GWI Timeline

GWI Timeline: 1919-2015

2019 – 2023

At the beginning of this period the GWI 33nd Triennial Conference was held, hosted in Geneva. The beautiful Switzerland setting made it a great place for the GWI General Assembly to meet and to engage in meaningful discourse on the theme “Peace through Education.” This Triennial Conference was particularly important as it marked GWI’s 100th anniversary. Several workshops were hosted and eight policy resolutions were published in topics ranging from diversity in teacher education to sexual harassment in the workplace.

GWI Representatives in New York authored a substantial report on education and Covid-19 which was subsequently published by UNESCO.

Regarding projects and programmes, the first five young women supported by GWI through the Teachers for Rural Futures programme successfully graduated in January 2020. GWI opened the Girls Education for Brighter Futures GlobalGiving fundraising project and accepted three new students into the Teachers for Rural Futures programme to support women and girl’s empowerment and quality education in rural Uganda. Additionally, GWI facilitated Membership Marketplace NFA-to-NFA projects such as Spanish-speaking Culture Bridge, Sexual Harassment at Work, Afgan Peace Negotiations; and Peer-to-Peer courses on positive parenting.

10 NFAs celebrated their 100 year anniversaries, including the Association Française des Femmes Diplômées des Universités (AFDU), Associations Suisse des Femmes Diplômées des Universités (ASFDU), Graduate Women New Zealand (GWNZ), Irish Federation of University Women (IrFUW), South Africa Association of University Women (SAAWG), Graduate Women USA (WG-USA), Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW), Indian Federation of University Women (IFUWA), Australian Graduate Women (AGW), and Graduate Women International Netherlands (GWI-NL).

2016 – 2019

At the beginning of this period was held the GWI 32nd Triennial Conference, hosted in Cape Town. The city provided a wonderful setting for the GWI General Assembly to meet and to host vibrant dialogue on the theme ‘At the Crossroads of Education, Gender and Human Rights’.

Regarding the projects and programs, the grass roots Bina Roy Partners in Development (BRPID) projects continued throughout this period. They took place in a wide number of countries: Egypt, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, South Africa, but also Turkey and Uganda. All aimed to advance the status of women and girls through education and leadership development in their respective countries, and were generously funded by the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (VGIF). Moreover, GWI expanded of its Teachers for Rural Futures in Uganda projects, which continued to grow with the addition of three new students who were working towards their teaching degree in 2016, and finally included two additional participants in 2019. Also, GWI supported professional re-accreditation through the Hegg Hoffet Fund for displaced women. For instance, in 2017 GWI provided grants that supported fees for qualifying exams for legal practice, dental certification and a post graduate certificate in education.

When it comes to advocacy, GWI continued to forge new and exciting partnerships to advance the mission and vision of the organisation, and to strengthen its advocacy with the valued work of the GWI United Nations (UN) Representatives and regular statements at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. For the latter, more than 20 written and oral statements were submitted during this period. GWI and member delegates participated actively in major gender and women’s rights events such as the Commission on the Status of Women, for the 60, 61, 62, and 63 editions.

About communication, GWI has significantly increased its social media presence and sent regular press releases on international days, with the creation of advocacy campaigns and toolkit on Menstrual Hygiene Day for instance. We also provided templates to our NFAs to adapt to their audiences.

Finally, to crown this period, GWI successfully celebrated 100th Anniversary at its 33rd Triennial General Assembly (GA) and Conference in Geneva in July 2019, with more than 400 participants attending 63 workshops and webinar.

2008 – 2015 

In September 2015, GWI participated in a side event held by the Brookings Institution at the United Nations General Assembly and the President of GWI spoke about cultivating leadership in girls’ education.

In May 2015 GWI participated in the Ministerial meetings in Incheon (South Korea)  on Education 2030 and in Qingdao (People’s Republic of China) on ICT in Education.

On 27 April 2015, IFUW launched its new name of Graduate Women International (GWI). The contemporary title more accurately reflects the organisation’s inclusive membership, and dynamism across advocacy, projects, fellowships and grants.

IFUW co-sponsored and had broad participation at the 2014 NGO CSW Geneva Forum: Beijing + 20. The outcome document included specific recommendations provided by IFUW.

