United Nations Women’s Guild (UNWG)
Tanja SARENAC-PETROVIC, Public Relations, UNWG-Geneva
How could spouses of diplomats and international civil servants organize their life and make their direct contribution to the better world while their husbands sit in important meetings? Moving from one part of the world to another may sound appealing but it is not without challenge. Settling a family in a new place and adjusting your own life to the new circumstances is essential for a harmonious functioning of the international community in Geneva.
The International Women’s Day Centenary offers an opportunity to recall that as a side effect of setting up international organizations, 41 years ago a few ladies, inspired ONUby the existence of the UNWG-New York, planted a seed of a similar association in Geneva. This seed has grown up rapidly from some sixty initial members to more than 500 current members. The UNWG-Geneva is a place where women from more than 100 countries around the globe take opportunities for learning, self-improvement and recreation, and where international friendship and understanding are able to grow. This is a place where Guild members give their time and talent and offer various activities to other members with an aim of personal improvement, ranging from language courses to international cooking, painting, fitness training, hiking, mah-jong, bridge, handicraft, quilting, and jewelry-making. Furthermore, Guild members enjoy their time discussing inspiring books from authors from around the world in the book club, watching movies in the ciné club or participating in monthly organized cultural visits in Switzerland. Monthly coffee mornings, hosted by various permanent missions are a great way to actively participate in the “global village” while tasting its delicious food.
The Guild is, however, far away from focusing on itself. Its main objective is to allow the Women of the world to help the Children of the world! Women of all nationalities and cultural backgrounds gather to raise funds in order to finance projects for needy and vulnerable children throughout the world. A particular attention is paid to projects designated to help children living in slums, street children, orphans and the rural population. All benefits from fundraising activities are entirely allocated to finance small scale projects submitted by UNWG-Geneva members who have a first-hand knowledge of children’s needs in different parts of the world and are therefore able to identify where the Guild’s action is most needed. They also guarantee the proper implementation of projects that the Guild supports financially. The support is traditionally oriented towards education, vocational training, general medical care and needs of particularly vulnerable groups. Letters received by the beneficiaries are very moving and inspire further efforts. Up to date, the UNWG-Geneva has been able to finance roughly 1600 projects in over 100 different countries with more than 6.7 million Swiss francs. In order to finance its projects that help make this planet a little happier, the Guild organizes various fundraising events. The UNWG Annual Bazaar is one of Geneva’s most colorful events, which traditionally takes place in November in the Palais des Nations. Guild members, together with the representatives of permanent missions, the Geneva government authorities and the local business community which offers the prizes for our Lottery, work together for several months to prepare for this event. International handicraft stalls and food stalls sell their products to a large mixed crowd of locals and expats. This is a genuine multicultural event where you can taste authentic food proudly prepared by those eager to share their culinary specialties with the world, or you can buy gifts to bring to your family or loved ones a “piece of the world” carefully chosen by those who want to present their traditions and values at their best. This lively and cheerful crowd is happy to be together allowing each other to celebrate their differences. It is also united by a noble idea of raising funds for children in need. The Bazaar Lottery with over 200 fabulous prizes has no “losers”. All those who buy tickets win by making the world a better place.
The Children’s Walk is another of the Guild’s fundraising event: “Children walking for children!” This walk raises awareness among children that not all the world is a happy place like Geneva. The Guild Special Events programme varies throughout the year and also includes art exhibitions, cultural evenings, official meetings and other events. There is a permanent Kiosque at Door 39 in the Palais des Nations, where one can buy various items bearing the UNWG logo. The Guild warmly welcomes new members, especially those who recently arrived in Geneva. It offers an excellent opportunity to make new friends and start new activities as a way of reducing the stress of relocating to Geneva. Membership is open to any woman officially connected by work or relationship with the UN, the specialized agencies, the permanent missions and inter-governmental organizations with headquarters in Geneva.