A buzz of excitement, enthusiasm and pride as members of associations and organisations for rural women across the world came together last month for the World Conference of the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW). Over 650 women from numerous groups committed to the welfare of women and families in rural and remote communities, met together for the six days of conference sessions.

The World Conference is held every three years, and this year was the fourth time it was held in Australia, Melbourne being the host city. Five CWA members from the CWA Wollondilly Group attended: Jennifer Blinkhorn, Beth Sharp, Jennifer Bowe OAM, and Pat Hughes OAM, from the Highlands and Ivy Ruhnau from Jamberoo.  Jennifer Blinkhorn, Wollondily CWA Group President was a proxy vote holder for an association in Cameroon, so she sat with the East, West and Central Africa delegation.

ACWW was founded in 1929. To celebrate these ninety years, the history book, “90 Years of Opportunities” by Nick Newland, was launched at the conference.

 In Australia, the member organisations are Country Women’s Association (all states), and Women in Agriculture and Business. There are 82 Member countries which include 428 member societies, each with the presentation in person or by proxy, voting at this event.

ACWW is proud of its consultative status with the United Nations and several of its agencies, achieved in 1947.  The Commission on the Status of Women is the annual conference, held in New York in March. In March 2018, ACWW launched a Global Survey of the Living Conditions of Rural Women, aiming to address the ‘data gap’ in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. All ACWW projects are aligned with UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Projects are submitted by small groups of women who see a need that will assist their living conditions. ACWW assists with funding, advice, training, mentoring and provision of equipment for these low scale projects that are carried out by the local group of women. The WE Fund (Women Empowered Fund) has six priority focus areas – Education and Capacity building; Nutrition, Good Health, and Wellbeing; Sustainable Agriculture, Training and Development; Income Generation and Livelihood; Sustainable Water, Sanitation and Energy; and Maternal and Reproductive Health. The majority in the past year being for Income Generation and Livelihood.

The Conference program reflected these aspects with relevant speakers, and time given to the information preceding the voting of the recommendations, was both challenging and thought provoking. Listening to speakers describing dog-mediated human rabies, detailing trafficking of women, and seeing heads nodding in agreement at the poor or non-existent clean water or toilet facilities was a humbling experience. We are so fortunate in Australia.

Pat Hughes OAM         Wollondilly Group Publicity (The Highlands)