Monthly Archives: August 2010

Adios – Until We Meet Again!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ardith Toogood – CFUW CIR

CFUW Members after North America Regional Meeting

Brenda Wallace, Muriel Smith and I are booked on the same flight to Toronto, and we do not have to leave the hotel until 11:00 am.  How could I have forgotten to take a photo of the lobby from the top floor?  Lots of time to zip up there on one of the four glass elevators.

Yikes!  There is only a brass railing and a sheet of plexiglass between me and a 20-storey drop to the floor of the lobby.  With feet braced firmly I wrap the camera strap around my wrist and gingerly extend my arm over the edge, snapping the photo and hoping for the best.

Melia Reforma Hotel lobby, viewed from 20th Floor

Memories of the 30th Triennial Conference flood my mind, in no particular order:

  • The excellent job of Mary Hall and Phyllis Scott (CFUW members) chairing the resolutions and plenary sessions
  • Rae Duff’s (NZ) wise guidance on the Canadian resolutions, before and during the Conference
  • Louise Croot’s reading of CFUW and IFUW Past President Linda Souter’s message to the Conference with reflections on her visit to Mexico during her Triennial term of office
  • Cynthia Burek’s (UK) helpful input as a geologist on our CFUW Climate Change resolution
  • Eileen Fegan’s (Ireland) passionate feminism and new way of looking at the concept of Human Rights – drawing me not only to her seminar but to her follow-up workshop
  • Susan Murphy’s 24-hour flight delay in Vancouver – on her birthday!
  • The input from members on the issue of abortion following the Parallel Session on Women’s Health, and the hug from Erandeni Avalos (Mexico), a teacher of Human Rights who whispered emotionally, “You have given me hope!”
  • A Swiss member’s rueful comment: “The Swiss get up early and wake up late!”
  • The wonderfully collaborative work of the CFUW delegation
  • The hours spent with Feri Tabrisi and Heike Mensch (Germany) discussing stoning and other egregious crimes against women in Iran, and plans for IFUW and NFA action on this issue
  • Re-acquaintance with Jackie Shazadi (US), bringing her in on the discussion of the treatment of Iranian women, and recalling her book (“Goldoon and Professor” about her US/Iranian bicultural marriage) that she sent me after our meeting at the first WG-USA AGM in Iowa
  • Phyllis Scott’s (Past CFUW President and IFUW VP) sprained ankle and Sandy Craig’s (husband of Joanne Craig – Canada) injured vertebrae
  • The victim’s of Montezuma’s Revenge (recognized by sudden absence, wan faces or small plates of plain pasta and dry bread)
  • Griselda Kenyon’s (IFUW Past President – UK) comment that Mexico City is her 15th Triennial Conference
  • The beautiful hotel and delicious food
  • The many discussions of serious issues facing women around the globe,the situation of women in the various NFAs, and plans to take action
  • The great fun we have had together

Time to catch a cab to the airport.  Adios, amigas! See you in Istanbul!

Margaret Tait (UK), Mary Hall (Canada), Rae Duff (NZ)

Eileen Fegan, Speaker from Ireland (UBC Graduate)

Cynthia Burek (l) - UK and Nicole Nelson - US, Tellers at Business Meetings

Brenda Wallace (r) with Mexican Friends at Gala Dinner

Ardith Toogood and Jackie Shazadi at the Museum of Anthropology

Cholula and Puebla

Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Ardith Toogood – CFUW CIR

Ah, the joy of a wee sleep-in following the exhausting schedule of the 30th Triennial Conference!  I decide to have my breakfast in good time since some delegates who took pre-booked tours yesterday were given a last-minute earlier start time.
It’s 9:00 am and time for the one and only IFUW tour I have booked.  I spot Janet and Fred Bowes near the tour office in the lower lobby where we have been told to assemble.  Is no one else taking the 10-hour trip to Cholula and Puebla?

A View from the Top of the Cholula Pyramid

I know that the Boweses have booked a hotel in Puebla as their starting point for further personal touring, and the thought of returning alone on the two-hour drive back to Mexico City does not thrill me.  Then Fred remarks that the tour office manager had tried to cancel this tour the other day, and succeeded in convincing several delegates to book something else.  Fred and Janet held firm – and apparently I was unable to be found.  So – there is a positive side to being exhaustively busy!

