The 27th Triennial Conference of the Associated Country Women of the World was hosted by the Conference Hostess Society: Daughters of Mary Immaculate (DMI), Chennai, in the Chennai Trade Centre Complex from the 26th September to 2nd October 2013. The Chennai Trade Centre is located in a prime spot in the Chennai metro at Nandambakkam, 5 kilometres from the International Airport, and close to St. Thomas Mount where St. Thomas, the direct Apostle of Jesus Christ, was martyred. Chennai, the gateway of South India, formerly known as Madras, is the capital city of Tamil Nadu State and is the fourth largest metro city in India with more than 18 million residents.


This Conference is very significant as it was only the third ACWW Triennial Conference to be held in a developing country. The first ever was the 8th Triennial Conference held in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, in 1957. The Triennial Conference is the highest decision making body of ACWW and the conference days involved the election of the incoming Board, selection of Committee members, discussion and voting on Resolutions and Recommendations proposed by member societies, a tour day to different farms and educational workshops!


The Conference theme was Empowering women worldwide – encourage, educate, enrich. The opening ceremony with the entrance of the Official Party and presentation of the flags was stunning! Everything was very colorful with many members in beautiful saris. Conference was welcomed by the Chairman of the Hostess Society: DMI, Rev. Fr. J.E. Arul Raj, and the Area President of Central and South Asia, Sr. S. Vijilidali, DMI.  Mrs May Kidd, ACWW World President, welcomed all the guests of honour, the Board members and delegates by saying that the warmth of the Indian sun is similar to the warm welcome by the DMI.


The guest of honour, Prof. V. Saraswathi, who is an activist for women’s rights, addressed Conference about women, human rights and women in conflict. She gave us a picture of the importance of bringing such issues up. It is about sisterhood – it is about solidarity. She wanted a world free of wars, because women want a life free of violence and women need peace and humanity. Poverty brings a lot of suffering to women.  Suffering of women must come to an end and she wanted us to fight all over the world for human rights, because women don’t want to be better than men, but only want equal basic human rights.


Apart from the programme of workshops, tours and conference business, there was a competition. The competition was to make a re-usable shopping bag out of recycled material. It could be made in any medium. This competition ties in with ACWW’s Agriculture Committee’s commitment to promote the use of re-usable shopping bags, to stop the use of plastic bags and reduce the use of packaging. The bags were displayed at the Conference, where there was a people’s choice and a silent auction. The money raised would go towards ACWW’s Pennies for Friendship. Hamimah Abdul Karim (Malaysia) bought CWAA’s bag made by Mrs Martie Beneke, Goodwood Branch, Tygerberg Circle. 


As an initiative from ACWW’s Area Presidents, it had been suggested that ACWW members who went to the 2013 Triennial Conference, took reading books in the English language with them in their luggage. English is taught in Chennai as a second language. Members were also asked to take a small pack of new school supplies for children, age 4 – 14, such as notebooks, pencils, erasers, biros and rulers. Some of the children work for part of the day in a quarry and attend school afterwards; such is their desire for learning. The second United Nations Millennium Development Goal states that every child, girls and boys alike, throughout the world is entitled to a primary education. ACWW can help achieve this goal through the simple gesture outlined above. Reading is the foundation of any education and books play a vital role in the educational development of all children.


ACWW’s Finance Committee organised a ‘Worldwide Bring & Buy Sale’ to raise funds. Small, light crafts, souvenirs, scarves and costume jewelry that other delegates from around the world would appreciate were requested. The funds raised would go to the ACWW’s Pennies for Friendship Fund. Thank you for your donations of small crafts, souvenirs, scarves and costume jewelry.


Mahatma Gandhi, who led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women’s rights, led India to independence and inspired movements of civil rights and freedom across the world, was asked one day whether he was a Hindu. He answered: “Yes, I am. I am also a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist and a Jew.” In the spirit of Gandhi’s words the Interfaith Service was a mix of prayers, hymns, songs and readings drawn from several faiths and Conference delegates shared it together.



