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DATE : 16-01-12 16:50
The 34th General Assembly of the International Council of Women in Izmir, Turkey
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The 34th General Assembly of the International Council of Women in Izmir, Turkey

(May 31 – June 5)

The National Council of Turkish Women (NCTW) hosted a memorable 34th General Assembly of the International Council of Women (ICW or ICW-CIF) from 30 May to 5 June 2015 at the Kaya Izmir Thermal and Convention Hotel (Kaya Hotel) in Izmir, showering the delegates with the renowned Turkish hospitality and Turkish delights. This general assembly marked a transition in the leadership and the beginning of a new chapter in ICW history.

On the 30th of May, a full day seminar at the neighboring Balcova Thermal Hotel on Health and Ageing of Women in the 21st Century served as prelude to the General Assembly. ICW President, Mme. Cosima Schenk, spoke about the ICW triennial theme for 2012-2015, Caring for Woman is Caring for the World, as well as the indispensable role and impact of women in the family, society, and world. She emphasized that as equal members of society, women are entitled not only to health care, environmental safety, and food security but also to sharing the responsibilities of government and business. Islay Saygin (second from the right on the above picture) , the President of the National Council of Turkish Women, welcomed the participants, spoke about her long commitment to eradicating violence against women and the NCWT's current focus on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. The morning panel covered topics on osteoporosis and skin ageing, while the afternoon panel focused on anti-aging. The ICW delegates relished the opportunity to meet and network with many of their Turkish sisters at the seminar.

That evening, the delegates gathered for a group photo immediately prior to the Opening Ceremony and Cocktail Party at the Kaya Hotel. At the ceremony, the guest of honor, Minister of Forest and Water Management, Hon. Mr. Veysel Eroglu, welcomed the ICW to Turkey and highlighted the importance of women leaders and women’s participation in issues on climate change and environmental safety. After welcoming the distinguished guests and delegates, ICW President Cosima Schenk introduced the ICW, its mission to improve the status of women and well-being of society as well as its objectives to promote peace in the world and equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities for all people. After the speeches, the delegates mingled in the warm evening breeze on the terrace of the hotel, enjoying the scenic panoramic view of Izmir, reminiscing with old friends and forming new ones.

On the 31st May, after welcome speeches from the hosts, President Cosima Schenk called the plenary to order and delivered both the President and Board Reports, wherein she summarized the activities of the ICW from 2012-2015 and the state of the organization. During the weeklong plenary, the delegates discussed and adopted various business documents, including the minutes of the 2012 General Assembly in Seoul, the agenda for 2015 General Assembly in Izmir, the financial report for 2012-2014, and the budget for 2015-2018. After deliberation, the delegates overwhelmingly carried two important motions proposed by the board, a reduction of the affiliation fee and the proposed amendments to the Constitution and General Procedures. 

At each stage of elections, former ICW Vice-President Aviva Kohlmann, who had been appointed as the Returning Officer by the board, explained the voting procedures, presented the candidates for the various positions and announced the results after each round of voting.  The first round of elections concluded with Dr. Jungsook Kim being unanimously elected as President of ICW for 2015-2018.

In addition to the elections, reports by ICW affiliates and representatives comprised most of the schedule. These reports not only summarized the scope of work and activities of the ICW, but also provided important sharing of information and best practices.  The National Council reports fully shed light on the commitment of ICW women to helping women help themselves and to improving the status and lives of women in their countries. Among the regional councils, the Asia Pacific Regional Council and the European Centre of the International Council of Women stressed their increasing collaboration with regional actors such as UNESCAP and the European Parliament respectively.  In their reports, the standing committee coordinators reviewed the progress of the 2012-2015 Plans of Action, while the permanent representatives to the UN provided information on the current issues of concern in their respective United Nations agencies. Furthermore, the coordinators of the four projects for the development of women supported by the ICW through grants during the past three years also gave an assessment of their impact and progress. These projects included: training rural women in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to advocate for their rights, for participation in local decision-making processes, and for improvement of their lives; training girls in 36 schools in Great Britain about their rights under CEDAW; training security agents in Lebanon about girls rights issues involved in girl-child marriages and dealing with involuntary cases; and the organization of a nationwide conference to promote collaboration and networking of local women's organizations in Nepal.

