The World Young Women's Christian Association (World YWCA) is a movement working for the empowerment, leadership and rights of women, young women and girls in more than 120 countries. The members and supporters include women from many different faiths, ages, backgrounds, beliefs and cultures. Their common goal is that
[B]y 2035, 100 million young women and girls will transform power structures to create justice, gender equality and a world without violence and war; leading a sustainable YWCA movement, inclusive of all women.
|Founder||Mary Jane Kinnaird|
|Founded at||London, United Kingdom|
The World office is currently based in Geneva, Switzerland.
The YWCA is independent of the YMCA, but many local YMCA and YWCA associations have merged into YM/YWCAs or YMCA-YWCAs and belong to both organizations, while providing the programs of each.
Although "YWCA" is often associated with hostels and fitness centers, the World YWCA is a human rights-based organization with activities across the world such as advocacy of gender equality and women's empowerment, trainings on SRHR and HIV, dialogues between young girls and religious leaders and across generations. The World YWCA states its purpose as: "Develop the leadership and collective power of women and girls around the world to achieve human rights, health, security, dignity, freedom, justice and peace for all people".
Since the 1940s, the World YWCA has focused on specific global issues including:
HIV and AIDS
During the World YWCA Council in Phoenix, Arizona in 1987, the World YWCA passed a resolution urging the national organizations to implement programs for education for the prevention of the spread of HIV. Today, YWCAs in 70 countries have programs related to HIV, including prevention, advocacy, treatment, care and support, and addressing stigma. The YWCA works closely with HIV-positive women on a grassroots level. Initiatives within the YWCA by HIV-positive women have allowed for the tailoring of programs to meet the specific needs of their communities.
Along with HIV prevention, the World YWCA has strongly promoted access to the female condom. According to a statement made by Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, former General Secretary of the World YWCA (1998 - 2007) “Accelerated female condom distribution and education is essential. HIV infection rates among women are rising disproportionately to men in every region of the world, and young women and girls account for 76% of infections among African youth. And when AIDS affects women, it affects entire families and communities, tearing apart social safety nets and fueling instability and conflict.”
In 2005, the World AIDS Day statement issued by the World YWCA strongly urged national health ministries, other aid agencies, and international NGOs to purchase a minimum of 180 million second-generation female condoms for annual global distribution. The movement also called on governments to ensure that the female condom is marketed to women in local communities and promoted as an effective method to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
The World YWCA recently held the first international conference on Women and HIV and AIDS. The International Women's Summit on HIV and AIDS featured speakers from UNAIDS, YWCAs and other global leaders. The Positive Women's Forum, held on the first day, was organised by and for HIV-positive women; over 300 women attended.
While the YWCAs had, on various levels, been active with refugees for some time, the issue took a central focus during Israel's War of Independence. The movement officially stated in 1949 that it would ‘maintain its impartial character, meeting human needs without respect to nationality, race, creed or political conviction’ in regard to the need to work with all peoples. Since then there have been programs to provide income and to meet the basic needs of those living in refugee camps, such as adequate healthcare, education and literacy programs, and childcare.
Underpinning refugee work has been the movement for peace and justice. With its policy rooted in the 1920s, the World YWCA has emphasized peace education and justice as an integral part of the movement's promotion of human rights. The movement officially recognized these concepts as enmeshed during the conference in Singapore in 1983, wherein the statement was made, “No solution can be found for one people at the expense of another", in regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Sustainable development has also been a characterizing priority for the YWCA. In 1987, the World YWCA stated its “extensive commitment to development that empowers women to become decision-makers and community leaders.” The movement has emphasized a gender and human rights approach, acknowledging the exploitative and exclusionary factors that perpetuate the feminisation of poverty.
The World YWCA has been involved in recent global forums on sustainable development and related issues, and is an active member of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, a network of churches and ecumenical organisations working for recognition of international human rights, social, and environmental agreements as a priority over trade agreements and policies. There are YWCA programs for sustainable development in 40 countries, ranging from literacy and awareness building of environmental issues in Papua New Guinea to skills building and job training in Peru.