Along comes Noah, our Mexican tour guide, saying he will load Janet and Fred’s luggage while we wait for “the others.”  Others?  I glance at the list and recognize Arielle Wagenknecht’s name.  But she says that she and her husband Luc are booked on a different tour.
“Hi!” says Kathy Horvat of WG-USA. “I’m supposed to be on the Puebla tour!”  Whew!  Am I glad to see you, Kathy. Out we go to board the van and meet driver Ishmael, introduced by Noah as “the second best driver in Mexico City!”  There are Arielle and Luc, sitting in the van! They have missed the other tour and are going to Puebla after all.  Great!  We are ready to roll, and we all comment on the bright sunshine and the clearest morning we have had so far in Mexico City with its steady temperatures of 22 – 23 degrees Celsius during the day and 8 – 12 at night.  As we leave Mexico City we learn that three trains a day in and out of the city are reserved for women and children only – “for safety.”
The countryside along the “royal road to Puebla” is lush and green with the blue mountains providing a gorgeous backdrop to the landscape.  Noah tells us about the legendary “ sleeping lady” volcano and her brave warrior Popo (Popocatepetl), the second largest peak in Mexico at 5426 m (17,802 feet), and we ask if we can stop to take pictures.  There he is, his snow-cap visible if you are quick at snapping photos between banks of fluffy white clouds that drift almost constantly over his summit.  Janet passes around some sunflower seed brittle she has bought at the coffee shop.  We are now 60 km southeast of Mexico City and ready to enter the state of Puebla.

On to Cholula – site of the grass-covered pyramid – the largest monument in the world and largest pyramid by volume (Giza is smaller but higher) – on top of which has been built a church that is a major Catholic pilgrimage destination.

We admire the views to our left as we begin the climb along the inlaid stone path leading up and around the pyramid where reconstructions give insight on the unexcavated structure.  Arielle and Luc sit down to rest, and then Kathy takes a path leading down towards the city.  Fred, Janet, Noah and I continue to climb, stopping to sample nuts and other goodies from one of the stalls laid out along the way – but we pass on the roasted grasshoppers.
Finally we reach the last flight of steep stairs, and I count – forty-eight – so that if I have to close my eyes or stare straight down at the steps on the descent, I will know how far I still have to go before reaching the relative safety of the path!

Climbing the Inlaid Stone Path along the Cholula Pyramid

Closeup View of a Tile and Adobe Wall

What a view!  A platform at the top, reached by an additional flight of eight steps, affords a spectacular panorama of the other side of the city and countryside.

Countryside southeast of Mexico City

I take a non-flash photo of the interior of the church where mass is being celebrated.

Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de los Remedios on Great Pyramid of Cholula

Leaving Janet and Fred to browse the souvenir shop, I head towards the dreaded steps – but they are not as scary as I had thought.
Soon we are again on the road to Puebla, founded 600 years before the Aztecs built Mexico City and said to be the site of James Michener’s fictional tale, Mexico.  Noah tells us that corn, wheat, barley and squash are grown in the valley, and that Puebla is also known as the “sweet potato city.”
What an absolutely beautiful city!  Is there any direction that does not have a view begging yet another photo?
“What would you like to do first?” asks Noah as he suggests cathedrals and other tempting sites.  “Eat!” says everyone at once.  “We go to the Cathedral of Puebla?” offers Noah hopefully.  “No! Eat first!” we respond.  “It’s going on three o’clock!” exclaims Arielle firmly.  “We cannot do anything before we eat!”
Noah invites us to examine the buffet at a bright and cheery restaurant and the group is ready to eat anything – but, oh dear, all the tables in the lovely courtyard are already occupied.  “I take you to a better place!” promises Noah.  And he does!

