YWCA RI Grows International Branches

Statewide organization reaching overseas.


The YWCA on Blackstone Street, Woonsocket, has grown from local roots into a statewide organization — YWCA Rhode Island, and that growth now includes an international presence.

The Geneva, Switzerland-based World YWCA has recruited Sandra Cano, a
member of the board of directors of YWCA Rhode Island, to serve as an interpreter at a Young Women’s International Training Institute (ITI) taking place May 23 through 28 in Bangkok, Thailand.

In addition, Meghan Grady, COO of YWCA Rhode Island, will participate in the first North American and Caribbean Regional Young Women’s Leadership Conference from June 20-22 in Bridgetown, Barbados.

These assignments come on the heels of YWCA Rhode Island’s existing two-year association with YWCA-Haiti as host of its website, ywcahaiti.org.

Cano, 29, of Pawtucket, has been a YWCA Rhode Island board member since 2009. A native of Colombia, she now lives in Pawtucket and is employed by Navigant Credit Union as the business and community development officer, working with under-served populations.

Her family came to the United States when she was 16 and settled in Rhode Island where her brother was in an exchange program at Brown University. She finished her secondary education at Shea High School in Pawtucket, received an associate’s degree in 2003 from the Community College of Rhode Island and enrolled at Rhode Island College until she received a scholarship from Bryant University.

After graduating from Bryant in 2007, she went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island where she studied public

Saying that "I believe in community service and quality public education," Cano ran for and was elected to the Pawtucket School Committee, beginning her term in January 2013.

Cano participated in YWCA New England’s "30 Under 30" leadership training program, and in February 2012 was an intern and speaker with the World YWCA’s delegation to the 56th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The YWCA delegation included women from 18 countries who joined representatives of other non-governmental organizations at the annual CSW.

Now World YWCA officials have invited her to serve as an interpreter at the International Training Institute in Thailand. Delegations from YWCAs around the world will attend the event, which is one in a series of training institutes being held between 2012 and 2015. It will bring together young women leaders to discuss and formulate an agenda for development, equality and human rights, drawing on research undertaken by young women in their home countries and building on the theme "Her Future – The Future Young Women Want."

Over the next four years, World YWCA will roll out its Young Women Champions program to scale up efforts that increase young women’s control over their lives and foster their roles as leaders, decision makers and agents of change.

Cano is excited about being part of the YWCA movement. "I’m really passionate about women’s equality," she said. "I’m super passionate
about empowering women, educating women, which is the mission of YWCA. And I’m really excited about attending the training institute. I told my family, ‘You can’t believe what’s happening to me.’ I’m really grateful."

Grady, 28, of Providence, has been COO of YWCA Rhode Island since 2011. YWCA USA is sponsoring her participation in the inaugural North American and Caribbean Regional Young Women’s Leadership Conference. The theme is "Embracing the Past, Nurturing the Present and Building the Future of Young Women’s Leadership."

The three-day conference is geared to giving young women the knowledge and skills to become effective leaders as they focus on issues pertinent to them, their YWCAs and their countries. Topics will include young women’s leadership, HIV/AIDS issues, women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, violence against women, economic justice, and advocacy.

YWCAs from Canada, the United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands are
hosts, with YWCA Barbados, which was founded in 1950, as the host

Originally from Barrington, Grady earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and communications from Merrimack College in 2006 and a master’s degree in public administration from Roger Williams University in 2008. She also is a graduate of YWCA New England’s "30 Under 30" leadership program.

"I'm excited to be attending the North American and Caribbean Leadership Conference in Barbados," Grady said. "I look forward to meeting other young women from throughout the world who are committed to the mission of YWCA and learning alongside them to refine my leadership skills."


YWCA Rhode Island’s debut on the international scene came in 2011 when CEO Deborah L. Perry traveled to Haiti with Toby Simon, director of Bryant University’s Hochberg Women’s Center. Simon and her husband, a physician, had been doing volunteer work in Haiti for nearly two decades and had visited the fledgling YWCA, which had begun organizing just four years earlier.

As a result of that visit, YWCA Rhode Island became the host of YWCA-Haiti’s website (ywcahaiti.org), helping to create the site and to begin an exchange of information.

YWCA-Haiti officially affiliated with World YWCA in 2011. Registered
as a foundation in Petion-Ville, outside Port-au-Prince, it leads
youth and women’s development initiatives throughout the metropolitan
region. It is governed by a board of directors and has more than 250


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