Monthly Archives: March 2012

CFUW shares Bachelet’s disappointment over UNCSW’s failure to adopt Agreed Conclusions

After two weeks of negotiations and stalemate, the 56th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) has ended without adopting the Agreed Conclusions. While the theme of Rural Women was of great importance to women around the world, divergent views on gender and religious and cultural rights appear to have been a major stumbling block.

Rural areas have the greatest unmet needs in terms of education, security, mitigation of climate change, reproductive health rights and services, land ownership and rights, economic stability and inclusion in post conflict resolution. Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-Women, has expressed her deep regret in UNCSW’s inability to reach agreement over these important issues. The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) shares her disappointment. CFUW was particularly upset by the withdrawl of the HIV/AIDS resolution due to lack of consensus. This was a very important resolution because it was intended to mitigate the effects of HIV/AIDS  and re-affirm commitment to the Millennium Development Goals.

The UN Economic and Social Council issued the following press release today from the 19th meeting of the 56th session of the UNCSW:




‘I Will Not Hide My Great Disappointment’, Says Chair,

As Delegations Question Each Other’s Good Faith over Collapsed Negotiations

Expressing “deep regret” that the Commission on the Status of Women had failed to adopt the agreed conclusions that traditionally mark the conclusion of its annual sessions, the head of UN-Women today urged delegations to move past that setback and press ahead with efforts to ensure that rural women — the focus of the current session – would be fully empowered to reach their potential.

“I sincerely hope that this does not mean Member States are not ready to do what still needs to be done,” said Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for General Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).  She added that, irrespective of its disappointing conclusion, the Commission’s fifty-sixth session had “witnessed passionate and dynamic discussions” on the empowerment of rural women and strengthening their role in achieving sustainable development for all.

The session, which opened at Headquarters on 27 February, was scheduled to have concluded on 9 March, but protracted negotiations on the agreed conclusions forced the Commission to extend its work by one week.  Delegations were unable to overcome “a disappointing inability to reach consensus”, in Ms. Bachelet’s words, and the session closed today without a final document (see Press Release WOM/1904 for more information).  However, the Commission did adopt its draft final report.

While underscoring the disappointment that rural women around the world certainly felt due to the Commission’s inability to come up with solid recommendations, she said the fifty-sixth session had nonetheless been impressive.  The high level of participation in the session’s formal meetings and side events by Government representatives and civil society actors had rekindled the hope that stakeholders were ready to pay due attention — and provide the necessary resources — to advancing the situation of rural women and girls, and to broader gender equality, including on issues of sexual and reproductive health and technology.

Many good practices had been shared, and fresh and creative ideas had been presented on how national policies, legal reforms and services could change the lives of rural women and girls, she said.  Looking ahead to next year, when the Commission would focus on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls, Ms. Bachelet said there could be no lasting or sustainable development unless such violence was eradicated.  Hopefully, all delegations would take full advantage of the months ahead to pave the way for a productive, ground-breaking and successful 2013 session.

Echoing Ms. Bachelet’s sentiments, Commission Chair Marjon V. Kamara ( Liberia ) said:  “I will not hide my great disappointment that we have found ourselves in this position.  If we really want to tell the truth about it, I’m not sure that we all came with a spirit of compromise.”  Since the negotiations among Member States had failed to generate a consensus outcome, she said she would prepare a “Chair’s Summary” reflecting the important discussions and themes that had emerged during the just-concluded session.  That summary would be posted on the Commission’s website and reflected in its final report.

She thanked all participants in the session, especially the rural women, “who had hoped we would do something concrete for them”.  The session’s priority theme had been crucial for rural women, who made up one quarter of the world, she said, adding that they were vital economic agents who, if empowered, could unleash improvements to reduce poverty and boost food security.  Rural women and girls played a vital social role, and their contributions, while often overlooked, were essential to broader socio-economic development.  As such, they must be able to participate actively and effectively in decisions that affected them, especially regarding land use and ownership.  Indeed, their voices must be heard “from the village, to the national and global levels”, she emphasized.

Ms. Kamara said that, because of the important leadership and decision-making roles that rural women played, she was “especially disappointed” that divergent views on the Commission had not been bridged.  There had been sufficient agreement on a critical mass of issues so that Governments could have taken action in some areas, she noted, adding that she counted on UN-Women to take forward the Organization’s work on behalf of rural women and girls.

Before those remarks, nearly 20 delegations took the floor to express their regret that the Commission had been forced to end its work without adopting agreed conclusions.  Jamaica ’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that regrettable failure would send a “resounding negative message” to the world’s rural women and girls, even though that message did not reflect the commitment of the majority of Commission members.

Iran’s representative said the “tender bridge” that was being built to draw delegations closer had collapsed at around 1 a.m. today, not because of the Commission’s Bureau, and not because of diverging opinion, but because of the “hardball” played “by one side of the room” over issues that were not even germane to the final text.  Indeed, a few members had participated in the negotiations with the notion that they would get “all they wanted and nothing less”, he said.  That had been very disappointing since negotiations were, by definition, “a two-way street”.