Janet and Arielle Enjoy the Ambience of a Puebla Hotel Courtyard

We have a delicious five-course meal for 100 pesos in a charming hotel located behind one of many innocuous-looking doors on the street, behind which is a gorgeous courtyard with a soaring glass dome, flooding light onto the gallery, plants and tables clustered beneath it.  Our Corona beer (is there any other available in the Mexican restaurants?) hits the spot and goes well with our chicken mole poblano, a rich chocolate- tinged sauce made with 57 peppers and spices that has simmered for several days.  Mmmm!  Pure heaven!

Nearing the Top of the Great Pyramid of Cholula

One of Many Tiled Buildings in Puebla

Arielle waits on a shaded bench in the city square across from the palace, admiring the flowers and passersby and waiting for us to return from our walk over the cobbled streets, visiting the historic Templo de Santo Domingo with its ornate gilt Rosary Chapel, and the huge Cathedral of Puebla with the tallest towers in Mexico.  It is said to be pictured on the Mexican 500 peso bill but alas, I cannot verify it!  The two side doors are open for us to enter, but the massive centre door is closed and will be opened only every 25 years, explains Noah.

Ornate Gilt, Marble and Tile Interior of Cathedral of Puebla

Thunderously black clouds are rolling in, and we barely get inside the van before drenching rains flood the streets.  We drive round and round, searching for Fred and Janet’s hotel – and finally locate it along a street that looks like a river.  Not a problem!  Ishmael pulls the van into the courtyard and our Calgarians disembark with kisses and best wishes to all.
Kathy, Arielle and I discuss IFUW issues non-stop all the way to Mexico City.  Two hours later, we are back at the Melia Reforma Hotel for a late light supper in the Cafe Miro and fond reminiscences of our day.

Palacio de Gobierno in historic Puebla City Centre


The Final 48 Steps

Council Meeting, Double Decker Bus and Xochimilco

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ardith Toogood – CFUW CIR

No need for an 8:00 am CFUW Caucus Meeting this morning!  Breakfast was leisurely – but is there a cost to daily bacon??  Surely the papaya and watermelon cancel out the cholesterol.  Better have some low-fat yoghurt as extra insurance against unwanted weight gain!

Lisa Chenier Texting in Lobby

Nora Kudrenecky Reading in Lobby

Marianne Haselgrave, IFUW President 2010 – 2013, chaired the 91st Council Meeting (similar to our CFUW Post-AGM Board Meeting) and introduced the new Board who sat with her at the front of the room:  Vice Presidents Anne Negre (French Federation), Jenny Strauss (Australian Federation), Willemijn Van Der Meer (Netherlands Association) and Treasurer Catherine Bell (South Africa Association) serving a second term. Vice President Patricia Galeana (Mexican Federation) was not able to attend the meeting.

IFUW Board 2010 - 2013 and Secretary General 91st Council Meeting

Among the ratifications of appointments was that of (CFUW member and Past President) Roberta Brooks as IFUW Assistant Treasurer.
The roll call for Council and Conference Meetings is always taken by Leigh Bradford Ratteree, the Secretary General of IFUW whose headquarters are in Geneva.  There is such a feeling of pride as the names of all the IFUW countries are called and the Voting Delegates raise their cards in response.

Among the items of business discussed under the Conference themes of Education, Development and Empowerment was Marianne’s comment that we need to emphasize “action” in the Program of Action – for example, making an inventory of the IFUW scholarships, an “appreciable asset worldwide” for which we are “good at doing but not good at selling.”  I will let you know when the new Program of Action for this Triennium becomes available on-line.

Marianne asked that countries willing to host the 31st IFUW Triennial Conference in 2016 let her know sooner rather than later.  The CIR from Egypt, sitting beside me, immediately stood up and offered her Association as the host.  Soon after, Nigeria also expressed interest, as did India!  Naturally, a formal request would have to be forthcoming from any NFA (National Federation or Association) willing to undertake this responsibility.
The meeting ended at 11:00 am.

After renewing my Internet service, I spotted Nora Kudrencky reading in the lobby.  She had some “found time” having mis-read her plane departure date and wished to do a bus tour of Mexico City.  That sounded like a great plan to me and I mentioned that the top deck of the double-decker tour bus had been recommended as a great place to view the architecture and street scenes of this historical city.

