The last two years have been a difficult period of time in the history of CFUW and its relationship with GWI (Graduate Women International, formerly IFUW—International Federation of University Women). We have all received a lot of material from National, particularly the information about the Way Forward, and Club’s and individual’s responses to that presentation. To summarize, there began to be hints that CFUW was very critical of GWI around the time of the name change from IFUW to GWI. There were disagreements about the management of the name change, concerns about governance and finances, tensions between the presidents of the two organizations, and finally a motion by the St. Thomas Club to leave GWI, voted on at the AGM in St. Catharines last June. The discussion at the AGM was heated, and the motion failed to meet the 2/3 majority necessary to pass, receiving 55% of the votes. While this has retained CFUW’s membership in GWI, it reveals CFUW as a very divided organization. At the GWI Triennial in South Africa in August, there was a motion to increase the dues paid by NFA’S (National Federations and Associations), and this passed, CFUW voting in favour of the motion. However, by December, Geeta Desai, GWI President issued a statement that the dues increase would be rolled back because so many NFA’s were unable to meet that expectation. A week or two later, it was clarified that the board could not undo a decision made at the triennial, and this would just be a deferment of the increase in dues. In the meantime, the CFUW board appears to have been as divided as the membership, and as a result, Karen Dunnett, the new president resigned, along with VP Advocacy, Brenda Robertson, and Grace Hollett was appointed President. Clubs and individuals across the country have responded to the “Way Forward” material, and show that the split is extensive and the main issues are finances, GWI membership, and board structure and management.
We as a Club need to direct our representative at the National AGM on how to vote on the dues increase to cover the GWI increase.
Is the increase JUST?
Since 2004, CFUW has raised the National dues five times, almost doubling the amount—-from $37 to $70 today. The portion of National dues that was paid to GWI remained stable during the same timeframe at about $13-$15 until the Swiss franc was allowed to float, and then the portion in 2015-2016 became $21 because of the exchange rate with the Canadian dollar. In the same time period, 2004 to the present, GWI/IFUW has not had any increase in dues. They are struggling financially at this time, and it is not surprising, given the reality of dealing with inflation and no change in income.
Is it REASONABLE?
When compared with other organizations that have an international connection, the amount paid with the increase, by CFUW to GWI is still very low. Our Club dues are lower than Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis, and Zonta and the proportion of our dues going to the international level of the organization is a fraction (half or less) of the levels of the other groups. Keeping that perspective, it is far from unreasonable to increase the CFUW dues to cover the GWI increase. There is also a question about whether CFUW might do well to get the National budget under control—-there are clear areas which could be managed better, and would reduce the size of the increase to cover the GWI dues.
Is it MORAL?
We, as members of one of the most affluent, secure, and developed countries in the world have an obligation to look beyond our borders and support resources for women in countries that are struggling with economic and social challenges. We are the largest member of GWI, and a decision to undermine that organization by not paying the full fees or by withdrawing altogether will have a huge impact on its survival, and potentially on the wellbeing of other NFA’s. Geeta Desai’s response to the question on that impact was:
“ If CFUW were no longer a member, we would have to rework income and expenditures. And, our volunteers (Board and committees) would have to exponentially increase the number of hours that they commit to working for GWI as would the remaining staff . However, for us, the implications of losing CFUW as a member of GWI transcends the budget issue. It means losing the leadership of women who bring a unique point of view that is a balance of compassion, dedication to women’s rights and clear-eyed common sense. In the wake of disengagement in world affairs by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and its choice to concentrate on its domestic agenda, we believe that that the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) was that uplifting presence that affirmed to the rest of the NGOs that the only way to advance the right to universal access to education for women and girls to the highest level was to look beyond country borders. That the collective power of women around the world could change the world. Losing this unique point of view would be the real tragedy.”
In a world that is increasingly destabilized, where women are vulnerable, and education is crucial, we cannot choose to be insular and isolationist. While some say that CFUW, having consultative status with the UN, can be just as effective independent of GWI, it does make a difference to have an international organization advocating on issues vital to women, and especially to be doing it jointly with women around the world, on an equal footing, rather than on their behalf. There is a significant difference between speaking WITH women from other countries and speaking FOR them from a Canadian perspective without formal opportunities for collaboration or any accountability for representation.
Is it VIABLE?
The board is clearly wrestling with the survivability of CFUW if dues are raised. We already know that the dues for our Club are below those charged by comparable organizations. When the amounts payable to GWI by CFUW are listed in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, we all blanch. However, we are looking at a total increase of $26 per person. That is fifty cents a week—-half an hour parking downtown. It’s a lunch out for two; it’s a new book; a coffee at Timmy’s once a month; it’s manageable for virtually all of us. The Advocacy Committee moves that CFUW Stratford vote against the motion to leave GWI. The Advocacy Committee moves that CFUW Stratford votes in favour of increases up to $26 to meet the GWI dues increase.
Resolution to withdraw from GWI
2016 Proposed Amendments to CFUW Articles and Bylaws
Motion 2: Withdrawal of CFUW from Graduate Women International (GWI) formerly known as International Federation of University Women (IFUW) as a National Federation or Association (NFA) member
Proposer: CFUW St. Thomas
Moved that: In Canadian Federation of University Women Articles and Bylaws – Articles, strike out Article 4 – Membership in International Federation of University Women (IFUW)