IFUW participated in the multidisciplinary academic dialogue on “Investment Impact” at the World Investment Forum 2014, which looked at the socio-political and business climate necessary for long-term commitment from investors.

IFUW co-organised and participated in two international seminars in 2014 in Singapore and Mexico respectively. IFUW, University Women’s Association of Singapore and UN Women (Singapore) hosted a panel on “Increasing Access to Education for Girls & Women in Asia: Solutions for Success”. IFUW, the Mexican Federation of University Women (FEMU) and UN Women (Mexico) held a second seminar on “Quality Education: Transforming the Lives of Girls & Women in Latin America”.

A multistakeholder panel on the subject of “Women in Science: A necessity?” was held at the High Level Segment of the United Nations ECOSOC meetings was held in Geneva, Switzerland in 2013. The panel was co-organised by IFUW, CERN, ITU and UNESCO. The theme for 2013 ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review was “Science, technology and innovation, and the potential of culture, for promoting sustainable development and achieving the Millennium.

Strong delegations were present at the March sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, including making an oral statement at the 2010 54th and the 2014 58th Sessions, successful IFUW seminars and participation in other NGO seminars as part of the NGO programme.

Participation in the successful UNIFEM campaign Say No to Violence.

IFUW’’s Education Advocacy Handbook launched at the 2010 Conference in Mexico.

The Hegg Hoffet Fund for Displaced Women Graduates awards to displaced women graduates to facilitate their integration into their new countries is restructured to reflect current practices.


2004 – 2008

At the IFUW Manchester Conference, Dr. Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, reflected both on why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was made in 1948 and on the need for common values in a changing world.

Bina Roy projects from 13 countries – Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Egypt, Fiji, India, Kenya, Mexico, Sierra Leone, the Philippines, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey and Uganda – were presented at the Conference.

60th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.



Base Camp 2001, a special leadership training workshop in project and organisational development is held in conjunction with the 26th GWI Conference in Graz, Austria.

IFUW is represented at regional preparatory meetings in Dakar, Tokyo, Palermo, Beirut and Toronto and convenes a thematic debate on Women, Higher Education and Development during the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education in Paris.


1996 – 1997

Another large IFUW delegation takes part in Habitat II in Istanbul, Turkey, where IFUW’s national affiliate has had a key role in arranging NGO activities for the participants from around the world.

Joint UNESCO/IFUW book Women and the University Curriculum: Towards Equality, Democracy and Peace is published.

IFUW participates in 5th UNESCO-NGO Collective Consultation on Higher Education, helping to organise Round Table on Women Graduates and the Labour Market.


1994 – 1995

The Council in Geneva celebrates the 75th Anniversary of IFUW’s founding. The special two-day programme features workshops on Capacity Building and on the Girl Child, as well as a public panel presentation on “Women in Leadership Positions – Breaking the Glass Ceiling”. IFUW takes the initiative in forming an NGO coalition on the Girl Child.

IFUW representatives take part in the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in September. Regional organisational development seminars are held in Australia and Sri Lanka.

Training Workshop for Young Leaders held in conjunction with the 27th IFUW Conference in Yokohama, Japan.

An IFUW delegation of over one hundred members take part in the 4th World Conference on Women and NGO Forum held in Beijing, China, where they offer workshops and take an active role in working for the adoption of the Beijing Platform of Action.

UNESCO/IFUW Seminar on Higher Education and Women: Discrimination, Access and the University Curriculum presented in Yokohama and Beijing.

IFUW representatives attend and are involved in the preparatory processes for the World Summit for Social Development.

IFUW publishes Planning for Change: A Handbook for Training Workshop Leaders in Organisational Development and Strategic Planning.



A second Baltic regional seminar is held in Lithuania, followed by a ten-day workshop on Leadership, Organisational and Programme Development for Women Leaders in Zimbabwe.

After being involved in the preparatory work, IFUW participates actively in the World Conference on Human Rights and the Global Forum of NGOs. Along with others in the women’s caucus, IFUW is instrumental in getting recommendations on women included in the Vienna Declaration.

Joint UNESCO/IFUW book, Women in Higher Education Management is published.



