International Federation of University Women

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The International Federation of University Women (IFUW), renamed Graduate Women International (GWI), is an international organization for women university graduates. IFUW was founded in the wake of the First World War by both British and North American college and university workers who were hoping to contribute to congenial relations between women of different nationalities.[1] [2] Nearly 90 years later, GWI continues to advocate for women's rights, equality and empowerment through the access to quality secondary and tertiary education, and training up to the highest levels. The goal is for 100% of girls and women worldwide to achieve an education beyond primary school.[3]


In the aftermath of World War I, Dean Virginia Gildersleeve of Barnard College, Professor Caroline Spurgeon of the University of London, and Rose Sidgwick of the University of Birmingham created the federation to help prevent another catastrophe such as the recent war in Europe. These women believed that if they could unite university women from around the world, the fostering of friendship and understanding would lead to a fostering of peace.[4]

On 11 July 1919, the IFUW was founded in London with founding members from three countries: Canada, Great Britain, and the United States.[5] In addition to promoting peace, the advancement of careers for women in university formed a major objective for the organization. IFUW created fellowships and promoted the founding of women's clubhouses where women could stay during research visits overseas.[2] The IFUW was renamed Graduate Women International in April 2015.[6]

Graduate Women International[edit]

IFUW, now called Graduate Women International (GWI),[7] is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and advocates for girls' and women’s rights, equality and empowerment through access to lifelong quality education and training up to the highest levels. The organization's work is centered on Education for All, Secondary Education, Tertiary Education, Continuing Education, and Non-Traditional Education to empower girls and women.[8]

GWI has national affiliates in 60 countries and individual members in more than 40 countries.[3] The organization was the ninth non-governmental organization (NGO) to receive special consultative status with the United Nations ECOSOC and is a NGO maintaining official relations with UNESCO and the ILO. GWI advocates actively within the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), and is also a founding member of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). CEDAW is the most comprehensive international agreement on the human rights of women. It calls for states to eliminate all forms of discrimination on the basis of gender and sets an agenda for achieving full equality between women and men.

Over its nearly centenary existence, the organization has managed grass roots projects, done capacity-building, advocated with leader all over the world in favor of girls' and women's education, human rights, and empowerment.[9]


GWI is a membership-driven organization with a headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. GWI has a small and dedicated central team that serves its members and works on programs and advocacy. The General Assembly takes place every three years and elects its officers for the next triennium. The Board of Officers and all committee members are volunteers. GWI is financed mainly by its membership dues. Other funding is also provided in the form of grants or donations.[10]


GWI runs a fellowship cycle at least once a triennium, which funds PhD students only. GWI's Hegg-Hoffett Fund for Displaced Women Graduates[11] assists graduate women (in special cases tertiary women students) who have been displaced as a result of war, political upheaval or other serious emergencies. The Hegg-Hoffett fund provides small short term grants for refresher courses for re-entry into the candidates' professional field. GWI carries out advocacy and communications campaigns focused on its mission, as well as projects aiming to strengthen girls' and women's access to education. GWI's members run grass roots projects providing girls and women with training, mentorship, and skill building.[9]

11th Conference, London[edit]

The I.F.U.W also host conferences where they can discuss important matters that are relevant to the woman delegates but the global community as a whole as well. The 11th conference was held in London from August 6th to the 13th, 1953.[12] The main theme of the 11th conference was on 'Human Values in the Technical World', Women's role in society, opportunities and expressing their point of view on important matters at hand.[12] There is a long itinerary of meetings and social functions that brought a sense of leisure to the conference and allowed for more relaxed, informal discussion on societal factors that affect women and the world alike.[12] These meetings over the week were a very good way to engage and empower women and also plan for their future as well.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ Oertzen, Christine von (April 30, 2016). Science, gender, and internationalism : women's academic networks, 1917-1955. Springer. ISBN 978-1-137-43890-4. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  2. ^ a b Goodman, Joyce (November 2011). "International citizenship and the International Federation of University Women before 1939". History of Education. 40 (6): 701–721. doi:10.1080/0046760x.2011.598469.
  3. ^ a b "Our Vision - Graduate Women International (GWI)". Graduate Women International (GWI). Retrieved 2017-04-13.
  4. ^ "Our Story - Graduate Women International (GWI)". Graduate Women International (GWI). Retrieved 2017-04-13.
  5. ^ "GWI Timeline - Graduate Women International (GWI)". Graduate Women International (GWI). Retrieved 2017-04-13.
  6. ^ "Full steam ahead for women's education as IFUW rebrands and reaffirms global commitment under Graduate Women International" (PDF). April 27, 2015. Archived from the original on April 24, 2017. Retrieved April 24, 2017.
  7. ^ "IFUW rebrands itself as Graduate Women International".
  8. ^ "GWI Manifestos - Graduate Women International (GWI)". Graduate Women International (GWI). Retrieved 2017-04-13.
  9. ^ a b "Projects - Graduate Women International (GWI)".
  10. ^ "Our Staff - Graduate Women International (GWI)". Graduate Women International (GWI). Retrieved 2017-04-13.
  11. ^ "Hegg Hoffet - Graduate Women International (GWI)". Graduate Women International (GWI). Retrieved 2017-04-13.
  12. ^ a b c "Eleventh Conference Of the International Federation Of University Women" (1953). Elizabeth Long, Series: Subject Files, File: International Federation of University Women, ID: File 435, p. 1. Waterloo: University Of Waterloo.

External links[edit]