Also lamenting the collapse of the negotiations, Zimbabwe ’s representative said on behalf of the African Group that her delegation had even agreed to the deletion of some key paragraphs — including on technology transfer — for the sake of consensus.  Yet, regardless of good-faith discussions, one delegation’s opposition had caused the process to falter, she said.  Emphasizing that the United Nations Charter affirmed the sovereignty of States and their right to maintain their own systems of governance, she said it was the African Group’s understanding that the term “gender” referred to “male” and female”, as outlined in the Beijing Declaration.  The African Group also reaffirmed that sex education should be age-appropriate and provided under the guidance of adults or other appropriate authorities.

Norway’s representative explained that the term “moral hazard” was used to describe a situation whereby one party took a risky decision in the knowledge that it could hurt another party if, for some reason, things went wrong.  That term was appropriate to describe the Committee’s work during the final hours of the session, she said.  While Norway respected the traditions of all States, it could not accept the use of religious, cultural and moral concerns to block negotiations on documents that would protect women’s rights and, in some cases, save thousands of lives every year.  “With all we know in 2012, with all the information we have at our disposal, [it is clear] that certain perspectives and practices are harmful to women,” he stressed.  “This means that we have to make compromises.”

Also speaking were representatives of Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), Peru , United States , Pakistan , Cuba , Nicaragua , Iceland , Switzerland , Mexico , Russian Federation , Canada , Turkey , Japan and Australia .

The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

Photos from “I AM A FEMINIST, BUT…” Event for IWD 2012


Presentation of creative contest winner – Jessica Weatherhead


Presentation of creative contest winner – Chelsea Timpson


We had a full house in the National Archives Auditorium


“The Feminist Year in Review” – Thanks to the host Julie Lalande on the right, and the participants from right – Frederique Chabot from POWER and AIDS Committee of Ottawa, Robert Fox from Oxfam, Kristen Gilchrist from Families of Sisters in Spirit and POWER, and Nadine Thornhill from Planned Parenthood Ottawa’s Insight Theatre.

The Foyer of Library and Archives ImageCanada, guests were able to mingle and pick up information about various international, national and local women’s groups who had information tables at the event.


A few young feminists enjoying the event.

International Women’s Day 2012 at UN CSW 56 in New York

CFUW members were greeted yesterday with warm sunshine as a wave of women marched, sang, danced and drummed to celebrate International Women’s Day in New York City outside the United Nations. Bright yellow sashes carried messages of issues for women from Violence Against Women, to Education for Girls, to Non State Torture, to Maternal Rights and many more.

As the work continued on the Agreed Conclusions for the Commission across the street, the women’s voices were not diminishing outside. CFUW and the many other women’s groups we were joined by yesterday at the march, will persist in fighting for the Rights of Women everywhere. The energy and enthusiasm continues to vibrate through the air as we gradually close down the UN Commission on the Status of Women 56.


Susan Russell, CFUW Coordinator for International Relations


Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, New York


Susan Russell and Susan Waller

IWD Local Club Events

As a national organization, CFUW is always excited by the IWD events and activities our local clubs put together. Below is a cross-section of just some of these events and activities:

CFUW Ajax/Pickering held a celebration on Saturday March 3rd from 11:30 to 3:00 p.m. at Claremont United Church. The event featured a speaker, Kelly-Lee Mansi (executive coach), lunch, and their famous cupcakes.

The Aurora/Newmarket CFUW club is organizing a flash mob for March 8th. The plan is to gather in the new Riverwalk Commons area of old downtown Newmarket where the group will arrange itself to form the outline of the international symbol for women and then sing O Canada. This will be followed by walking up one block to Main Street where the group will instantly fill up the five little coffee shops on the street. Along the way, passersby will be given bookmarks with info about CFUW and International Women’s Day.

CFUW Burlington distributed information at the 16th annual International Women’s Day Breakfast on March 2nd hosted by a long time member of their club, Paddy Torsney, and former MP. This year’s speaker was Kathy Bardwick, President and CEO of the Co-Operators Group Ltd.  Girls from all the high schools in Burlington were sponsored and attended the breakfast.

CFUW Edmonton hosted an International Women’s Day Fundraising Luncheon on the Eve of International Women’s Day, Wednesday March 7 2012 to honour the Mayor of Slave Lake, Karina Pillay-Kinnee. Proceeds from the event are going to the Slave Lake Women’s Shelter. This event was sponsored by CBC Edmonton and hosted by CBC News Host, Portia Clark. See poster for details. See poster for more details.

CFUW Kelowna is celebrating International Women’s Day by:

  • Taking up a twoonie collection for CARE Canada
  • Staffing a table at the local celebration with tickets on a hand-knit afghan (each square knit by club members in ivory wool) & donating some of profits to Charitable Trust.
  • Selling Femina Coffee to support female coffee producers in several countries around the world (while keeping part of sales for local projects)

Leaside/East York will be making a donation to the Charitable Trust for International Women’s Day.