Racial equality and anti-lynching initiatives
Throughout the course of its existence, the YWCA has focused on incorporating racial equality into its framework and goals. In coordination with this initiative, the YWCA focused on creating campaigns and writing letters to legislators, with the intention of passing anti-lynching legislation. The YWCA's participation in this movement peaked during the 1940s, shortly after the start of the Second World War. “In 1940, a National Board commission was charged with mobilizing decisively integration work in the YWCA. This group devised an ‘Interracial Charter’ calling for the full integration of black women into YWCA life and pledging the efforts of the collective YWCA to fight racial prejudice.” While these efforts were not successful on a national level, they did raise awareness and re-affirm the organization's mission.
As a principle of young women's leadership, the World YWCA is involved with other youth organizations, such as Youth Employment Net, European Youth Forum, and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. It is also a member of CONGO, Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in a Consultative Relationship with the United Nations.
YWCA Week Without Violence
Each year during the third week in October, YWCAs worldwide focus on raising awareness on violence against women. The YWCA Week Without Violence was launched in 1995 and has grown from a grassroots initiative into a global movement with women, men and children participating in events in over 20 countries. The Canadian YWCA in particular has a strong program for working with domestic violence. The YWCA is Canada's largest national network of shelter (45 facilities at 24 sites) and subsidized housing for homeless women and women escaping violence.
The Violence Against Women unit in Shreveport, Louisiana, was formerly directed by the socialite and civic figure Susybelle Lyons. In 1996, she and Marilyn Joiner were co-chairwomen of a $1.1 million capital campaign drive for the Shreveport branch of the YWCA.
YWCA Week of Prayer
Starting in 1904, the World YWCA and the World Alliance of YMCAs have issued a joint call to prayer during the Week of Prayer and World Fellowship. During this week, the two movements pray and act together on a particular theme in solidarity with members and partners around the world. The week-long event is a Bible study based on that year's theme.
World YWCA Day
At the 1947 World Council meeting in Hangzhou, China, the decision was made to establish an Annual YWCA Membership Celebration. The 1947 Council asked the Executive Committee to assume responsibility for the design of the celebration, and in 1948 an Advisory Group of the Executive Committee conducted a survey among nation associations and defined the name, aim and timing of the soon-to-be annual event. World YWCA's Observance Day was born, to help each member see how she could act locally in relation to the theme for the year. The Wednesday or Thursday of the last week of April was chosen as the date for the Observance Day each year.
In 1949, a Planning Group was formed, representing national associations, members of the Executive Committee and the World YWCA staff. Some chosen themes for the Observance Day have been: My Faith and My Work, My Place in the World, My Contribution to World Peace, I Confront a Changing World, Toward One World and My Task in Family Life Today.
In 1972, an Executive Committee decided that the event name would be changed to World YWCA Day and that the theme would be chosen by the Executive Committee from among various programmes decided by the World Council. A 1989 Executive Committee Task Force decided that the date of celebration for World YWCA Day would be April 24.
World YWCA Councils
The World Council is the legislative authority and governing body of the World YWCA. During the event, representatives the member associations get together and elect the World YWCA Board, determine policies and set priorities for the coming years.
- Royal Holloway College, England - 1955
- Cuernavaca, Mexico - 1959
- Nyborg Strand, Denmark - 1963
- Melbourne, Australia - 1967
- Accra, Ghana - 1971
- Vancouver, Canada - 1975
- Athens, Greece - 1979
- Singapore, Singapore - 1983
- Phoenix, Arizona USA - 1987
- Stavanger, Norway - 1991
- Seoul, Korea - 1995
- Cairo, Egypt - 1999
- Brisbane, Australia - 2003
- Nairobi, Kenya - 2007
- Zurich, Switzerland - 2011
- Bangkok, Thailand - 2015
The most recent World YWCA Council occurred in Bangkok, Thailand on the theme Bold and Transformative Leadership – Towards 2035. It was hosted by the YWCA of Thailand on 11–16 October 2015. In total, 477 Member Associations from 73 countries attended the event, and before Council opened, there was also a two-day Young Women's Forum.
The next World Council will be hosted by YWCA of South Africa in 2019 in Johannesburg.