The 6 Specified Committees:

The Agriculture Committee monitored issues relating to women in agriculture or food production and considered the importance of water throughout the world. It also launched the ‘Grow Locally, Benefit Globally’ vegetable garden campaign.


The Finance Committee reviewed sources of income, monitored expenditure and maintained reserves to ensure the viability of the Organisation.


The Projects Committee considered applications to the three Trust Funds: Lady Aberdeen Scholarship Fund, Elsie Zimmerman Memorial Fund and the Nutrition Education Fund. The Committee considered which of the many applications should be funded and reviewed the progress of those that had been. The Committee only considered applications that met one of the seven criteria listed: Literacy, Health and Education, Nutrition, Agricultural Development, Income Generation, Water and Sanitation and Community Involvement.


The Promotion and Publications Committee oversaw the publication of the Countrywoman magazine, the various leaflets and the content of the website. The Committee successfully delivered a new fundraising event for ACWW from 2012 onwards – Women Walk the World.


The Triennial Conference Committee co-ordinated arrangements for the 27th Triennial Confe-rence in conjunction with the Hostess Society DMI, India.


The United Nations Committee managed its involvement with the various UN bodies/- agencies with whom ACWW has consultative status – ECOSOC, UNESCO, UNIFEC, CONGO. It also communicated with and received reports from ACWW UN representatives who worked industriously on ACWW behalf in the UN centres.


Resolutions deal with the Constitution and General Policy of ACWW as well as international issues and are mandates which must be worked on if passed by the appropriate majority. They should be of international importance and capable of implementation.


Urgency Resolutions: In the case of matters of urgency of an unforeseen nature, Conference may agree by a two-thirds majority to recommend that such Urgency Resolutions be considered by the Conference. (Urgency is defined as a subject which has arisen since the closing date for receipt of Resolutions and Recommendations.)




Maternal Health:

“Be it resolved that ACWW Member Societies urge their governments to provide a well trained and resourced quality maternity health service and to improve maternal health education for all women and girls to ensure the best outcomes for mother and baby, giving particular regard to the special needs and isolation of rural women”.


Pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death and disability in developing countries, with at least 358,000 women and girls dying every year. The lack of essential maternal health services and maternal health education contributes to the high level of neonatal morbidity and maternal death, disease and disability. The majority of maternal deaths and injuries are avoidable when women have access to health care before, during and after childbirth. This resolution seeks to support the Millennium Development Goals 4 (Reduce Child Mortality) and 5 (Improve Maternal Health), and will also contribute positively towards Goal 6 ( Combat HIV/Aids). 


Proposed by: Kerry Maw, Rural Women, New Zealand.

Seconded by:  Gail Commens, Country Women’s Association of New South Wales, Australia.


Stop use of Bisphenol A:

“Be it resolved that ACWW and its member organisations strongly urge their governments to banish the use of the hazardous chemical Bisphenol A (BPA).  This chemical is the main building block of polycarbonate plastics and is used in many consumer products and household goods, such as food and drink containers, plastic baby bottles, medical devices, sports equipment and toys.  The chemical components are dissolved and leach into their contents, poisoning our bodies and damaging our health.” 


Millions of tons of polycarbonate plastics containing BPA are produced each year, not only polluting our environment, killing birds, but also poisoning human beings, especially small children and babies. The chemical molecules are endocrine disruptors as they mimic estrogen, causing early breast development in girls, genital deformation, and impaired fertility later in life. The use of this chemical is not necessary as there are good substitutes. In Europe, members of the European Parliament were informed about the dangers of BPA in baby bottles, were asked to put BPA on the REACH list of hazardous chemicals. In Canada and the USA, awareness of the danger of this chemical in baby bottles is resulting in pressure on manufacturers and retailers to remove them and other baby producers from their shelves.