Moreover, the delegates devoted one afternoon to hearing and discussing the arguments from the proposers of the resolutions. In total, the 34th General Assembly passed seven resolutions that identified new or notable areas of concern for the next triennium. They included:

1. The humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons;

2. Corruption;

3. Women and palliative care / lack of access to controlled medicines for the relief of pain;

4. Gender pay gap - discrimination against women in the work-place;

5. Working for sound regulations on fracking technology;

6. Gender equality in sanitation; and

7. The rights of asylum seeking women and children.

The delegates also adopted a new triennial theme, Transforming Society through the Empowerment of Women, and its corresponding Plans of Action for 2015-2018 to promote:

1. Women’s empowerment, peace, and elimination of violence against women;

2. Equality for women in terms of economic opportunities, access to resources, and freedom;

3. Improvement in matters related to women’s health and the environment;

4. Gender equality through education, arts, and media; and

5. Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and improving the lives of all women.

In a moving farewell and installation ceremony, Mme. Cosima Schenk reiterated the ICW's firm belief in democracy and equal rights for all and lauded ICW members for seeking equality and adhering to common goals despite diversity.  She kindly thanked the board members and the national councils that actively participate in the ICW. Expressing confidence in Dr. Jungsook Kim's leadership to take the ICW into the future, she concluded by telling her successor and the delegates, "Build your own wave and ride on it." The new President, Dr.  Jungsook Kim, hailed the ICW for having been at the center of the global movement to bring equality and development to women for the last 127 years. She spoke of her goals for the ICW and her sense of responsibility to build upon the foundations, laid by the ICW leaders before her, to further strengthen the organization and its effectiveness. Evoking the triennial themes of the ICW, she urged the delegates, "Let us be the transformation that we wish to see in the world…women can transform society through nurturing and caring women’s leadership."  Dr. Kim closed by recounting ICW's progress under Mme. Schenk’s leadership for the last 6 years and presented a plaque of appreciation to her predecessor on behalf all the ICW members.

Several special guests attended the General Assembly.  The auditor came to deliver the Auditor’s Report, providing the delegates with the opportunity to meet him in person. Assured of his qualifications, they appointed him as the independent auditor for the next triennium. The representatives of LELAF, a longtime partner of ICW, attended the general assembly to present the Mechta von Boogert Award to Manisa Atelier, a workshop that trains women to become trainers in textile production.  This award was established to realize LELAF's commitment to helping young women who are involved in programs that help other women.

Following tradition, the ICW donated funds raised by the ICW shop during the General Assembly to a local organization. This year the proceeds from the shop were presented to The Elementary and Middle School of the National Council of Turkish Women.  After the General Assembly closed, some members of the new board visited the atelier while others visited the school.  After departing the school, the latter group also visited the sewing workshop, craft workshop, and library built by NCTW President Islay Saygin in her community, seeing firsthand the positive impact and accomplishments of the Turkish women and their national council.

Friendly camaraderie and gracious hospitality characterized the 34th General Assembly. On the morning of the third day of the plenary, the delegates participated in a solemn interfaith service of readings and prayers for peace from ten different religions. This event was led by the vice president, Christine Knock. Five Dervishes performed their whirling dance of worship for the delegates as a unique cultural and spiritual finale to the interfaith service.

During the evenings and free time, the NCTW prepared a wonderful program to introduce their guests to Turkish culture, arts, cuisine, and historical sites. The consummate hosts planned a Turkish Night that delighted the delegates with a fashion show of antique Turkish attire, Turkish music and dance, delicious traditional cuisine, and the reenactment of a traditional marriage ceremony. For the city tour the delegates visited a special ottoman carpet exhibition at the Arkas Sanat Merkezi (Arkas Art Center). Delegates bid au revoirto one another after an interesting excursion, on the day after the General Assembly, to the sacred house of Virgin Mary and the ancient city of Ephesus, a UNESCO World heritage candidate.

On the 7th of June, after all the programs of the 34th GA were finished, newly elected ICW board members held their the first board meeting to discuss on the responsibilities of board members for the next three years.





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