Just before we set off, along came Glenda Hecksher from the Mexican LAC (Local Arrangements Committee) who said that the Government had offered 40 tickets for a canal tour to the Floating Gardens at 4:00 pm that afternoon.
Nora and I glanced at each other.  Would there be time for us to do both?  All of  the other tours had begun on “Mexican time.”  We would chance it and buy a ticket, packing two tours into one day.

Double Decker Tour Bus Entering Zocala Area

Off we scooted to grab umbrellas, hats and sunscreen and then a quick bowl of delicious chicken soup before setting off for the bus stop a few blocks away to catch the 1:00 bus.

The city tour was excellent, with headphones available for commentary in the language of your choice on the many points of interest including the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts)

Mexico City Art Gallery

made of 84,000 tons of marble, the Zocala (Plaza of the Constitution in the old, walkabout historic section), the Art Gallery made of stone with teak-coloured wood framing on all of the windows, the historically significant Monument of Independence with its 105-foot-high golden angel, The Avenue that is modelled after The Champs Elysees, and the National Auditorium – an historical theatre.  Of course, the many street scenes captured constant interest, from the ubiquitous red and gold taxis to the police with their bullet-proof vests to the families out for an afternoon stroll.

Monument of Independence in Mexico City

We stayed on the open top deck of the bus the whole time and finally the two-and- one-half-hour tour returned us to our original stop after three-and-one-quarter hours.  Hmm!  Could we still catch the bus to the Floating Gardens? As we entered the hotel block I spotted a bus, and ran the rest of the way to see if it were ours and to hold departure.  Yes!!  They had waited for us.  Off we went, as soon as Nora arrived, for the half-hour or so drive to the canal.

The canal was once the main route between downtown Mexico City and Xochimilco (meaning “flower field place”), a UNESCO World Heritage Site covering an area of 122 square kilometres and located about 28 kilometres to the south.

On the Canal, Heading for Xochimilco

We boarded the roofed boats, sitting on benches or chairs facing each other along each side.  Small, soft motors propelled us through the water with its floating foliage and water fowl to the Floating Gardens which were artificial islands formed by rooting twigs in the mud and gradually building up the soil.

Kathleen Laurila, Griselda Kenyon, Heike Mensch at Steam Bath Hut

Indigenous Woman Selling Dolls Curbside

After viewing the carvings, the steam bath huts and the natural beauty of this environmentally-protected and now privately-owned preserve, we were served tacos and tamarind juice in an open-sided thatched hut while serenaded by two marimba players (remember Cielito Lindo?).

Marimba Players on Floating Islands

As usual the dark clouds rolled in behind us as we made our way along the series of canals towards the clear western sunset, enjoying the dulcet strains of the marimba which was partially under cover on our boat, exchanging information about our IFUW activities and boarding our bus just before the downpour.

It was only 9:00 pm when we arrived at our hotel – well before the usual end of IFUW activities.  Maybe I should make use of that Internet time I had booked, and do some blogging!

Istanbul Here We Come!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Finance Committee - Roberta Brooks (centre)

Ardith Toogood – CFUW CIR

It’s hard to believe that this is the last official day of the 30th IFUW Triennial Conference!  Of course, there will be the 91st Council Meeting tomorrow for the new Board and the CIRs, not to mention side trips booked in advance – or at the last minute down at the tour office in the lower lobby of the hotel – by delegates.

IFUW Resolutions Committee, Marianne Singh-Waraich (second from left)

This morning there was a most interesting and productive final Plenary Session where members shared ideas on “Building a Sustainable IFUW: Meeting Members’ Needs and Expectations.”  After the Tea Break there were advocacy and membership workshops available and one on CEDAW and UPR that was very useful.  CFUW wrote the environmental section on the Canadian NGO (non-governmental organizations) Shadow Report to the Government’s Report on CEDAW.  We also submitted a CFUW Statement before Canada’s last Human Rights UPR (Universal Periodic Review) which took place in February 2009.

After lunch, Business Session 4 – the final session –  took place.  The 31st Triennial Conference will take place in Istanbul, Turkey in 2013.  Save your pennies!