The YWCA can trace its history back to 1855 when the philanthropist Lady Mary Jane Kinnaird founded the North London Home for nurses travelling to or from the Crimean War. They addressed the needs of single women arriving from rural areas to join the industrial workforce in London, by offering housing, education and support with a "warm Christian atmosphere". Kinnaird's organisation merged with the Prayer Union started by evangelist Emma Robarts in 1877.
In 1884 the YWCA was restructured. Until then, London had had almost a separate organisation, but there was now one YWCA organisation. Beneath this there were separate staffs and Presidents for London, England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland, "Foreign" and Colonial and Missionary. This organisation distributed Christian texts and literature, but it also interviewed young women in an effort to improve living conditions. In 1884 they were working amongst Scottish fisherwomen, publishing their own magazine and operating a ladies' restaurant in London. This work was launched at a time when women were said to kidnapped into prostitution (White Slavery). In 1886 the British government raised the age of consent from 13 to 16.
The World YWCA was founded in 1894, with USA, Great Britain, Norway and Sweden as its founding mothers.
The first world conference of the YWCA was held in 1898 in London, with 326 participants from 77 countries from around the world. It was a pivotal point in the founding of the World YWCA, cementing the principles of unity based on service and faith on a global scale. The YWCA motto: "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty" (Zechariah, 4.6)
In the beginning of the 20th century, a profound shift began within the YWCA. While industrialization had been a founding concern of the association, it had sought primarily to insulate women morally and socially from urban life. During the 1910 World YWCA conference in Berlin, however, the voices of thousands of working women from the United States were heard, and these objectives began to change. A resolution was passed requiring the association to study social and industrial problems, and to educate working women about the "social measures and legislation enacted in their behalf." Thus the social conscience of the YWCA was born in the form that it maintains today.
Until 1930 the headquarters of the World YWCA were in London. The executive committee was entirely British, with an American General Secretary. This policy resulted in a resolutely Anglo-Saxon lens through which the association viewed the world. In 1930, however, the World YWCA headquarters were moved to Geneva, Switzerland, the same city as the newly formed League of Nations. This was symbolic of the drive to become a more diverse association, and also to co-operate fully with other organizations in Geneva (such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the YMCA.)
World War II
The Second World War both strengthened the YWCAs of the world, and left its mark. Many of its members found it necessary to choose between their conscience and the safety of themselves and their families. In several countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, YWCAs were suppressed and disbanded. Throughout occupied Europe, however, women worked relentlessly to construct support systems for their neighbors and refugees, often with exceedingly limited resources.
Shortly after the end of the war, the YWCA worked to fortify the bonds of women throughout the world by holding the first World Council meeting in nearly a decade in Hangzhou in 1947. This was significant in being the first World Council held outside of the West, and further voiced the desire to be an inclusive, worldwide movement. It also served to bring together women who lived in countries that had been enemies during the war, and to raise awareness among the western YWCAs that the ruin of war was not limited to Europe.
During the following decades, the World YWCA spent much time researching and working with the issues of refugees, health, HIV and AIDS, literacy, the human rights of women and girls, the advancement of women and the eradication of poverty; mutual service, sustainable development and the environment; education and youth, peace and disarmament, and young women's leadership. These issues continue to play an integral role in the World YWCA movement.
YWCAs around the world
The organization (previously YWCA England & Wales), YWCA Scotland, and the independent YWCAs in England form an ‘umbrella’ organisation, YWCA of Great Britain.
England and Wales
YWCA was founded as two separate organisations in 1855 in London by two women (see below).
The organisation changed its name to Platform 51 in December 2010 to reflect changing attitudes and to distinguish itself from the YMCA, and because the women and girls who use the charity wanted it. The name reflected the proportion of the world population that are female. The re-branded charity retains affiliations with the national and international YWCA umbrella organisations.
Activities and services
The organization provides accredited courses and information, advice and guidance to women from disadvantaged communities. Platform 51 helps women to make informed decisions about their lives and maintain healthy relationships. The organisation campaigns with them to change the lives of women in England and Wales. The organisation regularly holds events where women are given the opportunity to talk about the things that matter to them. For instance, the Wise Up programme gives girls the ability and confidence address MPs and Ministers, give TV, radio and press interviews, hold functions and deliver group sessions. The participants develop skills in leadership, communication, teamwork and self-motivation.