BPA has been on the market since 1981. Research shows that this chemical has been shown to migrate; especially if the material is scratched, heated or comes into contact with warm liquids. These chemicals enter our bodies causing hormonal change – increases in breast cancer, bringing about early breast development in girls, affecting babies in the womb, contributing to heart disease, diabetes and liver disease and interfere with cancer fighting drugs. 


Proposed by:  Susan Watkins, European Area Conference, Dublin (2011).

Seconded by:  Ruth Shanks, Country Women’s Association of New South Wales, Australia.



Registration of Births:

“Be it resolved that ACWW member societies urge their governments to record without prejudice the births of all children born within their jurisdiction to ensure that all children are recognised as citizens.” 


According the World Health Organisation, approximately 40% (48 million of the 128 million births) go unregistered each year, 2/3 of deaths each year go unrecorded, and only 31/193 states provide reliable statistics. All of these statistics have serious secondary effects on the country to provide schooling, health care, emergency preparedness and other communal efforts. To improve, a good system of recording births is an important start.


Birth registration is critical to future interventions: Birth registration is at the core of UNICEF’s concerns as it represents the starting point for the recognition and protection of every child’s fundamental right to identity and existence. It refers to the permanent and official recording of a child’s existence by some administrative levels of the state that is normally coordinated by a particular branch of the government. Children whose births are unregistered may not be able to claim the services and protections due to them on a full and equal basis with other children. Birth registration is crucial in the implementation of national policies and legislation establishing minimum ages for work, conscription and marriage. During emergencies, birth registration provides a basis for tracing separated and unaccompanied children.


A name and nationality are human rights: Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of a Child gives every child the right to be registered at birth by the state within whose jurisdiction the child is born. This means that states must make birth registration accessible and available to all children including asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants. Drawing from the right to a name and nationality contained in Article 7, the United Nations General Assembly resolution of 11 October 2002 ‘A World Fit for Children’ (A/RES/S-27/2) reaffirms government’s commitment to ensure the birth registration of all children and to invest in educating and protecting children from harm and exploitation. During the 1990’s there was growing awareness of the importance of prompt birth registration as an essential means of protecting a child’s right to identity, as well as respect for other children’s rights. The lack of a birth certificate may prevent a child from receiving health care, nutritional supplements and social assistance and from being enrolled in school. Later in childhood, identity documents help protect children against early marriage, child labour, premature enlistment in the armed forces or, if accused of a crime, prosecution as an adult. 


Conclusion: While the world bodies including the UN General Assembly, World Health Organisation and UNICEF all support the concept of recording all births, it is important that all governments be reminded that this be done. Therefore we encourage each ACWW member society to learn about registration systems in their own countries and work with their governments to ensure that all births are recorded. 


Proposed by: Jill Copes, British Colombia Women’s Institute, Canada.

Seconded by:  Gerd Louise Molvig, Norges Bygdekvinnelag, Norway.



Stop the Practice of Female Genital Mutilation:

“Be it resolved that ACWW calls on all people worldwide to stop the practice of female genital mutilation, female circumcision and cutting which endangers the health and life of young girls.”


ACWW are in a position to use their influence to end this practice of violence against young girls. It is an issue that affects around 3 million girls each year, which amounts to one every 10 seconds. Of those, around 10% will die due to infection, blood loss and trauma in the immediate period and many more due to obstructed labour. The stillbirth rate is also vastly increased. Those that do not die immediately will be left in pain when walking and especially after marriage when the husband has intercourse (and it may be necessary for him to cut her in the first instance to enable penetration). This is mainly a problem of sub-Saharan Africa but also for the relevant immigrant communities in Western Countries. For example, it is undertaken on 3 500 UK citizens every year.


