will not easily forget, and a reflection on the importance of a gentle and sensitive human touch and human relationship.

Inspired by this programme, KSCF decides to organise annual women’s programmes as well as exchange programmes with other countries so that KSCF students could continue to learn from other communities, reflecting on the common struggles between these communities and their own Korean society while searching for ways to be in solidarity to end various forms of oppression and marginalisation.

RWP - SCM Japan JWP: Gender Sensitivity Workshop

The Miriam Project has experienced a period of lull for a couple of years due to reasons that include a lack of committed student leadership, lack of women’s programmes and a limitation in the general direction for Miriam. This women’s workshop helps to set off the first step in reviving Miriam by gathering women students who have demonstrated leadership potential and the commitment to organise women’s programmes in their own local Student Centres.

The impact of this workshop was immense. The participants not only learned about the basics of the gender constructs but also were challenged on a personal level, by the power structures and power relations that they experience in their daily lives. These challenges initially caused many upsets and disturbances, however, these upsets gave way to reflection and conscientisation. The Night Caucuses also help to set up a more intimate atmosphere to share deeply and candidly without the psychological restrain of a classroom. These sharings provide new insights as well as understanding between the participants that proved to be essential in their trust towards each other as they journey together to organise Miriam programmes in the future.

This workshop did not only gather women students but also a couple of senior members of Miriam who have pledged to work closely together with the student leaders on the thrust and directions of Miriam programmes. Upon the workshop’s conclusion, five participants have committed themselves to organise Miriam programmes in their own local units. As one participant mentioned, being committed to organising Miriam programmes is not only about planning and strategising, but more importantly for the spirit of being involved and participate in the sharing of knowledge, new perceptions or alternatives with other women so that everyone could benefit from each other’s experiences in their life journey as a woman. Hence, this workshop provides many important intiatives to Miriam and to SCM Japan.

RWP - SCM Hong Kong JWP: Gender Camp 2006

In recent years, SCM Hong Kong has suffered a lapse of its regular programme on women and gender due to its high turn-over of staff and committee members. Previously, SCM HK was one of the stalwarts in women and gender issues and has produced many outstanding women leaders who are still currently contributing a lot to either the academic, social or ecumenical movement. This Gender Camp has brought in many fresh faces, ideas and perspectives that enrich the life of SCM HK, and it is hoped that the women and gender discussion group could be sustained through these fresh perspectives. However, SCM HK has a tendency to gender mainstreamisation that neglects working on the core and basic discussion on women's oppression and marginalisation. Hence, separate discussions and inputs on women and gender would enable the students in SCM HK to experience a more profound understanding and analysis on these two pertinent and important discourses.

WSCF AP Women’s Internship Programme

This internship experience has challenged Anna to reflect on many issues ranging from adjusting from a homogenous life in Korea to an eventful life in a multiple-religion, multiple-culture, multiple-race society; to opening up to new perspectives on women’s issues and how other organisations in Asia, apart from Korean women organisations, work to promote women’s rights; to working and living independently as a young woman in a foreign land. All these learnings taught Anna to be patient, independent, and conferred with the understanding that she is no longer a student but a worker who has responsibilities and tasks to fulfil. Moreover, having to adjust to a different social backdrop, Anna learned to understand the importance of community living and the maturity to handle cultural, social and religious differences.

Anna, being identified by KSCF as a potential woman student leader in KSCF, plans to further develop the knowledge she acquired in Malaysia as she returns to Korea to continue her studies and activism in KSCF. One of her tasks in KSCF is to help re-organise and revitalise the women’s programmes. Hence, this internship has provided Anna with the knowledge and leadership to undertake this responsibility.

Ecumenical Partnership and Networking

Ecumenical Asian Student and Youth Network (EASYNet)

During the CT Meeting, there were reports of lack of communication and cooperation between some national EasyNet movements, while some movements are lukewarm to even celebrating the Asia-Pacific Student & Youth Week together. Some movements did not do enough to trickle information to their own local units while some movements did not understand the need for an EasyNet.

Although EasyNet is almost 5 years old, ecumenical cooperation and partnership is not a new concept to many SCMs in Asia-Pacific. However, it seems that EasyNet’s 5 years of existence has been paved with obstacles that belie the cooperative spirit that was purported. Could it be that the reasons lie with the SCMs or with the other movements? Or could it be the puzzle of a need to form a formal structure to bestow instructions on ecumenical partnerships rather than letting the ecumenical spirit flow freely but purposefully?

The SCMs are familiar with ecumenism as it has always been a vital part of the vision and life of the Student Christian Movement. When other faith-related student and youth movements came with a more exclusive faith denomination, the SCMs are open to many different denominations and some even to different faiths. Ecumenical partnerships are also a common feature in SCMs’ activities when collaborations come easily and effortlessly because the philosophy of community and working with the grassroots is embedded in the orientation to any new SCMer. However, the same cannot be said of other student and youth movements where the orientation of ecumenical partnership or the spirit of ecumenism does not happen until chancing upon the activities of EasyNet. In addition, ecumenical partnerships also depend on the social and political locations that could serve as the binding force of different movements. Hence, there are times when ecumenical partnerships are not easily exercised in EasyNet activities and some movements may just retreat to their familiar surroundings. It is both daunting and frustrating to plough through such obstacles. But, the Student Christian Movement is a prophetic voice of the students and youth, of the Christian faith as well as of the mass movements. Its philosophy of ecumenical spirit has also come from this prophetic role where the conviction of all God’s creations living an abundant life through the sharing and giving between each human being, is strongly put forward. Being SCM, hence, is to live out this ecumenical spirit and sharing this spirit to others who have limited understanding of it.

EasyNet is a very relevant and purposeful platform for sharing out the ecumenical spirit. It is a platform that the SCMs could exercise its prophetic voice to support movements that are unfamiliar with this concept and experience. Hence, although there are several obstacles in EasyNet, it is hoped that the SCM will continue to play an important role to share its ecumenical experience with the rest of the movements, thereby bringing an ecumenism that moves beyond our own circles and ourselves.