The Twenty-fourth IFUW Conference held in Stanford, California is the largest ever, with over 1700 participants taking part from throughout the world. The surge in growth continues, with new affiliates admitted from Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Lithuania, Mexico, Nepal and Russia.

The first IFUW regional Organisational Development Seminar is held in Estonia to provide leadership training for representatives from IFUW affiliates and other women’s and children’s NGOs in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

IFUW Representatives take part in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), better known as the Earth Summit.



IFUW launches an Organisational Development Programme to provide training in organisational management and leadership skills. The first seminar is held in conjunction with the Council in Geneva.

The Council also has the pleasure of welcoming the first of the newly re-established groups from the former member countries of Bulgaria, Poland and Romania, as well as a new group from Zambia.

IFUW sets up an Environment and Development Network to prepare input for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, to help assure that women would be included on the agenda. The Network Members organise a special Symposium on Environmental Education and develop a Green Audit, which all national affiliates are urged to complete.

The Federation of University Women of Africa (FUWA) is formed.


1988 -1990

IFUW takes part in the Planning Committee for the NGO Conference on Human Rights, Paris.

IFUW Board visits China at invitation of the All China Women’s Federation.

IFUW Special Committee on Projects is established.


1985 -1987

Funding received from UNESCO for Seminar on the Role of Educated Women in Combating Illiteracy among Women, held in Bangladesh, and a Seminar on Women and the Mass Media, held in Thailand.

The University Women of Asia (UWA) is founded.

IFUW representatives participate in the 10th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Settlements and the related NGO Forum in Nairobi, Kenya.


1983 -1984

IFUW adds new category of independent membership, making it possible for women living in countries where there was not yet an IFUW national federation or association to join.

IFUW awards grant  for an International Survey on the Qualitative and Quantitative Representation of Women in Higher Education Research, Educational Planning, Administration and Management.

Asian Regional Seminar held on “Women and Technology – Planning Towards 2000?”



IFUW joins the Associated Country Women of the World, the International Council of Women, the International Federation of Business and Professional Women and Soroptimist International in creating Project Five-O, to cooperate in national level community development projects. The first Five-O Project gets underway the next year in Calcutta, India at the initiative of IFUW.

First formal meeting of the University Women of Europe (UWE) is held.


1975 – 1979

IFUW representatives take part in the World Conference of the International Women’s Year, held in Mexico City.

The IFUW Counterpart Aid Programme (now known as the Bina Roy Partners in Development Programme) is established.

Regional Workshop in Sri Lanka focuses on the Participation of University Women in Integrating Women and Children in the Development Process. IFUW Circum-Pacific Conference draws participants from 20 countries on the theme “Toward a Better Tomorrow”. Latin American Regional Meeting looks at The Interaction of Men and Women at the Professional, Social and Family Levels.


1970 – 1975

A regional meeting on “Literacy – Means of Education” is held in Istanbul, Turkey under the auspices of the Turkish Ministry of Labour, UNESCO and IFUW. Another regional meeting in Utrecht, The Netherlands, explores the role of communication in the mutual understanding of European nations.

IFUW Headquarters moves to Geneva, Switzerland.

IFUW is one of 113 national and international NGOs to sign a statement pledging firm support for constructive development programmes.


1968 – 1969

IFUW celebrates its Jubilee at the Sixteenth Conference in Karlsruhe, Germany. The Conference resolves to publicize the newly adopted United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and encourages its national affiliates to translate the Declaration into their own languages and to take measures to make the general public aware of the important principles embodied in the Declaration.

A small group of IFUW members establishes the Virginia Gildersleeve Fund for Women, a charitable and educational fund designed to support projects world-wide focusing on women’s educational activities, leadership training and community development.



IFUW accepts special contract from UNESCO to prepare a study on the contribution of the progress of women’s education to social and economic development during the preceding forty years. The next year IFUW completes a study on the Occupational Outlook for Mature Women that is submitted to the ILO in 1964 and to the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in 1965.

IFUW completes studies on the Access of Girls and Women to Education and Society and a Survey of the Position of the Woman Graduate today.


