Raise Your Hand

The State Executive Committee of CWA of NSW were recently in Sydney for our quarterly meeting and although December and January, in particular, are traditionally quiet months there are some very exciting times ahead for our organisation and so there was much to discuss, debate and decide.r0_24_470_288_w1200_h678_fmax[1]

The most important decision from the meeting was that we become a supporter of White Ribbon Australia, an action that sits intrinsically within the aims of our Association and one which endorses the resolution of the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) of which we are a member society. ACWW is active in over 70 countries and has consultative status with several different UN bodies and close ties with the UN system through its representatives at UN Centres. The resolution reads “ACWW urges all member societies to focus strongly on the situation of girls and women who are victims of different forms of violence.”

As a starting point we will host an information session on domestic violence at our Annual Conference which is to be held in Tamworth this year. We will also be looking at other ways we might be able to raise awareness through our networks.

Statistics show that one in three women will experience domestic violence, so it stands to reason that over the 93 year history of CWA NSW there would be members who have either been victims of domestic violence or tried to support friends and or family going through the ordeal; with limited knowledge of where to turn for support and information and the constant fear of the possible consequences of overt action.

For years this silent torture has been perpetrated around us, in every part of our society, but our instincts are to “judge a book by its cover” and “mind our own business”. It is only now that our new Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, has been brave enough to take on and create change in ‘the system’ that we can truly begin to comprehend the extent of the problem.

The challenge to creating real change is ensuring the silent majority become vocal and active participants in the solution; we’ve raised our hand, will you?RaisedHands[1]

Country Women Worldwide – by Guest Blogger Ruth Cargill

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Opening Ceremony of the 27th Triennial ACWW Conference

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.

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Newly elected World President, Ruth Shanks AM with members of the hosting association – Daughters of Mary Immaculate.

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.

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Ruth Cargill with local villagers

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)


Looking Abroad

Hand dressed dolls in traditional Moroccan costume

Hand dressed dolls in traditional Timor Leste costume – the 2012 Country of Study

World War 2 undoubtedly made Australians more aware of world events and our relationship with the rest of the world, creating a curiosity about other countries. Within the CWA this was reflected by the creation of a State International Officer in 1941. Miss M. E. Payne was responsible for the CWA of NSW linking with the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) and the creation and organisation of an International Day based upon the study of another country and its culture.

1942 saw not only the celebration of the Chinese fighting off the Japanese aggressor but a strong focus on their history, costumes and cooking. In 1943, a time when the Roosevelts were revered in an almost royal fashion, naturally the United Sates were studied with branches celebrating with cocktails (non-alcoholic of course!) coleslaw and boiled corn. Next in 1944 was Britain, another natural selection based upon royalty, Christianity and democracy. It was not until 1945 that the CWA looked further afield with Brazil being studied, a country with a Fascist regime, poverty and oppression. These aspects did not dampen the enthusiasm of members for coffee drinking and Brazilian arts and crafts.

In 1947, several members attended as delegates to the ACWW world conference in Amsterdam, one of whom a Mrs Beveridge took a detour via Buckingham Palace to present Princess Elizabeth with a piece of hand-woven tweed for her 21st birthday.

Our celebrations now extend even further than a ‘day of’. Each of the 30 groups throughout the state are encouraged to enter International Competitions, whether it be a needlecraft with the theme taken from the country being studied, or hand dressing a doll in traditional costume, with even underwear being judged. Got to get that right! There is also a competition for schools to enter a book on the country by liaising with their local branch so children can be involved.

Now in 2013 our curiosity about the world remains strong – Morocco is our Country of Study, with members’ international days consisting of fashion shows highlighting traditional dress, shared feasts of Berber cuisine and guest speakers who have visited or are a specialist in a specific Moroccan area.

We are also still part of the ACWW with members and delegates currently in India for the 27th Triennial conference. This way members here in NSW forge links, exchange ideas and gain awareness of other rural societies from all over the world – something I believe Miss M. E. Payne would be very proud of.