We, the young women of the AWRC, would like to share the story of our journey with the Young Women Doing Theology (YWDT) network. The YWDT network of AWRC has been in existence for almost four years now. We felt that it is essential to evaluate our journey together to: assess if we are on the right track; analyse if we are serving a purpose and creating an impact on ourselves, on each other, and in our communities; and to focus and plan our future thrust.
To carry out this evaluation process we devised an evaluation form with three questions:
This report is a compilation of all the reflections shared by the YWDT members in their evaluation forms. This report is to be shared with all the YWDT members, the CTM and members of AWRC and AWRC’s funding partners.
How the YWDT was initiated and formed
The desire to have a space for young women in the AWRC network was expressed at the Feminist Theology seminar in Jan 2004. We were challenged at the Coordinating Team Members (CTM) meeting of AWRC in May 2004 to think for ourselves what we wanted out of AWRC as young women of the AWRC network. In response to the challenge, we presented what we thought we needed as young women doing theology. The CTM accepted the need for such a network and asked us to plan.
The purpose and rationale for the YWDT to be formed were presented as the following:
The YWDT hoped to include young (25-45 years old) women from different constituencies who were involved in doing theology like the following:
Young women in AWRC have always been an important part of all programs and the life of AWRC. Different young women have been attending various programmes at different points of time. This has been more intentionally done with the formation of YWDT in 2004. Many new young women have been brought into this network with each program and it is still growing in number.
We had two programs that were conducted by and for the YWDT:
We would like to reflect on and evaluate our YWDT journey in terms of three areas where we feel we have been influenced and impacted, namely:
Our journey as critical Subject Selves
The YWDT has become a space for the development of a critical self. AWRC provided the support, space and resources for the YWDT to be exposed to a critical feminist framework for analysing our lives and selves.
We have learnt to critically reflect on our own lives individually and as a group. The critical analysis of our life stories has become the basis for our active theologizing. AWRC has continually been an agent in challenging young women to think for ourselves as ‘subject selves’.
YWDT is always involved in conceiving, planning, and conducting what we want for ourselves in our activities. In this process we already exercise leadership as young women, which is critical, liberating, empowering and shared.
Our journey as a network
Young women doing critical feminist theology of liberation and transformation
In YWDT we challenge one another to move beyond traditional theology. We engage in critical thinking/questioning to deepen and sharpen our analysis of our selves, our faith, our ideologies and our involvements. The methodology of the “Dance of liberation and transformation” has provided us with the tools for critical analysis. The subject for our theologizing is our experiences. We continually seek ways to move forward by critical questioning.
For all of us in the YWDT this has become a very real, warm, safe space that sustains us in all our individual and professional struggles as women in Asia. While this is a comfortable space, it is also a space where we critique each other, learn from each other and grow both as subject selves and as a group involved in critical resistance and struggle. We push each other to be critical, vigilant and accountable. In the YWDT we recharge our energies for our struggles for liberation and transformation.
Ongoing sustenance: YWDT e-network
As a way to sustain our support for each other in our journey we have created an e-space for ourselves at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ywdt_awrc/. When we need support from the group in our individual struggles back home, we come to this space to share our struggles and sustain each other. We do not only share but seek critique, debate and clarifications for where we are in our journeys.
We recognize that it is not easy to be critical subject selves in isolation. Hence we need each other’s support and solidarity.
Our future journey as a network
As YWDT we feel the need to continue to build this space because we have very few other spaces for meeting and solidarity.
Towards this end some suggested action plans are:
The YWDT also seeks to expand itself to include more young women in this journey of becoming subject selves involved in struggles for liberation and transformation.
Some suggested ideas for expansion are:
The dynamics of our meetings and ways of working together and sharing responsibility are affirmed as good feminist praxis that we will like to build on. The responsiveness to always be conscious of and build on the evolving group dynamics was also affirmed as a good point to keep in mind while running future meetings/programs.
Many members have taken ownership of the network as expressed in this way: “To keep the continuity of this group each of the members has a commitment to build and keep this network.”
However we also want to recognise that each of us is at a different level and we may require workshops of a more basic nature to inculcate feminist consciousness and critical thinking.
The evaluation has revealed that the YWDT has filled a crucial purpose by becoming a space for the development of a critical self. It has been a place where everyone in the network learnt to critically reflect on our own lives individually and as a group. It has become a space that has enabled the exercising of critical feminist leadership. By planning and running our own workshops we exercise leadership as young women that is, critical, liberating, empowering and shared.
By engaging in critical thinking and questioning the YWDT has helped to deepen and sharpen our analysis of our selves, our faith, our ideologies and our involvements. It has become a space to express solidarity as well as critical and constructive dissent that fosters the growth of each person as a critical subject self as well as the growth of the group involved in critical resistance and struggle. Through the YWDT we have recognized that it is not easy to be critical subject selves in isolation and we therefore push each other to be critical, vigilant and accountable. Many members have taken ownership of the network.
As YWDT we feel the need to continue to build this space because we have very few other spaces for meeting and solidarity. To this end the YWDT seeks to expand itself to include more young women to join this journey of becoming subject selves involved in struggle for liberation and transformation.
Reporter: Jessica Richard, Anna Marsiana, Woon Yoke Heng, Clare Law, Yong Ting Jin