The services provided for young women include informal educational, information and advice on all manner of things, courses, workshops and drop-in sessions, counselling and one-on-one sessions as well as crèches. YWCA services can be accessed in 14 centres across England and Wales; in Government regions of the South West, London, South East, the East and West Midlands, North West, Yorkshire and Humber in England and in South Wales.
Recent YWCA campaigns include the More than One Rung campaign. It called for help for young women to get skills and training so they can work their way off the bottom rung of the career ladder. The More than One Rung campaign led to, amongst other things, an increase in the minimum wage for apprentices from £80 a week to £95 a week. YWCA also undertook the Respect Young Mums campaign which worked towards getting better support for teenage mothers. Since 2004, the YWCA has been campaigning for young mothers to get Child Support before pregnancy, rather than after the baby is born. As of 2009, mothers were able to claim the Health in Pregnancy Grant from the 25th week of pregnancy (this is similar to a pregnancy premium to Income Support, which the YWCA called for through the Respect Young Mums campaign).
By virtue of its work for the welfare and development of young people, YWCA England and Wales is a member of The National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS).
The first YWCA in Australia was established in 1880. The organisation advocates for the interests of women and girls and delivers "a diverse range of community programs and services" in both rural and urban Australia. There are 11 chapters operating across Australia as of 2017.
Frances Gertrude Kumm was national president, 1945–1951, and world vice president, South Pacific Area, 1951–1955.
The YWCA in China was established early in the 20th century and became an important venue for social reform and the advancement of women's status. Although the organization was founded by foreign workers, leadership was soon taken over by Chinese women. In the 1920s, YWCA organizer Deng Yuzhi (Cora Deng) was important in organizing women factory workers in Shanghai and supporting the emerging revolutionary forces. The YWCA in China today has associations in Beijing and Shanghai.
Founded in 1858, YWCA USA has 225 associations nationwide at more than 1,300 sites serving more than 2 million women and families. Associations were configured into 9 regions until 2012, when the YWCA reorganized with a new CEO and eliminated the regional structure system. Regions varied in size from 19 associations (New England) to 60 associations (Great Lakes). The other regions averaged 32 associations each. In 2015, the associations had over 12,000 staff members and 44,000 volunteers. A YWCA logo was created in 1988 by Saul Bass.
Prior to the Civil Rights Movement, some YWCA facilities were segregated or operated as separate organizations. Advocates including Helen L. Seaborg in Washington, D.C. worked successfully to mediate mergers between the segregated groups. Today, YWCA USA works to eliminate racism and empower women.
YWCA USA is one of the oldest and largest women's organizations in the nation, serving over 2 million women, girls, and their families. YWCA USA associations focus their work in three areas: Racial Justice and Civil Rights, Empowerment and Economic Advancement of Women and Girls, and Health and Safety of Women and Girls.
YWCA USA is the nation's largest provider of domestic violence programs and shelters in the United States, serving well over ½ million women and children. As comparison, the largest national hotline averages 192,000 calls per year. It is one of the top 25 largest charities in the U.S., with total revenues in 2014 of $776 million.
The YWCA of the City of New York, the oldest US YWCA, is 150 years old. That organization is unique in that the organization is guided purely by human service-oriented programs, rather than physical services. Such programs include Early Learning Centers, Family Resource Center, Out-of-School Programs, Professional Development Programming, and Women's Employment Programming. Such programs continue the YW mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. They are a major component of the non-profit community in New York City. They produce several fundraising events annually.
Agnes Blizzard organized the first Canadian YWCA member association in two rented rooms in Saint John, New Brunswick, in 1870. Other early YWCA member associations were started in Toronto (1873), Montreal (1875), Quebec City (1875), and Halifax (1875). Adelaide Hoodless, second president of the Hamilton, Ontario, member association of the YWCA, was a key figure in organizing a national YWCA body in 1895.