1953 – 1962

IFUW conducts an international study on Professional Women and Part-time work. IFUW, under contract to UNESCO conducts a special enquiry into the Access of Women to Higher Education. The report, ready in 1958, is the first of a series of reports submitted to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The others include a report and analysis on the Minimum Pensionable Age for Women Workers (1958); a special report on Opportunities for Women as Jurists, Architects and Engineers (1959), a report on Part-time Work (1962), prepared at the request of the International Labour Office (ILO). Other reports underway include one on matrimonial property, one on vocational information and counselling, and another on discrimination against women on the basis of marital status.


1947 – 1948

IFUW is granted the right to send accredited observers to all organs of the United Nations and is given official consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC). IFUW is then granted consultative status with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).



After a gap of seven years, a fully representative IFUW Council meets in London to receive news from the liberated countries. Reports abound of martyrs and heroines, members sent to prison and concentration camps, succour given to Jews – whether members or not , active help provided to civilian refugees and Allied prisoners of war, and participation in various resistance movements.

The Committee for Emergency Assistance and the Committee for the Relief of War Victims merge to create the IFUW Relief Committee, its mandate to assist work with the estimated 10,000 displaced university women in refugee camps.

A few of the associations in Central and Eastern Europe attempt to reactivate; Czechoslovakia and Hungary re-affiliate briefly, but no news is received from either group or from Poland after 1948. Associations in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had earlier been dissolved in 1940.


1939 – 1946

The Eighth Conference in Stockholm is the last time for years that representatives from Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Yugoslavia are to take part in IFUW activities. The Conference reaffirms strongly that the “purpose of this organisation shall be to promote understanding and friendship between the university women of the nations of the world, irrespective of their race, religion, or political opinions.”

Within a month of the end of the Conference, as the Second World War spreads across Europe, the newly elected president Lektor S. Adamowicz of Poland is no longer able to carry out her functions; before nine months have passed, the Second Vice President is cut off from all communications in Belgium and the Third Vice-President is absorbed by relief work in Switzerland.

As one of the rare bright notes, IFUWpublishes its International Glossary of Academic Terms, the first work of its kind to address questions of comparative lengths and requirements of degree courses in different countries.

From 1940, and for the next five years, the running of IFUW rests upon acting President Dr Karin Kock, the British Treasurer and Executive Secretary and former Presidents, Professors Spurgeon and Cullis and Dean Gildersleeve. In 1941, the first “regional” Conference is held in Havana, attended by representatives of North, Central and South America. A year later, a Wartime Management Committee is created, which functions until the end of the War.


1935 – 1938

The Italian Association (FILDIS) becomes the first IFUW affiliate to be “invited to dissolve spontaneously” by a fascist regime. The Council Meeting in London establishes the Committee for the Emergency Assistance of University Women, to assist university women deprived of the right to work and, in many cases, even to live in their native country.


1924 -1929

The Third Conference creates a Foundation for Fellowships – its goal to raise one million dollars to assist women in their research and studies. A Committee on Intellectual Cooperation charged with working in close cooperation with the League of Nations is created. In 1929, the Committee on the Legal and Economic Status of Women is established and given the task of conducting an international investigation into the status of married women.

The Council Meeting in Budapest, concerned by reports of the growing exclusion of Jewish women from certain organisations, revises the IFUW Constitution to state that “No federation or association shall be admitted or retained as a member of IFUW which debars qualified women from membership by reason of their race, religion or political opinions”.


1918 – 1920

Dean Virginia Gildersleeve of Barnard College (USA), Professor Caroline Spurgeon of the University of London and Rose Sidgwick of the University of Birmingham (England) launch the idea of creating an international federation of university women to help prevent another catastrophe such as the recent war in Europe. On 11 July 1919, university women from the United States, Great Britain and Canada meet in London found the International Federation of University Women.

The first international fellowship is established in memory of Rose Sidgwick, who died during a flu epidemic before she could see her dream realised. The First IFUW Conference assembles in London, IFUW headquarters, with delegates from organised groups in Canada, Czechoslovakia and France, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States, as well as representatives from forming groups in Belgium, Denmark, India, Norway, South Africa and Sweden.


Those interested in a more comprehensive overview should consult A Lamp of Friendship, the history of GWI from 1918 to 1968 written by Edith C. Batho, and the Bluebooks (previously called Reports or Bulletins) which have recorded Conferences, Councils, Regional Meetings and other information about the Federation since 1920.

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