The journey to the Y25

What's the Y25 all about and where did it come from?


  • Community
May 15, 2020 Anna Beard

As the 25 wāhine toa on the Y25 2020 were announced last week, we wanted to take a look back at how and why we came up with the programme and what it’s all about.

For the past decade, the YWCA has worked with young women to look into the most pressing challenges they face. In September 2019, we surveyed women aged 18-25 online, asking questions about opportunity, access, representation and recognition. We found just one in four feel society values their opinions and one in three feel they get the same opportunities as their male peers. We heard them saying they are tired of being told they “don’t have ambition, are sensitive or that we flake on everything.” The backlash to Greta Thunberg's speech at the UN Climate Change Summit or anything that Chloe Swarbrick speaks out about are examples of the "youth bashing" that goes on. 

The YWCA wants to turn that on its head. Being a young person is actually a superpower. They’re in touch with their emotional side, seeing the world afresh. They are really well informed, interested and they want to participate. We decided we wanted to raise the voices of 25 young women each year and give them opportunities and support that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. We’re very aware of the importance for girls to see diverse role models, just a few years ahead of them, for realistic inspiration that motivates them to follow their dreams. There is a real lack of this at present. The Y25 Programme is one way we think we can fix this. 

The first phase of the programme was a nation-wide search and nomination process to find young women doing amazing things despite the barriers they face - community leaders, entrepreneurs, changemakers who are making an impact. We tapped into all corners of our communities - schools, employers, sports clubs, community groups, whānau and friends - to find the young women often not seen. 

At the same time, we assembled a great panel of judges from all different backgrounds to help us select the 25 young women. With over 100 nominations to wade through, it was no mean feat! The judging coincided with the Level 4 nationwide lockdown and many of our judges commented on how uplifting it was to read about the young women and the amazing mahi going on.

The Y25 Programme is a year-long programme of support that will begin with bringing the 25 together to a two-day hui in Auckland with a lineup of incredible speakers including Chlöe Swarbrick, Qiane Matata-Sipu, Oriini Kaipara, Verity Johnson and Michelle A'Court. At this hui they will learn skills, meet mentors, learn about imposter syndrome, create support networks and build a tailored plan for the year ahead so they can thrive. The 25 young women will: 

  • Connect over Zoom, get to know each other and prepare for the hui
  • Attend Y25 hui to be held in Auckland in August
  • Design and plan what success looks for them, for the year, with inspiring leaders 
  • Be paired with sponsors and coaches for support
  • Get training in influencing and personal branding in the context of each girl’s mahi
  • Get tailored advice including wellbeing support
  • Access to and support from the Y’s networks through the year

Y25 is supported by the following partners, Kiwibank, Bell Gully, The Warehouse Group, Genesis Energy and AUT, who are helping co-design the hui and will be further sources of support for the 25 young women. 

It’s been an incredible journey. What is abundantly clear with the Y25 and all the other amazing wāhine who were nominated - the future looks bright in their hands.

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