Wow, what an experience! I have just returned from my first Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) Triennial Conference in Chennai, India. CWA of NSW is one of over 460 member societies of ACWW, which represents over 9 million women in more than 70 countries worldwide.
One of the highlights of the conference was to see one of my own branch members, Ruth Shanks AM, be elected as the World President of ACWW. Ruth is inspiration to many, she is a past state president, secretary and international officer of CWA of NSW. In the past 6 years as South Pacific Area President of ACWW Ruth has worked alongside grassroots members in societies like CWA in both the developed and developing countries of the South Pacific. She has encouraged those of us in the wealthier nations to help our sisters who do not have as much, and encouraging women in those countries to take the opportunities that arise to make things better for themselves, their families and their communities.
I love that in CWA I can be part of something to bring about change in Australia but I can also contribute to helping women in other countries make their lot better too. Whether it’s to help provide safe drinking water or to provide seed finance for an income generating project. So often what are only small amounts to us (a couple of thousand dollars) can result in amazing change in other countries, and because it is women’s groups helping women’s groups they can be done without the overheads that some NGOs have.
At the conference each of the nine ACWW Area Presidents made a presentation about what the societies in their area have been doing for the past 3 years. There were also reports from each of the ACWW Committee Chairman – Projects, United Nations, Promotions & Publications, and Agriculture. It was great to hear what we as a worldwide organisation have been achieving.
A number of resolutions were also discussed and passed, these covered such topics as:
- encouraging maternal health education,
- registration of all births without prejudice,
- putting a stop to female genital mutilation,
- improving the situation of victims of violence,
- banning the use of Bisphenol A
- acting on UN Security Council resolution 1325, regarding women & children in conflicts.
As these have now been passed, our organisations can now approach our government regarding these issues, not just as CWA of NSW but as part of 9 million women worldwide. We can ask our government to encourage other governments to be working on these issues too.
We were treated to numerous musical and dance performance from both school children and professional entertainers, in amazing costumes. The host society of the conference provided us with lunch and dinner each day, allowing us to taste some wonderful Indian dishes, while also providing for the tastes of those who “don’t like spicy”. There was a tour day, where we each visited one of 15 villages and were hosted by the women of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate in these villages. We were welcomed like royalty and treated to more entertainment.
There were almost 350 women at the conference, we were all from different countries, different races, different languages, different social backgrounds, different life experiences. There was a princess, a queen mother, villagers from the highlands of New Guinea, farmer’s wives from outback NSW, but at ACWW we are all women working together. The unofficial song of ACWW is “A Song of Peace” which includes “but other hearts in other lands are beating, with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine”, despite our many differences there are many things that we all want that are the same.
Ruth is now the World President, which is amazing, but I know there won’t be any pretence or airs and graces. She is still our Ruth from Dubbo. She is a mother, a grandmother, quilter, and lawn bowler. She is a woman who cares about other women be they next door or on the other side of the world, as she said in her first address “nobody can help everybody, but everybody can help somebody”.
Ruth has helped me see how I can help the world, I’m proud to share her name as well as her town.
Ruth Cargill (The other Ruth from Dubbo Evening CWA of NSW)