It is practiced in 28 countries in Africa, some e.g. Somalia over 97%, and in others to a lesser extent. Senegal has made huge strides in eliminating the practice but the rate is still 28% (dropped from 30% – 25% for younger girls). It is done to promote cultural identity and preserve virginity, chastity and family honour and thereby improve marriage prospects. It is a traditional practice dating back to around the second century BC in pre-Christianity and Islam. The religious leaders of both communities have condemned the practice, denying that it has any authority in either religion. It is thought to have Egyptian or Sudanese origins and the many myths surrounding the practice are passed on orally. It is a purely cultural practice but cultural practices can be changed, the best known example probably being that of the practice of the binding of the feet of Chinese baby girls that was eliminated in less than 1 generation. 


Proposed by: Anitra Lockwood, Devon Federation of Women’s Institutes, England.

Seconded by: Anne Marie Dennison, Irish Countrywomen’s Association, Ireland.


Stop Violence against Women and Girls:

“ACWW urges all member societies to focus strongly on the situation of girls and women who are victims of different forms of violence.”


ACWW has consultative status with several different UN bodies and close ties with the UN system through its representatives at UN Centre’s. Grounded in the vision of equality enshrined in the UN Charter, UN Women, among other issues, work for the elimination of discrimination against girls and women. The Norwegian Society of Rural Women strongly encourages ACWW to influence the UN to work globally towards a world without violence against girls and women.


All forms of violence against girls and women are violations of the most fundamental human rights. In the Platform for Action (1995), the core document of the Beijing Conference, Governments declared that “violence against women constitutes a violation of basic human rights and is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace”. Violence affects the lives of millions of women worldwide, in all socio-economic and educational classes. It cuts across cultural and religious barriers and is impeding the right of women to participate fully in society. Violence against women takes a dismaying variety of forms, from domestic abuse and rape to child marriages and female circumcision. Violence against girls and women is often used as a weapon during wars, and wars often happen in rural areas, rural females are particularly targeted as a tactic of war. Young girls are sexually and physically abused and in most cases made into combatants, “wives” or “camp slaves”. 


Gender equality and the empowerment of women are gaining ground worldwide. More girls are going to school and are growing up healthier and better equipped to realize their potential. Despite this momentum, there is still a long way to go before women and girls can be said to enjoy the fundamental rights, freedom and dignity that are their birthright and that will guarantee their well- being.


Men and boys must be encouraged to be leaders against this discrimination, as they also benefit when girls and women are free and equal. 


Proposed by: Gerd Louise Molvig, Norges Bygdekvinnelag, Norway.

Seconded by: Kyrene Beames, Hampshire Federation of Women’s Institutes.



Women as Victims of Conflict:

“Be it resolved that the Associated Country Women of the World and its member organisations urge their governments to act, not only adopt, the UN Security Council Resolution 1325.” 


The European Area Conference in Dublin 2011 approved a Resolution on “Women – victims of conflict”. There were 140 delegates at the Conference in 2011, 6 of them abstained. 


In 1995, the ACWW Triennial Conference approved a Resolution about women and children in wartorn areas. This was a way to put pressure on UN and its member nations to take the situation of women and girl children in armed conflicts seriously. On 31st of October 2000, the UN Security Council resolution 1325 was approved. All UN member nations; 192, have approved this Resolution. After this UN Security Council approved four follow-up Resolutions.

1820 in June 2008

1888 in September 2009

1889 in October 2009

1960 in December 2010 


Still violence, rape and sexual abuse of women and children are well known as a strategy in armed conflict. For weeks, we were informed through the media about the situation for women and girl children in conflict. The increasing number of countries in armed conflict shows that the issue of violence against women in conflict should be high on the political agenda. It is also known as a problem for women and children escaping from conflicts. All governments must ensure that their soldiers and other staff work within the spirit of UNSCR 1325.


At the opening of this Conference, Professor Saraswathi addressed us about women, human rights and women in conflict. She gave us a picture of the importance of bringing such issues up. We at Conference were representatives for about 9 million women worldwide. That make ACWW a strong voice. Let us use this power and again speak loud. If the UN resolutions should be of any use, they must be put into action – not only adopted. We do not need “sleeping” resolutions. 