Marian Ennis (l) Convener Hegg-Hoffet Committee

While the business session took place, I was presenting a position paper on “Maternal Health and Foreign Aid” at a Parallel Session on Women’s Reproductive Health.  My paper will be available on our website after I return home.  At the same time, there was a Parallel Session on VGIF.
The Conference officially closed with the introduction of the new Board and the Standing Committees.  There were many photos, much applause and congratulations all round.

Ardith Toogood, CFUW CIR (l) and Brenda Wallace, CFUW President

It seemed as though everyone stayed for the Gala Dinner in the evening – 250 full-time and 100 partial registrants.  We all put on our best outfits and were transported by buses to the Vizcainas School – an historical edifice several centuries old.  After speeches, we were treated to a concert by the Mexican Chamber Orchestra playing selections of classical music in the soaring cathedral of the school.  The soprano soloist at the end of the concert was brought back for several encores.

Past IFUW Presidents l to r: Reiko Aoki, Elizabeth Poskitt, Louise Croot, Griselda Kenyon, Chitra Ghosh

An exquisitely prepared dinner  was served at colourful round tables in the large courtyard.  Brenda and I had the pleasure of sitting with Mexican delegates, two indigenous Mexican sisters and two Japanese delegates.  What a grand finale to the 30th Triennial Conference!

Presenters Ardith Toogood and Rosette Adera (Rwanda) at the Gala

IFUW Gala Dinner at Vizcainas School, Mexico City

Mexico City's Chamber Orchestra at the Colegio de las Vizcainas

IFUW Business and Ballet

Sunday, August 8, 2010
Ardith Toogood – CFUW CIR

Louise Croot, IFUW President (l) and Marianne Haselgrave (IFUW President Elect 2010 - 2013)

After two days of themed sessions it was back to IFUW Business Session 3 and the voting on the Resolutions and Constitutional Amendments.  This year there were no amendments from the floor since we were voting on the final wording arrived at during the “consensus meeting” on Thursday evening.  The debate was therefore adding information for the delegates’ consideration before casting their votes.

Jan Harvey, IFUW Conference Minuting Secretary

Several CFUW members said that they really liked the consensus method of amending resolutions.

CFUW has 10 votes, based on the number of members in our Federation.  Our voting delegates worked together very collegially.  Marianne Singh-Waraich presented the defence for our Financial Literacy resolution, Susan Murphy for Climate Change and Brenda Wallace

l to r Lois Hunter, Janet Bowes, Marianne Singh-Waraich

for Cluster Munitions.  All three CFUW resolutions were adopted.  Way to go, Marianne, Susan and Brenda!  All of the adopted policy and internal resolutions will be posted on the IFUW website (

The results of appointments to committees were announced and we were proud of the appointment of Marianne Singh-Waraich as a member of the IFUW Resolutions Committee, Marian Ennis as Convener of the Hegg-Hoffet Committee, and Roberta Brooks as IFUW Assistant Treasurer for the next Triennium.

l to r: Roberta Brooks, Carol Hare, Muriel Smith, Sandy Millen

There were parallel sessions offered for those attendees who wished to participate in workshops rather than the business session:
•    “Change is the only Constant” – Tools for Designing and Managing Projects
•    “Use of the Internet and Social Networking as a Tool for Sustaining NFAs”
•    “Mentoring for Academic Women”

Liette Michaud, Margaret Binek

The lunches during the Conference have been delicious:  hot and cold selections from an extensive buffet and a whole table of tempting desserts.  It would be impolite not to sample a taste of all the sweets – would you not agree?  We can always go back to apples and bananas when we return home – at least, that has been our reasoning!

A group photo of all the attendees was taken before the afternoon sessions and offered for sale along with the other professional photographers’ photos that are taken daily.

Phyllis Scott, IFUW VP (l) and Catherine Bell, IFUW Treasurer

Nora Kudrenecky (l) and Marian Ennis at the Hegg-Hoffet Boutique

The Hegg-Hoffet Boutique, managed beautifully by Marian Ennis and volunteer saleswomen including over a dozen CFUW members, is located just outside Revolucion 1 and 2 ( the large meeting rooms) and the area where we have tea, coffee and an array of tea cookies for morning and afternoon breaks. There were items for sale from around the world.  The gold leaf pin donated via Monique’s Boutique at the CFUW AGM in Ottawa was snapped up within minutes! Marian announced that more than $5000.00 has been raised for the Hegg-Hoffet grants for refugee women’s higher education.  Thanks to the CFUW team for all of your work in the Boutique!

