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You may be wondering what WUCWO is: World Union of Catholic Women's Organisations. More than 100 organisations from 66 countries on 5 continents are represented in this global network. From Spain we were 11 people from ACG, ANFE and Manos Unidas. In addition, we traveled with Teresa Compte, who participated as speaker.
At first, I admit that I was shocked by the idea that it was a women-only organisation, because, even if we participate in associations working specifically for women's rights, we are used to mixed groups. But I immediately understood the reason for this positive discrimination: the reality is not the same in all countries. For many women it is easier to associate with each other and this empowers us and allows us to work on issues that concern us. But what are we not concerned with?
WUCWO has the capacity to bring together women from all over the world - there were 450 of us, easier said than done - to reflect and work on issues that are more than important, they are necessary for humanity.
For the good that the women of the world, in this case Christian women, can do by working together and setting aside differences (which also exist) is not only for their own benefit but for the benefit of all.
The theme of the meeting was "WUCWO Women, carriers of “living water” to a world which thirsts for Peace." If you think about it, it is a really beautiful image, because it refers to the work of, on the one hand, giving drink to the thirsty, which is something practical and urgent, but, on the other hand, it speaks of quenching by bringing God to others.
Every 4 years there is an assembly, and the reason why it was in Dakar is that there’s a rotation in continents. The fact that Africa was the continent that welcomed us made everything very special. For us, you'll forgive us, it was all very exotic: the buses with the suitcases on top, the latrine-type toilets, the little birds that prowled around the hotel, the baobabs… not to mention the mosquito repellent smell we all gave off, the issues with the simultaneous translation, the attempts to dance in the hotel shows, our outstanding performance in La Macarena, my attempt at Africanisation with a headscarf, or the amusing offer of a woman to marry her son in Nigeria... and I could go on.
To wrap up the seeing. We were in a hotel two hours from Dakar, in the Saly region. We didn’t spend much time in the capital, but on the first day we went to the cathedral for the opening Mass and to the National Theatre where we were received by the President of the Republic. One afternoon we visited the Island of Gorée or "of the slaves" - perhaps you can imagine the horrifying reason behind its name. We also had a cultural dinner, where we could see dances and dresses of all types and colours. The final celebration took place in a sanctuary on the outskirts of the city (I will only tell you that I had never cried and danced so much in a Mass). And, last but not least, a visit to a Manos Unidas project in Sam Sam's neighbourhood. Adela, who has been in Senegal for a year with Manos Unidas, took us to see Sister Regina, who runs a formation centre for young girls.
The purpose of the assembly is to elect the new president, to renew the Board and to choose work proposals for the coming years. The new president is María Lía, an Argentinian woman loved by everyone. In the new Board there will be a Hungarian girl from the youth group, Sarolta, which makes us very excited, for we will have a voice in the Board. And the resolutions we voted on, all very interesting, were these:
• A healthy planet depends on all of us
• Let us take care of the family in difficult situations, especially its most vulnerable members
• Let us eliminate discrimination and violence against women
• Let us educate to respond to the call to holiness
Before the voting, we had 2 study days during which we basically dealt with the Pope's encyclicals. Linda Ghisoni spoke about Amoris Laetitia, and I liked the idea of Christians not being "mummies in a museum."
Teresa talked about Laudato Si, which proposes an alternative to technocratic and individualistic capitalism that promotes the culture of discarding, fighting with an attitude of care and promoting the culture of encounter. Donna Orsuto dealt with Gaudete et Exultate, which speaks of daily sanctity. We also talked about forced migrations and how they disrupt the lives of individuals and especially families, or the problems of land and waste in Africa, among other issues.
The working groups were divided per regions, but young women from all countries worked together in one group. It was very enriching to see how the point of view of each one was very different; the priorities of each country also changed, but in spite of that we could reach an agreement.
Our acting as a youth group at the assembly was aimed at making a final speech. We prepared it together and I had the opportunity to read a part of it, together with Denise from Mexico and Almudena from Argentina, because we did it in Spanish. We proposed the establishment of a youth committee, which was approved. The older women were very excited about the initiative and dedicated lovely words to us. We made a commitment to disseminate what we had experienced (I'm currently doing it, as you can read) and we set ourselves some challenges to continue working at a distance (I hope you’ll be able to see some results soon).
I take with me an enormous openness of mind, new ideas, perspectives, a great lesson in inter-religiousness, a bittersweet perception of political hypocrisy, a new way - more expressive and emotional - of living my faith, a greater awareness of the situation of women in the world and especially of Christian and African women, and a hard reality check about extreme poverty. I need to know more and do more for Africa, because these women, these fighters with colourful fabrics and extravagant headdresses, have stolen my heart.
Youth Sector Catholic Action, Spain