When peace building processes go on, these processes are mostly run by men. Women represent about half of the world’s population. Often women have different ways to look into problems and questions. UNSCR resolutions give women full and equal access as part in the peace building process. However, still in most of these processes it is mostly, if not only, men! Have any of you seen peace documents signed by women? 


ACWW is one of the largest women’s organisations in the world. ACWW have consultative status to the UN. Women and girl children in conflict needs action and they need it now!


Proposed by: Elisabeth Rusdal, Norges Kvinne-og familieforbund (The Norwegian Women and Family Associations).

Seconded by: Henrietta Schoeman, South African Women’s Agricultural Union.


ACWW Constitution:

“Request permission to set up an ad-hoc committee to review the ACWW Constitution to ensure that it meets all of the requirements of the Charities Commission of England and Wales, and make any other changes required to bring the document up to date and bring the changes to be voted on at the 2016 Conference”. 


Proposed by: Jennifer Mitchell, Country Women’s Association of New South Wales, Australia. Seconded by: Lesley Young, Country Women’s Association of Tasmania, Australia.


ACWW Legal Structure:

 “Oxfordshire FWI proposes that the Board (2013 – 2016) have the power to look at the legal structure of ACWW with a view to:

• making ACWW a legal entity in its own right and

• limiting the legal liability of Trustees and

• to prepare a new structure for ratification at the 2016 Conference” 


Proposed by: Ros Cooper, Oxfordshire Federation of Women’s Institutes, England .

Seconded by: Kyrene Beames, Hampshire Federation of Women’s Institutes, England.  



E-Waste Recycling & Disposal:

“In view of the ever increasing use of electronics that pollute the environment, the members of ACWW are urged to do all they can to ensure e-waste is recycled and disposed of safely and responsibly to prevent further damage to the environment.” 


Due to ongoing technological advancement, many electronic products become obsolete within a very short period of time, creating a large surplus of unwanted electronic products, or ‘e-waste’. E-waste contains a very large amount of lead and other heavy metals that are a threat to the environment, water resources, and health. Lead is a known neurotoxin, which can cause infertility, birth defects, brain damage and even death. The lead and heavy metal content in e- waste makes it difficult to recycle and as a result many companies ship it to undeveloped nations or throw it directly into land fill.  


The United Nations Division for Sustainable Development has many major agreements and conventions covering e-waste. ACWW member societies can urge their governments to take immediate preventative and remedial action and member societies can make a study of, and call the attention of their governments to the importance of prohibiting the disposal of e-waste in landfills. ACWW member societies can be advocates for undeveloped countries to ensure that e- waste is not indiscriminately disposed of in those countries. ACWW member societies can also carry out practical action programmes to educate and encourage consumers in the safe and responsible disposal and recycling of electronic and e-waste. 


Proposed by: Bonnie Teeples, National Association for Family and Community Education, USA. Seconded by: Jean Purich, Maryland Association for Family & Community Education, USA.




• Ruth Shanks, AM   – World President (Chair)     

• Margaret Yetman   – Deputy President  

• Alison Burnett   – Treasurer   

• Henrietta Schoeman  – Secretary   


9 AREA PRESIDENTS           

• Njugabui Njeazeh Angela  –  Africa East, West & Central    

• Maybel Moyo   – Africa Southern   

• Prof. Momtaz Begum  – Asia Central and South Asia   

• HRH Princess Azizah Iskandar   –  Asia South East & Far East

• Dotsie Gordon – Caribbean, Central & South America  

• Sheila Needham   – Canada   

• Valerie Stevens   – Europe   

• Margaret Sullivan   – South Pacific  

• Beverly Earnhart   – United States of America   



• Anne Marit Hovstad   – Projects

• Sharon Hatten   – United Nations  

• Magdie De Kock   – Promotion and Publications


I thank you for the wonderful privilege to attend the ACWW Conference on behalf of CWAA.


Erika Lubbe