CFUW Northumberland is one of several local organizations putting on a free film day on March 11th in honor of IWD. This year, the day is supported by the YMCA, Trinity United Church, Northumberland Services for Women, Cobourg Public Library, beta Sigma Phi, and the United Way. See poster for details.

Parksville-Qualicum branch of CFUW has organized a Global Connections forum for March 11th. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Rhiannon Hughes of Port Alberni. She will share her recent experiences working for Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) in Haiti.

Oshawa and District CFUW will be welcoming Dr. Barbara Perry, Professor and Associate Dean of Social Science and Humanities UOIT to speak on “Community Impacts of Hate Crimes” on March 14th at their AGM. Dr. Perry has written extensively in the area of hate crime, including five books on the topic.  She is particularly interested in anti-Muslim violence, and hate crime against Aboriginal people. See poster for details.

CFUW Ottawa, Kanata & Nepean in collaboration with the Ottawa Council of Women (OCW) will be hosting the 8th Annual International Women’s Day Celebration Empower Women – Change the World! On Tuesday, March 6, 2012 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber & Atrium, Ben Franklin Place,  101 Centrepointe Dr. The Speaker: Carol Ann Cole Founder of the Comfort Heart Initiative, Recipient of the Order of Canada, Author of If I Knew Then What I Know Now. See poster for details.

CFUW Regina is holding an International Women’s Day event for 2012 entitled “Women, Women Everywhere: on the Ground, on the Sea and on the Air on March 10th at the Royal Regina United Services Ins. Presenters are very notable Saskatchewan women who represent agriculture, the forces and media. 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Lunch and refreshments served. See poster for details.

CFUW Saskatoon Inc. celebrated International Women’s Day on March 5th, 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the Frances Morrison Library Theatre with the theme “Women and Girls Inspiring Leadership – Gateway to Economic Security”.

The UWC Toronto is planning a dinner and a guest speaker, Dr. Alanna Fitzgerald- Husek who was one of Flare Magazine’s volunteers of the year in 2009 and one of Chatelaine’s Women who Sizzle in 2011.

The University Women’s Club of Vancouver and the Vancouver chapter of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan will be hosting  International Women’s Day at Hycroft entitled “Women’s Rights in Transition” on Sunday 11th March 2012 12 Noon Social ~ 1pm Luncheon ~ 2:15pm with Guest Speakers Gulalai Habib and Eva Sajoo. Net proceeds for this event will be divided between CW4WA projects in Afghanistan and the Canadian Federation of University Women’s IWD project with CARE Canada. See poster for more details.

The University Women’s Club of Winnipeg is holding an IWD Luncheon and program on March 9th. Both Muriel Smith and Mary Scott will be speaking. The event is titled “Women’s Equality: Are We There Yet?”

International Women’s Day – CFUW Events and Activities Across the Country

OTTAWA (March 8, 2012) Each year the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) celebrates International Women’s Day (IWD) to mark the many advancements that have been made towards gender equality in Canada and abroad, but also to recognize the many hurdles we have yet to overcome as women.

“Over the last few years CFUW has developed an International Women’s Day project to encourage our members to raise fund for various programs and projects to help women in developing countries,” said Brenda Wallace CFUW National President. “This year we will be supporting CARE Canada’s programs in the area of maternal and peri-natal health”. For every dollar that a CFUW member donates, the government will match with three additional dollars. In past years, CFUW has supported CARE Canada’s work, and to date, we have collectively raised over $30,000 for various CARE Canada projects that helped women and children around the world. This year we are challenging every member to donate a Toonie. With nearly 10,000 members, we could potentially raise $20,000 this year alone.

For the past 4 years, CFUW has also helped organize a large scale IWD celebration on March 8th at Library and Archives Canada with other international, national and local organizations dedicated to promoting women’s rights and gender equality. This year the event is entitled “I AM A FEMINIST, BUT…”, and will feature the annual Femmy Awards ceremony, a fun skit and video about feminism, as well as the commendation of creative contest winners.

Many of our 112 clubs across the country organize IWD events in their communities, orchestrate flash mobs, raise funds for our charitable trust or our annual international women’s day fundraising project, among other activities. You can see a list of some of the events and activities here. “We are extremely proud of the important contributions our local clubs make to their communities, especially in bringing awareness to women’s rights issues on this day,” said Wallace.

“We are also especially heartened this international women’s day, as Parks Canada has recognized the founding of our organization in 1919 as a national historical event,” said Brenda Wallace CFUW National President. “For almost a century, CFUW has has been advocating for women’s rights and gender equality. Yet, we still have quite a ways to go here in Canada and around the world. In Canada alone, we are still waiting for an end to violence against women, access to affordable child care, and equal representation of women in elected positions, among many other issues. We hope to one day see an end to such inequality, but until then we will continue to work with our allies to advocate for women’s rights around the world”.


For more information, please contact:

Robin Jackson, CFUW Executive Director, at 613-234-8252 ext.102 or