When I joined CFUW eight years ago, I was interested in the speaker topics, and doing something good for the community. I had no idea I was also a member of an international organization until we were asked to vote to change its name from International Federation of University Women (IFUW) to Graduate Women International (GWI) because it was felt that the new name better described the membership globally. I had no idea what it did, and I suspect many of you also had, and have, questions.
First, a bit of history. IFUW was formed in 1919 by a group of women from Canada, the USA and Great Britain who met in Great Britain (paying their own way) with the intent to pro-mote international peace after WWI.
These idealistic women realized that international problems required international solutions and when the Canadians returned home, they formed CFUW and included in the Constitution that CFUW shall belong to IFUW (now GWI). They also realized that an important way to promote world peace is to educate women so they can participate in society. (I heard this said over and over in speeches at UN meetings I attended in New York last March! For example, “Treaties work better and last longer when women are involved,” and “Peace without women involved is impossible.”) In 1948, IFUW was granted Observer Status in all organizations of the UN and offered consultative status in the Economic and Social Council, (ECOSOC) and the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It recently got permission to send out its material as part of the Women’s UN Report Network (WUNRN) ListServe.
Now to what GWI does. It advocates for women’s rights, equality and empowerment by promoting and encouraging access to post grade school education and training. It has national affiliates, i.e. National Foundations and Associations (NFAs) in over 60 countries and individual members in over 40 other countries. It organizes events and presents statements on women’s issues at UN council meetings in New York, Geneva (its head office), Paris and Vienna, eg. UNESCO, ECOSOC, and the Human Rights Council (in Geneva). It is the voice of many members of the developing world who do not have a voice in their own country, either because women are suppressed, or that the government is a dictatorship. But, GWI cannot go on without the continuation of CFUW’s financial commitment.
An issue that your Executive will be discussing in the coming months is that of our yearly dues. Our Canadian Clubs have been notified that starting in May 2019, the national and international part of our dues will need to be increased by $11/member, (about $8 of which is for GWI). This means finding about $2700 more in our club budget. (Charitable funds cannot be used.) I am hoping we do not have to raise our membership fees, and that the funds can come from savings or a club fundraiser. We’re open to suggestions. If the CFUW National Executive decides to terminate our GWI membership by not paying the in-creased dues, GWI will not have the funds to continue to operate.
CFUW National has a VP for International Relations who expresses our concerns to the world and puts pressure on our government to promote the equality of women globally. But the heart breaking stories I heard at the UN Commission on the Status of Women tells me you can’t have too many advocates for women worldwide. Two organizations, GWI and CFUW, can make a bigger difference in supporting women inter-nationally than just one.