The YWCA of Great Britain traces its origins to activities initiated by two women in England, in the 1850s in response to the upheavals of the industrial revolution. In 1855 Emma Roberts established a group in her village to pray for young women going out into the world. At almost the same time Mary Kinnaird established a hostel for young women transiting through London to join Florence Nightingale in the Crimea. Miss Roberts’ prayer groups grew and spread and in 1877 the two organisations merged, the prayer groups out of a desire to engage a broader group of young women, and the service organisation an interest in deepening its spiritual work.
The YWCA is in many ways a product of empire and colonialism. Our global movement was spread by the travels of missionaries and colonial administrators. It is our responsibility as a YWCA, steeped in this history, to take responsibility for doing the work to replace racist legacies, structures and attitudes with ones focused on antiracist and intersectional justice. In doing so, we build on proud traditions in the movement where we have been at the forefront of work to advance women's rights in areas such as the European refugee crisis after World War II, the civil rights struggle in the USA and ending apartheid in South Africa.
Today the YWCA is a global movement working for the empowerment, leadership and rights of women, young women and girls in more than 120 countries.
Members and supporters of the World YWCA include women from many different faiths, ages, backgrounds, beliefs and cultures. We are all working toward the common goal that “by 2035, 100 million young women and girls will transform power structures to create justice, gender equality and a world without violence and war; leading a sustainable YWCA movement, inclusive of all women”.
- Strengthening young women and girls’ transformative leadership.
- Realising human rights.
- Sustaining the YWCA movement.
- 122 countries
- 20,000 communities
- 25 million women and girls reached