Women of Distinction are awards given to notable women by about 60% of the local chapters of the YWCA in Canada. In addition to honoring women who have made a significant contribution to their community, the award dinners are one of the most important fundraising events for Canadian YWCAs.
The YWCA in Norway was first established as a small women's group called Friends of Young Women by Sophie Pharo and her four friends in 1886. Through this work, they got in contact with the YWCA in London. On the 30th of January 1887, the Young Women's Christian Association, KFUK, was founded. By 1890, there were 10 YWCA groups in Norway. The Norwegian YWCA worked with Girl Guides and Scouts, and did more social oriented work.
Together with Sweden, USA and Great Britain, Norway founded the World YWCA in 1894.
Now, the YWCA og YMCA in Norway is a joint association, with one organization working with youth and social issues and one with YWCA and YMCA Guides and Scouts.
The YWCA (KFUK) in Denmark was founded the 28th November, 1883 in the city of Vejle by a nurse named Karen Petersen. The association worked for women's right to speak and participate in civic work and the church mission. YWCA was in the forefront on addressing social issues in Denmark, and worked with single mothers, gender-based violence, women shelters and people with mental disabilities. The YWCA had its own educational program for women, and this program became the start of the official study programme of social counselling in Denmark. Now the YWCA and YMCA is a joint association, KFUM og KFUK i Danmark.
Leadership since 1855
|Mrs. J. Herbert Tritton||United Kingdom||1898–1902|
|Mrs. George Campbell||United Kingdom||1902–1906|
|Miss Mary Morley||United Kingdom||1906–1910|
|Mrs. J. Herbert Tritton||United Kingdom||1910–1914|
|The Hon. Mrs. Montague Weldgrave||United Kingdom||1914–1924|
|The Rt. Hon. The Baroness Parmoor||United Kingdom||1924–1928|
|The Hon. Mrs. Montague Weldgrave||United Kingdom||1928–1930|
|Miss C. M. Van Asch Van Wijck||Netherlands||1930–1938|
|Miss Ruth Rouse||United Kingdom||1938–1946|
|Miss C. M. Van Asch Van Wijck||Netherlands||1946–1947|
|Miss Lilace Reid Barnes||USA||1947–1955|
|The Hon. Isabel Catto||United Kingdom||1955–1963|
|Dr. Una B. Porter||Australia||1963–1967|
|Mrs. Athena Athanassiou||Greece||1967–1975|
|Dame Nita Barrow||Barbados||1975–1983|
|Mrs. Ann Northcote||Canada||1983–1987|
|Dr. Jewel Freeman Graham||USA||1987–1991|
|Mrs. Razia Ismail Abbasi||India||1991–1995|
|Mrs. Anita Andersson||Sweden||1995–1999|
|Ms. Jane Lee Wolfe||USA||1999–2003|
|Ms Mónica Zetzsche||Argentina||2003–2007|
|Deborah Thomas-Austin||Trinidad and Tobago||2011–present|
|Miss Annie Reynolds||USA||1894–1904|
|Miss Clarissa Spencer||USA||1904–1920|
|Miss Charlotte T. Niven||USA||1920–1935|
|Miss Ruth Woodsmall||USA||1935–1947|
|Miss Helen Roberts||United Kingdom||1947–1955|
|Miss Elizabeth Palmer||USA||1955–1978|
|Miss Erica Brodie||New Zealand||1978–1982|
|Mrs. Ruth Sovik||USA||1982–1985|
|Miss Ellen Clark (acting)||USA||1985–1986|
|Mrs. Genevieve Jacques (acting)||France||1986–1987|
|Mrs. Elaine Hesse Steel||New Zealand||1987–1997|
|Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro||Kenya||1998–2007|
|Mrs. Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda||Zimbabwe||2007–2016|
|Ms. Malayah Harper||Canada||2016–2019|
|Mrs. Cassey Harden||USA||2019-|
- "Envisioning 2035 Goal – YWCA". www.worldywca.org. Retrieved 2016-07-06.
- advocacy, Retrieved March 2017
- "World YWCA - World YWCA - About us - Strategic directions".
- PRNewswire (21 November 2005). Statement of Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, General Secretary, World YWCA. Press release. Retrieved on 3 August 2006
- "Microsoft Word - 11_22_05 YMCA Partner-2_r.doc" (PDF).