Margaret Tait, Griselda Kenyon, Leigh Bradford Ratteree (IFUW Secretary-General), Patricia Galeana

The second and third Plenary Sessions were offered in the afternoon:  2:30 – 4:00 pm and 4:30 – 6:00 pm with our usual Tea Break in between.  At Plenary 2 the IFUW representatives to the UN described their work in Geneva, Paris, Vienna and New York City and at Plenary 3 the attendees gave input for the next IFUW Programme for Action.

Then it was time for many of us to step outside for the first time in a week!  The heavens opened and the rain poured down as usual in late afternoon – it is the rainy season in Mexico! – as we headed under umbrellas to the bus that transported us to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia

Museo Nacional de Antropologia

for a performance by the  Ballet Folklorico de Mexico.  What a thrilling spectacle!  No flash photography was allowed but the bright stage lighting allowed us to take beautiful photos of the swirling, colourful dancers.  The husband of the Mexican woman sitting next to me took videos of the whole performance!
A “Mexican time” supper at 10:30 pm back at the hotel topped off yet another day filled with learning, friendship and fun!

Mexican Folkloric Ballet

IFUW Theme Days, Regional Meeting and Found Luggage

Friday – Saturday, August 6 – 7, 2010

Ardith Toogood – CFUW CIR

After the intensity of the opening days of the Triennial Conference, the two days of themed panels, interdisciplinary seminars and workshops provided an equally busy schedule, with a more relaxed pacing for those who did not have the responsibility of presentations.

There were many choices under four main themes:
•         Advancing Women through Lifelong Learning
•         Challenges to Women’s Empowerment in the 21st Century
•         Education for Sustainable Development
•         Towards a Just Society

VP Quebec, Liette Michaud, Position Paper Presenter

Rhea Pretsell, President of CFUW Belleville and District, Position Paper Presenter

We are very proud of the excellent position papers presented by two of our CFUW members.  Liette Michaud of CFUW Montreal South Shore spoke on “Women and the Curriculum: Educational Reform in Quebec, Canada” and Rhea Pretsell of CFUW Belleville on “Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War:  The Case in the Congo.”

Lois Hunter and Joanne Craig served as rapporteurs for two of the sessions, recording the key points and discussion items covered.

I met Jan Harvey from CFUW West Vancouver who is serving as the minuting secretary of the business sessions, and Penny Henricks from CFUW Belleville.

Phyllis Scott still does not have her luggage and so she let me know that she would go out shopping for some outfits.   As I walked into the lounge on Friday evening for an informal and relaxing get-together of the Canadian delegation, she stood up when she saw me approaching and did a pirouette to show off a smart yellow top and pants.  “Oh, you found something!” I exclaimed in admiration.  “No, my luggage has finally arrived,” she said.  “I’ll be changing three times a day to use up all the clothes I packed!” Now when I wear items I lent to Phyllis, people jokingly tease, “Oh, you look great in Phyllis’s suit!”

One of the great pleasures of an international women’s conference is the opportunity for networking and learning.  It never stops.
This year we had a North America Regional Meeting with close to fifty people in attendance.  We had introductions, an outline of what CFUW and WG-USA are doing and some ideas discussed on what to pursue in the coming Triennium.  Mexico elected not to attend as their culture and language fit more closely with Latin America.

Dancers at Mexican Evening

At the Mexican Evening, we enjoyed the traditional music, dance and food of Mexico as we mingled and enjoyed the company of women from around the world.  The evening was topped off by desserts and tequila.

IFUW Treasurer Catherine Bell from Guess Where?


If you’ve loved the posts that Ardith Toogood has been blogging from the IFUW’s 30th Triennial Conference in Mexico City, check out the IFUW’s Conference blog here. Participants are sharing their experiences at the workshops and other events of the Conference.

Keep an eye out for Ardith’s next post!