FAWCO Biennial Conference: The Eternal Woman—Equality, Protection, Empowerment
Rome, March 25–28, 2015
by Carol Strametz
Human rights for women was the recurring theme embedded in the conference program that covered all aspects of FAWCO—global issues, US issues, member clubs, and philanthropy. All the keynote speakers, a panel discussion and some of the sessions focused on human rights for women. This was in support of the FAWCO Target Program 2013-2016: Human Rights for Women—Protecting the Rights and Improving the Lives of Women and Girls Worldwide. In her opening speech Conference Chair Shannon McCarthy quoted Claire Boothe Luce, who founded the American Women's Association of Rome (AWAR) and whose photo was on the podium throughout the conference: "The success of any community is gauged by the role the women play in it". Shannon went on to state "We can all be proud as we work to strengthen the role of women, ensure their rights and advocate for equality, protection and empowerment. By doing this we are putting these words into action". The four days of the biennial conference left the delegates better informed, focused, and motivated to get involved in "something that makes a difference … that gives a voice to the voiceless" (Cindy McCain).
It was exciting to be one of the 140 FAWCO women attending the conference. The energy, enthusiasm, dedication and commitment of the 140 attendees was contagious. FAWCO has a long list of accomplishments. How are they achieved? Committed women laid the ground work of this organization and a stream of committed women keep it up-to-date and relevant. We are all FAWCO and we can all join in and contribute actively to FAWCO and its goals!
The organization of the conference by AWAR deserves kudos and congratulations! Sincere thanks to Conference Chair Shannon McCarthy (President AWAR), Conference Co-Chair Anna Carlson (FAWCO Representative AWAR) and all the enthusiastic volunteers of AWAR that made this conference so successful and enjoyable! The program, meeting rooms, keynote speakers, panel discussion, the club member events, and pre-conference tours were impressive and all well-chosen. The member events featured the themes "Excavating Ancient Sites", Goddesses, Virgins, Wives and Citizens" and "Eternal Fashion: An Italian Perspective 1945-Present"; the tours were to the Presidential Palace and Ostia Antica.
The evening events were spectacular. Opening night at the Residenza di Ripetta featured a meet and greet, a sit-down dinner, and a performance of the sketch "The Eternal Woman Goddesses" by members of AWAR. The following night we went to the Taverna de' Mercanti in Trastevere, which was the right location to enjoy the medieval atmosphere of Rome over authentic Roman food while connecting to each other at endlessly long tables. The post conference evening took us to the center of Rome to the private 18th century palace, Nuova Circolo degli Scacchi. We were all awed by the interior, the waiters in 19th century uniforms, and the intimate ambience.
FAWCO has 64 member clubs in 33 countries with 12,000 members.
My-Linh Kunst, outgoing President, gave a clear picture of what FAWCO is about in her closing remarks. FAWCO mobilizes us through the "power of the collective". "By spending time together, by structuring our hopes and thoughts, and giving them a voice, FAWCO unlocks a gate to our collective future. Individually we are pinpoints of light, intense but lonely; individually, we might be determined, but remain challenged. Individually we can be vocal, but are often silenced by the noise of the gender-unequal world. The outlook changes when we work together, when we respect our similarities and differences; recognize our strength and weaknesses, honor our varied individual passions, and build on the highs and lows of our experiences—we become a collective strength that cannot be ignored …. Through FAWCO your and your club’s voices carry far and wide. Through FAWCO your hands are joined with others around the globe. Through FAWCO you stand on the world stage and your calls echo far and wide … FAWCO is being heard. We are not yet a roar, but neither are we a whisper … I believe in FAWCO. I believe in us: women who work to support and promote other women, women who resourcefully work through challenges, women who refuse to be victims, women who never say 'I can't', women who go beyond borders —to follow our passion and leave our footprints in the sand."
She started and ended with a quote for us from Eleanor Roosevelt: "You must do the thing you think that you cannot do."
The minutes of the General Meetings and the Annual Report 2014 can be found here. FAWCO Representative Awards were presented to Leslie Collingridge (Chilterns AWC), Amanda Drollinger (AWC of Central Scotland), Kirstin Haanaes (AWC Oslo), Therese Hartwell (AW Eastern Province) and Hope Moore (Munich IWC).
FAWCO Resolutions 2015–2017
To read the recommendations for the practical implementation of these resolutions, click here.
FAWCO and the UN
Laurie Richardson brought us up-to-date in the "FAWCO and the UN" session. FAWCO is an non-governmental organization (NGO) with consultative status to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (UN). FAWCO's UN involvement gives us a voice at an international level on global women’s issues in areas of education, environment, health and human rights. There has been an increased focus by FAWCO at the UN with representatives on the boards of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women (CSW) in Geneva and Vienna and with the Chair of the Advocacy Committee of the Working Group on Girls in New York. The next generation is being engaged through three Youth Program modules—Youth Ambassador, UN Youth Rep and Youth Cultural Volunteers.
The Beijing+20 Forum looked back on the Beijing 4th World Conference on Women in 1995. The Committee on the Status of Women (CSW) was asked to review and appraise the progress women have made in the past 20 years—since Hillary Clinton’s spot-on speech in Beijing "Let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all“—and look with a critical eye at the long list of needs for women and girls around the world. Seventeen FAWCO women attended the two-day forum in Geneva in November 2014. Beijing+20 CSW took place 9–20 March at UN Headquarters in New York. A delegation of eighteen FAWCO women attended this session. See the inspiring UN video Empowering Women – Empowering Humanity: Picture It here. Robin Goldsby (AWC Cologne) and her daughter, Julia Meloy Goldsby (FAWCO Youth Ambassador), were commissioned to write the theme song for the closing ceremony of the forum in Geneva. Click here to see Robin and Julia perform "Maybe Its You".
FAWCO promotes the ratification by the US Senate of the United Nations international treaty Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). In 1980 President Jimmy Carter signed this treaty; however it has never been made a law by congress. The Committee NGO/CSW NY has created an outreach campaign to get 100 cities and their leaders to agree to become "Cities for CEDAW". We should do what we can to reach out to people in cities that could implement this program.
FAWCO also promotes the ratification by the US Senate of the UN treaty Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Hard to believe that child marriage is still permitted with parental consent in New Hampshire for girls who are 13 and for boys who are 14.
AWCO UN Youth Representative Vali Mitsakis described her UN experience with insight: "FAWCO has helped me understand that in this universe, I don’t exist as an individual, but also as part of the worldwide community with a goal to sustain the well-being of my world and the people in it.“
For the complete conference report with photos, click here.
For a slide show of the conference, click here.