- International Women's Summit: Women's Leadership on HIV and AIDS - Day 2 - Kaisernetwork.org
- Carole Seymour-Jones, Journey of Faith: The History of the World YWCA 1945-1994 (London: Allison & Busby 1994)
- World YWCA Annual Report, 1987-88. (Geneva: World YWCA 1988)
- "World YWCA - World YWCA - Our Priorities - Sustainable development - Development Programmes".
- various (8 December 2016). "Sophia Smith Collection Finding Aid". Sophia smith collection. Smith College. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
- "Welcome to YWCA Canada".
- Margaret Martin, "Susybelle W. Lyons funeral will be held today", The Shreveport Times, August 4, 2007
- "Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA)". mrc-catalogue.warwick.ac.uk. Retrieved 2017-05-30.
- David Doughan; Peter Gordon (24 January 2007). Women, Clubs and Associations in Britain. Routledge. pp. 87–88. ISBN 978-1-134-20437-3.
- Dorothea Browder, A Christian Solution of the Labor Situation: How Workingwomen Reshaped the YWCA's Religious Mission and Politics (Journal of Women’s History, Vol 19, Summer 2007)
- Karen Garner, Global Feminism and Postwar Reconstruction: The World YWCA Visitation to Occupied Japan, 1947 (Journal of World History, Vol. 15, June 2004)
- "YWCA Member Associations list". www.worldywca.org.
- "Change of name, passion the same". Platform51.org. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
- "Platform 51 Centre Closures," Young Women's Trust website (March 31, 2014).
- Rimmer, Abi. "Platform 51 plans to drop its name and transfer most services to The Cyrenians," Third Sector (23 August 2013).
- "Taking part". Platform 51. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
- "Platform 51 - Women's centres". Ywca.org.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
- "YWCA - More than one rung campaign - young women need skills". Morethanonerung.org. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
- "Platform 51 - Young mums". Ywca.org.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
- "Make Child Benefit Count". www.makechildbenefitcount.org. Child Poverty Action Group. Archived from the original on 2009-02-03. Retrieved 2017-12-29.
- "About Us - YWCA Australia". www.ywca.org.au.
- R. G. Tiedemann, Reference Guide to Christian Missionary Societies in China from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century. (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2008), p. 293
- Karen Garner. Precious Fire: Maud Russell and the Chinese Revolution. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003). ISBN 1558494049.
- Emil Honig, "Christianity, Feminism, and Communism," in Daniel H. Bays' Christianity in China from the Eighteenth Century to the Present. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996. ISBN 0804726094), pp. 243-262.
- YWCA of China Continues to Meet the Social Needs of its People World YWCA May 2010.
- Lester, Paul Martin. Visual Communication. California, Thomson Wadsworth, 2006
- "Mission & Vision YWCA USA". www.ywca.org.
- "Our Mission in Action - YWCA USA". www.ywca.org.
- "FAQ - YWCA USA". www.ywca.org.
- "History - Y des femmes de Montréal".
- Sebire, Dawn (1989). A Woman's Place. Hamilton, Ontario. p. 156.
- "Women of Distinction Awards - YWCA USA". www.ywca.org.
- "Women of Distinction Awards - YWCA Metro Vancouver". ywcavan.org.
- Mary S. Sims, The YWCA: An Unfolding Purpose (New York: Woman's Press, 1950)
- Mary S. Sims, The Purpose Widens, 1947-1967 (New York: YWCA, 1969)
- Anna Rice, A History of the World’s Young Women’s Christian Association (New York: Woman's Press 1947)
- Karen Garner, Global Feminism and Postwar Reconstruction: The World YWCA Visitation to Occupied Japan, 1947
- Carole Seymour-Jones, Journey of Faith: The History of the World YWCA 1945-1994 (London: Allison & Busby 1994)
- Dorothea Browder, A Christian Solution of the Labor Situation: How Workingwomen Reshaped the YWCA's Religious Mission and Politics (Journal of Women's History, Vol. 19, Summer 2007)
- List of other YWCA articles
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