The United Nations and Women’s Institutes

Everyone knows the United Nations was formed in 1945 when 51 countries from six continents joined together in this world body. Today the United Nations has 193 member nations, and works in many fields around the world.

Through the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW), the Women’s Institutes have Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status with the United Nations. That means we have representatives who speak on our behalf with such committees as the Working Group on Girls, UNIFEM (part of UN Women), UNICEF, the Status of Women, Sustainable Development, the Family, Aging and on the NGO Liaison Committee. These representatives come from countries where the particular committee is most active, in order to facilitate attendance at meetings and more in-depth activities.

As for the nine million members of ACWW,  there are a host of days which the United Nations has designated as Special Days to focus on specific aspects of their work. These include May 15 – International Day for Families, June 1 – International Children’s Day, October 15th – World Rural Women’s Day and October 16 – World Food Day. Members world-wide chose those events in which their members indicate the most interest, and chose what to do. Here in British Columbia, many members hold events or distribute information on World Food Day, and on South Vancouver Island, the Women’s Institute accepts nominations annually for the Rural Woman of the Year. This is an on-going recognition, and over the years since 2002, eighteen women have been acknowledged for their contributions to their communities through agriculture and the development of our future citizens.

So, October is a busy month for our ladies, to try and meet some of the challenges set before us by the United Nations, and to see what we can do to help other families in less privileged parts of the world. But those opportunities sometimes come at other times of the year: When the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada Convention was held in Sidney, BC in June of 2012, there was a drive for funds to help purchase young cows to be given to single parent families in Haiti. Shortly before this, Haiti had suffered a calamitous earthquake, and some of the families who needed help were single mothers who had re-located to the Dominican Republic but were in dire straits financially. So, as we invited instructors for the workshops, and participants in the Inter-faith service, we explained this to them and added that if they were interested in donating some of their stipend to the cause, we would be most pleased to acknowledge their participation. Their kindness and cooperation put the fund over the top, and many families were helped to re-establish themselves, and to again be able to have the where-with-all to feed, house, cloth and care for their children.

Through ACWW personnel, this project was overseen in the Dominican Republic – the recipients received instruction on the feeding and care of the animals, and veterinarian care was provided for the animals.

So the next time you hear of a “special United Nations Day” – think of us, and if you have the opportunity, offer some support – a few kind words, a donation of whatever size, whatever you choose. And remember, whether it is here, or anywhere around the world, the Women’s Institute members are helping as many people as they can.


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