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Women’s Networking Group Report

Advocacy Committee Report | Current Advocacy Events | Past Issues

 

by Liz Simpson

CFUW K-W was recently asked to present to the Ontario Council’s Status of Women and Human Rights Standing Committee on September 29, 2012. They wished to conduct a workshop on Networking and, since our Club had initiated a Women’s Network in K-W, we were asked to report on our experience. Barbara Spronk and I agreed to attend. The following is my presentation to the group:
History
In the fall of 2010, our Past President, Ruth Russell, was in Kitchener’s downtown core and, on impulse, went into the offices of the Social Planning Council. Ruth had been thinking for some time that it might be useful to have a loosely-structured umbrella organization of women’s groups in Kitchener-Waterloo. This organization would enable local women’s organizations to communicate easily and effectively with each other and prevent any perceived or real competition amongst organizations who are all working towards similar goals.
That day, Ruth met with the Executive Director of the Social Planning Council who was extremely enthusiastic about the idea and offered the Council’s help in organizing an initial meeting for representatives from interested organizations. Ruth presented this information that same evening at an Executive Meeting and asked for help getting this project started. I volunteered -- which is why I am here today.
A notice was placed in our local Newspaper: Seventy-six local women’s groups or organizations were invited to attend; fifty-one women attended, representing over forty organizations. Each organization represented a specific mandate, but a common thread united all: women working together to make our community stronger and better.
We received feedback from each of the participants and from that we learned that a “virtual network” was wanted with only occasional face-to-face meetings. From that we developed our Terms of Reference, the key points of which follow:
Goal:
The aim of the Network is to make it easier for women’s groups to be successful in achieving their mandates.
Purpose: Provide a communication network for groups with a specific focus on women.
Create opportunities for connecting and sharing information and resources between groups.
Encourage joint efforts between groups on activities in which they have a shared interest.
Support advocacy on women’s issues.
Membership: Organizational membership is open to any organization that has a primary focus on women. Each organization can appoint two representatives who may receive correspondence.
Secretariat: The Social Planning Council Kitchener-Waterloo performs secretarial duties in support of the network and will provide support to the Network as required.
Steering Committee: Elizabeth Simpson, Canadian Federation of University Women K-W
Fauzia Mahar, Coalition of Muslim Women, KW
Today:
The Google Group which was formed is working well and is being used regularly by twenty-six organizations. The real value, however, is in the face-to-face contact that happens at the breakfast meetings. There have been three breakfast meetings since February, 2011, each one with fewer participants but all have been an enriching and positive experience for the attendees. The last one was hosted by the Coalition of Muslim Women – KW and they were able to showcase their organization and the work they do within our community. The previous meeting was where I connected with a number of fascinating women and subsequently managed to secure speakers for our 2012-13 Program!
Barbara Spronk then addressed the group and related her experience participating in the previous Breakfast Meeting. We both addressed questions and described exactly how to set up a Google Group.
CFUW – KW has agreed to host the next breakfast meeting when it will be our turn to shine the light on our contribution to the community: not just our local area but also the advocacy work done by CFUW provincially, nationally and internationally.