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ICW historical information

During the second half of the 19th century, social movements within the industrial society grew rapidly. The tragic economical situation of the workers led some American Protestant and highly educated women to realize the social injustice. They also started to think of their precarious situation towards their dominant fathers and husbands in the complete dedication to their family.

Several women’s organizations were founded in order to promote peace internationally, general well-being and the right of vote for women.

The International Council of Women was founded in 1888 in Washington, as well as the National Council of Women of USA.

The Secretariat as centre of the network has initially proceeded to several relocations in respect with the nationality of its presidents, but finally established itself in 1954 in Paris as the ICW Headquarters.

ICW is a federation or an umbrella organization of National Councils. Only one national council is admitted per country.

ICW is managed by 3 distinct bodies: the General Assembly, the Executive Committee and the Board.

ICW was very soon integrated in the system of international governmental organizations.

In 1907, ICW was admitted to the second Peace Conference in The Hague.

The introduction of the principle of equality of men and women was already an ICW concern during the time of the League of Nations.

After 1945, a new challenge for ICW was to defend and advocate the notion of Human Rights for women.

The work of the ICW is essentially based on volunteer commitment with the exception of the members of the Secretariat. Over a period of 120 years, ICW succeeded in building and maintaining its reputation of professionalism within the League of Nations and subsequently along with the UN.

Since it was founded, ICW is apolitical. But in the process of achieving its ideals, ICW cannot avoid the necessity to outline some key policies. In that respect

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emancipation of women and the struggle for equality were no longer a matter for the sole developing countries. Women in all nations can be victims of violence, discriminations, trafficking and poverty.

In the beginning the feminists of ICW saw their international contacts as a common goal of achieving understanding between nations. The global network of ICW is the symbol of the intercultural dialogue which is considered nowadays as a fundamental milestone for peace and human security.

ICW today is still involved, as during the 19th century, in the struggle for a “moralisation” of the social relations and beliefs. Considering the present economical world situation, the aim towards a re-moralised society is nothing less than restoring the dignity for all men and women whatever their origin, race, creed or social condition may be.

ICW was the first women’s organization to work in the international scene at the early 20th century. In that time internationalism and philanthropy were considered as a breach on the historically long lasting pride and supremacy of the different forms of nationalism which led to disasters during the century.

Today the challenge is still going on.

Extracts from “Women changing the World” Leen Beyers, Els Flour, Catherine Jacques, Sylvie Lefebvre. Editions Racine, Brussels, 2005

Edited by Eliane Gubin and Leen Van Molle

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