Associated Countrywomen of the World

Since 1929 ACWW has championed the cause of rural women and now has millions of members all over the world.

ACWW is dedicated to making life better by raising the standard of living of women and families through education, training and community development programmes.

It depends on donations, legacies and gifts to further its international work for rural women and communities. 



From Australia and Zimbabwe, and from over forty other countries in between, more than 600 women converged on the University of Warwick for a week in August to attend ACWW’s 28th Triennial World Conference.

ACWW (Associated Women of the World) forges partnerships with like-minded organisations such as Women’s Institutes and Country Women’s Associations around the world in order to further joint aims.  I was honoured to be FEWI’s delegate at this event, where coming together with so many other representatives from member groups was an eye-opening, energising and fun experience – so many friendly faces and so much to talk about!

The theme of the conference was ‘Working Together for a Better Future’ and the dozen or so resolutions put forward were debated with that goal in mind.  They included such topics as protecting the supply of water, vaccination against eradicable diseases and the protection of women and children in refugee camps from sexual abuse, to mention just three.

We heard detailed reports from the various ACWW committees about their work concerning projects, agriculture, finance, communications, and with the United Nations, and listened to excellent speakers on topical issues affecting women around the globe, such as dementia, ‘life-style’ diseases and women in science and technology.

ACWW comprises nine geographic areas and informative presentations were made about all of them. Those from South East Asia & Far East and Southern Africa with their colourfully-dressed participants were particularly entertaining.

It was not all about listening to speakers, however.  There were opportunities for hands-on craft sessions, retail therapy at the Country Store (nearly 6,000 craft items on sale!), browsing the promotional stalls and competition entries, and an introduction to the mysteries of ‘Twitter’ using @acww_conference and #WeAreACWW.

We let our hair down at both “The World Entertains” and the English Cultural Evening, with music, dance and drama of all kinds: a barbershop chorus, brass ensemble, quaint English customs, traditional offerings from Australia and South Africa, Malaysian line-dancing, tai-chi from Belarus, and hauntingly beautiful songs by a Latvian duo. The Canadians presented the life of Madge Watt (look her up!) and from Northern Ireland came a ‘potted Cinderella’ – have you ever tried to explain pantomime or Morris dancing to a foreign visitor?  Inevitably the stars of the show were several of the original Calendar Girls.

Being at the Gala Dinner with some 500 others and at the opening and closing ceremonies, during which flags from the 72 member countries were paraded, was both humbling and awe-inspiring and gave an incredible sense of togetherness with like-minded women from around the globe.

Next year’s ACWW European Area Conference will be in Romania and the 29th Triennial Conference is being held in Melbourne in 2019, so start saving now for the experience of a lifetime –


Philippa Croft

ACWW Rep for FEWI.


Four former women’s agencies have merged into one at the UN, to be known as UN Women and ACWW has a seat on this agency. Ban Ki-moon, UN General Secretary described this event as ‘a watershed’ and went on ‘ UN Women is recognition of a simple truth. Equality for women and girls is not only a basic human right; it is a social and economic imperative. Where women are educated and empowered, economies are more productive and strong. Where women are fully represented, societies are more peaceful and stable’.

Some project updates:


Some fifty women in Andhra Pradesh state have been trained in the making and marketing of areca palm leaf plates. These plates are sturdy, leakproof, can withstand hot and cold and are free from chemicals, the demand for them has been brisk and the local children have benefited from the money earned by their mothers. They have nourishing meals and attend school regularly.

Another project helping this poor southern state is the production of candles. Andhra Pradesh suffers frequent power failures which affect offices and other places of work as well as homes, thereby making life even harder for the inhabitants.


Aloua Ma’a Tonga Association has recently inspected a project to install 15 2,000gallon domestic water tanks at households in the swampy Nuku’alofa town. The AMTA was pleased to report the successful installation of the tanks, making only a few suggestions for improvements the most important being fencing off the tanks to prevent pigs digging beside them and causing damage. The tanks are sited to give as many people as possible access.


Back in April 2010 members of ACWW met for their Triennial meeting in Hot Springs Arkansas where they elected May Kidd from Scotland as their new World President. (sadly many European members were prevented from attending by the Icelandic volcanic dust). May has been European President for some time and became a vice-president of ACWW three years ago. In her interview for the Countrywoman magazine May admits that it was reading letters sent to her mother from family members in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Southern Rhodesia that taught her that the world did not end outside Scotland. We wish her well during her 3 year period of office.


Back in 1930 Madge Watt, the first President of ACWW, stated ‘ We could have real power if there was no need to struggle financially’. Today costs have risen sharply and it is impossible to run an organisation as large as ACWW without adequate funds. A central office has to be manned to answer questions, give advice on projects, promote the organisation and co-ordinate funds. Most of you have collection boxes at your WI meetings or use your competition coins for a donation. Please remember that we in Britain have a 200 penny coin, which is a good coin for Pennies for Friendship.

As part of an ongoing drive to put ACWW in the forefront of charity giving Essex has joined ‘ACWW Southern Counties Supporters Group’ which meets at Mary Sumner House in London in the offices of ACWW to pool ideas for fund raising events.

Previous Projects Update:


Five baking and dairy product businesses have been set up through a programme devised by the Foundation for the Empowerment of Women and the main beneficiaries are 100 formerly unemployed and low income rural women who have been trained in making value-added items such as bread, pies and cookies. Locally produced food is much cheaper than that imported from the cities like Darkhan and yet produces an income for these very poor families. One student, Javzmaa Ishjanstan, with her single parent daughter and granddaughter to support has established a business which employs her daughter and several out-of-work neighbours and sells bakery and dairy products around the district.


A computer training scheme for women and children is being run by Tanzania Women Social Economic Development and Human Rights Organisation aims to train 86 trainees with the skills to enable them to become self-employed.

Elsewhere in Tanzania 41 of the poorest of poor widows are being trained in generating an income from vegetable gardening. Each widow had plenty of land but not the skills to use it now they are taught how to select good seeds, transplant seedlings, recognise vitamin values and ways in bookkeeping. The project has brought them together and each week they meet to see what income there has been, then they agree on a certain amount to be shared and the rest is banked.


Not all projects achieve total success. Bangladesh Mahila Samiti has been running a Breast Screening and Hypertension centre in Dhaka to promote awareness of these deadly health issues. BMS reached 2,148 women, however the drop out rate has been high due to poverty and the side effects of chemotherapy. It is hoped that strong motivation and good counselling will overcome some of the problems as time goes by.


Women in a scheme to raise and market tiger prawns in the Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh have seen a huge improvement in their lives and their success has excited people in the area. Proceeds from sales go towards the maintenance of families, providing good nutrition and fees for education. These achievements indicate their capacity to do business successfully and hopefully the long term sustainability of the group will be maintained.

We collect foreign coins,so please save them and pass to any of the WI advisers.

Pennies for Friendship Donations

Many of you will know that the origins of this fund go back many years to 1939 when it was introduced to the London Conference (4th Triennial World Conference) by Mrs Godfrey Drage J.P. She was the Vice President (since renamed Area President) for the British Isles at the time. The fund has grown steadily since those early days and now represents a significant part of ACWW’s income. Donations received are used to support the objectives of the charity including projects and project related costs.

Click here to visit the ACWW website