Letter from GWI President


12 September 2016 

Dear GWI Family: 

I’m writing to introduce myself and to share with you what the Board, staff, committees and I will be working on and the manner in which we will conduct ourselves, on your behalf, over the next three years. 

My name is Geeta Desai, I live in New York, USA and I am a proud member of GWI and its American affiliate: Women Graduates – USA. Over the last thirty years, I have worked as an Organisational Development consultant to foundations and the NGOs that they funded. I am hoping to bring my experience to strengthen our GWI. 

Our Board currently has five members: Rae Duff, VP Legal and Governance; Louise McLeod, VP Marketing; Basak Ovacik, VP Fundraising; Eileen Focke- Bakker, VP Membership and ‘Tricia Blombery, Treasurer. Our new Executive Director is Stacy Dry Lara and you know the rest of the staff: Amy Paunila, Lorraine Mangwiro and Hélène Queyrane. 

As you know we also have a number of Committees that reflect GWI’s ongoing priorities. Currently all of the committees are organising themselves, once again, in support of the organisational mission. Committees, their members and their scope of work will be posted to the GWI website in the coming weeks. 

Over the next three years, our collective work will be driven by the understanding that we are a membership organisation and that our mission and our NFAs must always be our first priority. 

To this end we are determined to do the following: 

1) Help NFAs strengthen themselves. We know that each NFA faces the unique generational, economic and social challenges of its country. Our support for your membership growth and engagement will be based on an understanding of these forces, offering you strategies that work with these forces rather than against them. 


2) Support NFAs in the development of meaningful projects within their countries that further education and economic independence goals for women and girls. 


3) Support NFAs in the practice of advocacy at the national and international level that can make a measurable difference in the country-specific implementation of cornerstone UN Agreements, Conventions, Goals and Declarations such as CEDAW and the SDGs. 



4) Provide NFAs with access to and knowledge of a connected global society so that their members can grow personally and professionally and contribute as global citizens. 


5) Help NFAs attract the next generation of women so that we can build the body of inter-generational knowledge that will drive women’s and girls’ rights in the future. 


6) Facilitate relationships between NFAs and UN agencies in their respective countries so that NFAs can create synergistic working relationships. 


7) Deliver on the vision of a stable, effective and growing GWI system. 


The board and I are firmly committed to working together. And, while I am certain that in the future we may disagree with each other, we are determined that the tone of our debates will remain civil, inclusive and productive. Our work and decisions will be transparent. 

I also realize that the board and membership may have differences of opinion. In those instances, I am asking you to write to me directly at president@graduatewomen.org. I want to hear from you because I firmly believe that together we can find mutually agreeable solutions. 

Last but certainly not the least, on the eve of GWI’s centenary, I want to recognise the women who came before us, who had the vision to start an organisation that would, one hundred years later, still be championing women’s rights to education and economic independence. They are too many to name but all of these women shared the same qualities: grace, courage, clarity of purpose, determination and a wrenching need to support other women. 

Today, I am asking that each of us embody these qualities and regardless of our differences, stand as one against social and economic injustice towards women in every corner of the world. Together we are unbreakable. 

Yours in solidarity, 

Geeta S. Desai, 

President, Graduate Women International