Welcome address by Chi Hui-Jung

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Remarks by Chi Hui-Jung (CEO, The Garden of Hope; Chairperson, Global Network of Women's Shelters) at the Opening Ceremony of the Fourth World Conference of Women's Shelters, Kaohsiung, Taiwan. November 5, 2019.

Good afternoon everyone! Welcome to the Fourth World Conference of Women's Shelters!

I'm so happy to see you all here. You are all so full of energy. For those of you who were in the Hague in 2015, welcome back to WCWS! We are four years older, but we are still here. Still working to protect the weak and vulnerable. Still fighting for equality, justice and an end to violence.

And if this is your first World Conference, then a very warm welcome to you too! I'm so glad you could make it!

Ten years ago at the First World Conference of Women's Shelters in Edmonton we set the stage to found the Global Network of Women's Shelters. The Second World Conference in Washington DC helped raise the visibility of the shelter movement, and launched many of our regional networks. The Third World Conference in the Hague spread the movement to more countries and sectors than ever before.

Now we are here, in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. This is the first time WCWS has been held in Asia. There are 1,400 people here from 100 countries.

Each World Conference creates a lot of positive energy. This time the theme is “Impact – Solidarity”. By coming together to network, exchange ideas, share knowledge and encourage each other, I really believe we will make an impact far beyond what we could achieve by working in isolation. I can feel the energy in the room today.

But we must also accept that these big events create a big carbon footprint. With the on-going climate crisis, global warming and mass extinction – the world is on the brink of environmental collapse. We know that climate change has an unequal impact on women and girls. So we must accept our responsibility as global citizens, and re- think how to come together as a network – perhaps using ICTs or meeting more in the regions – to help us build solidarity in more sustainable ways.

As well as the environment, other emerging issues that we need to focus on include protection of women with disabilities, discrimination against the LGBTQ community, women from ethnic minorities, migrant women, and other victims of intersectional violence. We need to pay more attention to women with special needs who suffer from multiple forms of discrimination.

We will discuss some of these problems in the next session on Emerging Issues. One of the speakers will be my friend Linda Wong from Hong Kong. The situation in Hong Kong is very disconcerting. We can see how women protesters have been the targets of sexual violence, in an attempt to break the will of the people. Using sexual assault as a weapon is a pattern repeated all over the world.

That's why it's important for us to build solidarity as a global movement. Real solidarity means putting aside our own interests, and standing shoulder to shoulder together, to fight for a greater good, and to make a real impact. We must transform social structures and practices, so we can achieve lasting change and create safe communities and real homes.

Over the next four days we will have plenty of opportunities to do that. We have divided the conference agenda into five plenary sessions on emerging issues, art and advocacy, social work and shelter management, legislation and policy, and economic empowerment and gender equality. Between the plenaries, we have over 110 presentations in five breakout sessions. In and around the main conference, we also have 13 side events organized by our partners, including a youth caucus attended by 30 young people. On Friday, we have organized ten study tours to social welfare organizations around Kaohsiung, and you will also have the chance to do some sightseeing too.

The Fourth World Conference of Women's Shelters is going to be a wonderful event. You are going to be inspired and energized with new ideas and make new connections that will help spread your sphere of influence.  I would like to thank the Minister of Health and Welfare, Mr. Chen Shih- chung (陳時中) for his generous support, and the help of all our sponsors and partners in the government and corporate sectors.

This conference is co- hosted by the Garden of Hope Foundation and the Global Network of Women's Shelters. We would like to thank all our friends from the global network who have supported Taiwan to host the first World Conference of Women's Shelters in Asia. We would not be here without you. That's real solidarity.

So let's get ready to build real solidarity, make a real impact, and create real homes!