human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

New voices join at 21st General Assembly

Youth and women join this time in Rome

Participation is the main word that comes to my mind when I think about Caritas Internationalis 21st General Assembly. The General Assembly gathers Caritas’ secretaries, directors and presidents from all over the world to create together a strategy for the development of Caritas family for the next years and to choose a new leadership. But this year, the gathering of all these Very Important Persons – like bosses and superiors – was joined by the representation of young Caritas workers and women. What for? To increase participation.

Participation is a very important value for Caritas employees. Our work for the poor and people in need is not only to give them what they need – money, shelter, medical help or a chance for worthy work. Our work is mainly to build relationships with them, to give them a voice, to accompany them and show other people their perspective. That is why the Caritas family decided to make sure that not only leaders and managers are heard, but that other workers are also included. During this Assembly, the main focus was on youth and women who, because of societal, cultural and economic reasons, are often overlooked in decision-making processes.

Caritas Internationalis’ 21st General Assembly started on 23 May but was preceded by Caritas Youth and Women Forum on 22 May. During this day youth and women had the opportunity to create their recommendations for Strategic Orientations that the General Assembly was to adopt after the meeting. Also, youth and women representatives could prepare new solutions to make sure that their voices were going to be heard and included during next Assemblies and in other decisive bodies of the Caritas Internationalis network.

Showing good results

As a result of both Forums, the General Assembly decided that the Representative Council (REPCO) of Caritas Internationalis network will include two young persons (male and female) chosen by the Forum, and that at least one-third of REPCO members will be women.

The youth took part in all of the sessions and group work. In the final message of the Assembly, the youth gave this input: Recognise us as leaders with unique perspectives and talents and give us ownership of our contribution to Caritas’ work. Youth are not just the future of Caritas but the present. We can only have a greater impact on the communities where Caritas is present if we are an inclusive intergenerational family where youth have a word in our common home.

This final conclusion is a courageous summary of Caritas Youth Forum’s list of recommendations for the Strategic Orientations. The list included providing formation in Catholic Social Teachings and general capacity-building training for young people, using their talents, investing in paid positions for youth in communications and social media, creating youth boards, or youth positions on existing boards within each Caritas Member Organization, holding Regional Youth Forums and many more.

Last but not least, women and youth representatives had the opportunity to meet Caritas workers from all over the world to exchange experiences, make relationships and create new projects. Let’s hope that soon we will be able to see the fruits of this General Assembly and celebrate more women and youth input in Caritas works.

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Agnieszka Zarzynska

Institutional Development Officer
Caritas Europa

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