Report from CFUW Guelph’s Ad-Hoc Committee on CFUW membership in GWI

At the 2017 CFUW AGM, there will be a motion on the floor from CFUW St. Thomas that reads:

Moved that In Canadian Federation of University Women Articles and Bylaws – Articles, strike out “Article 4 – Membership in International Federation of University Women (IFUW) CFUW shall be a member of the IFUW.”

This is the same motion that was previously presented at the 2016 AGM in St Catharines.  The motion needed a 2/3 vote in the affirmative to pass. It gained 55% of the votes, below the 66% need to carry the motion.

Membership in Graduate Women International (GWI) is one of the most important and contentious issues to come before our club in many years and CFUW members are deeply divided on this issue. This committee believes that in making a decision on whether CFUW stays or leaves GWI, members should do so with as good an understanding as possible of the purpose and activities of GWI as well as its value and shortcomings.

Members who are concerned about dues increases worry about the number of members who are likely to leave our and other clubs if dues are increased. Others are concerned about the efficiency, effectiveness and financial viability of GWI and whether National Federations of Associations (NFAs) such as CFUW are getting value for the funds contributed to GWI. Undoubtedly, GWI has not done a good job in recent years managing its operations and communicating with respect to the interests and needs of the member NFAs.

Nevertheless, there are also many CFUW members who believe that membership in a supra-national body such as GWI is important to achieving the organization’s educational and human rights goals throughout the world and who joined CFUW because of this affiliation.  This viewpoint is held by many members of the largest clubs in Canada since they have members who have been directly involved with the international organization. These clubs may vote against the motion again in 2017.

The value of being part of an international body held by some clubs was evident when the American Association chose to leave GWI (formerly IFUW). Several clubs in the USA elected to leave their national federation to form a new association that remains within GWI.

What does GWI do?

GWI supports its NFAs in the recruitment, engagement, and retention of members and in making a social impact through:

  • GWI’s twinning program that provides a framework for two NFAs or local groups to work together in a partnership in a particular area of work or activity
  • Capacity Building Workshops and Webinars (ten in 2016 on topics such as building memberships, women in science and leadership and mentorship)
  • Templates (pamphlets, websites, press releases, communications)
  • Producing policy papers to use as advocacy with the UN and other international organizations on behalf of NFAs to advance the cause of education for women and girls
  • Fundraising toolkits
  • Newsletters
  • Online discussion networks that offer the opportunity to connect with fellow members around the world to discuss issues, share information and ask questions.
  • Raising funds for scholarships for graduate women pursuing further education and for refugee and internally displaced women and girls to ease their entry into new communities.
  • Raising funds for projects such as:
    • The Teachers for Rural Futures campaign that provides teacher training, community engagement, and curriculum for young women from rural areas of Uganda to become qualified teachers through scholarships and mentoring support
    • GWI is working with Orange Device Group to develop a Girls Choices Mobile App that empowers girls to access information that will inspire them to complete secondary school and transition to tertiary education or professional work

While many clubs within CFUW may not see the need for, or benefit of, these activities and supports, they do help sustain a global network that is of importance to advancing our education and human rights goals for women and girls especially in less well- developed and impoverished parts of the world.

To stay up to date on GWI activities you can sign up for a bi-weekly newsletter at

However, GWI is struggling financially.  They have made efforts improve their financial situation by:

  • Reducing salaries and the number of staff
  • Hiring a new Executive Director at a lower salary
  • Implementing an austerity budget until they can secure more funding
  • Developing an action plan

These initiatives will not eliminate GWI’s need for additional financial resources this year if it is to be an effective organization.

Dues Increases

At the 2016 Triennial Conference GWI members voted to increase the dues annually over the next three years. This is the first increase in GWI dues since 2004. The increases in dues that CFUW has paid to GWI over the last three years were the result of fluctuating currency rates – the value of the Canadian dollar has tended to fall relative to the Swiss franc, the currency with which our fees are paid.  For various reasons, including differences between the fiscal and operational years of GWI and member NFAs, these fee increases have not been collected or remitted. In the interim, GWI has drained their reserves in order to keep operating.

GWI formed an Ad Hoc Committee with the goal of reaching a collaborative agreement on how to get beyond the current impasse regarding fee increases and develop a solution that can be successfully implemented with the full cooperation of the National Federations and Associations (NFAs). The work of the ten-member Committee will commence in the second week of May and be completed sometime in July 2017. It is hoped that we will have a preliminary report prior to the CFUW National AGM in June. Download the Call for Members to Serve on GWI Ad Hoc Committee

Once the actual dues are known, both CFUW and local clubs will discuss how best to implement these increases; history has shown that dues increases tend to lead to the loss of members. In contrast to the expectations of some members of CFUW clubs, should CFUW withdraw from GWI we do not anticipate an immediate reduction in club membership dues since there is likely to be a decline in membership regardless of the outcome of the vote on membership in GWI. Any decline in membership will mean that the per capita dues for the remaining members will have to increase to meet local and national operating budgets.

Regardless of the outcome of the vote on CFUW’s membership in GWI, CFUW Guelph and other clubs are likely to experience a decrease in membership which will impact both the stability and financial viability of the clubs. We urge you to remain a member of CFUW Guelph so that we can continue all the good work we do in our own community and at the provincial and national levels. We are strong and effective because of you, our members.

We welcome your questions and comments.

CFUW Guelph Ad-Hoc Committee on CFUW membership in GWI:
Cheryl Ambrose
Heather Bailey
Isobel Boyle
Carol Herrmann
Dana Holmes
Clare Irwin
Teresa McKeeman