American Women's Club of Zurich

Report on Region 6 Regional Conference

“Every Woman CAN Make a Difference”

The weekend festivities started on Thursday evening when 34 guests arrived at the AWC Zurich Clubhouse amid candlelight for a fascinating evening of wine tasting from five Swiss regions presented by AWCZ member and wine expert Kristin Fuchs. Several facts came as a surprise: there are 40 indigenous grape varieties and the Swiss also produce a white Merlot. The evening was in aid of FAWCO Target Project “Free the Girls” and raised CHF 730.

These events never happen spontaneously of their own accord. Kathleen Simon (AWC Bern), Region 6 Coordinator, thanked AWC Zurich President Ellen Frick-Delman for hosting the Regional and FAWCO Rep Marie-Bénédicte Luxem and her committee - Paula Daeppen, Elaine Vautier, Luciana Fava-Giles and Shyla Girglani - for taking the idea and dream last spring and turning it into a reality, thanks to their hard work. The participants came from Zurich, Basel, Bern, The Hague, Antwerp, Paris, Frankfurt/Taunus and Chilterns. Kathleen shared a little about FAWCO, highlighting how we all speak to FAWCO’s mission as members on the go, living in cultures not our own. FAWCO’s ambition is to be inclusive, defining members not by where they have come from, but based on where they are today, and drawing on our evolving experiences. FAWCO is unique as it is a global gateway with the infrastructure to give each of us the chance to participate and to build friendships across the international community.

Friday’s agenda started with a panel discussion which worked well as a format for “Insights into FAWCO”. As moderator, Kathleen introduced the panelists. Leslie Collingridge (Chilterns AWC), FAWCO 2nd VP for Member Clubs, shared her new video presentation which is now considered the new “manual” on FAWCO. Lucy Laederich (AAWE Paris), FAWCO US Liaison, shared her expert knowledge very clearly, giving us the confidence to know we have a significant voice in Washington. Mary Adams (AWC The Hague), The FAWCO Foundation VP for Fundraising, gave insights into how FAWCO and The FAWCO Foundation work in harmony to make a difference in our own lives, and highlighted her own discovery of how the two organizations enable club members to make changes. Mary shared vital information in such an inspiring manor that we too want to commit “whole hog”.

Following lunch in the clubhouse, Sheila Ohlund, Managing Director, Grove Financial Services GmbH, set each of us the task to “trade” a surprise gift, first in a small group and then to a wider audience. After trading, did we think we had been conned or had we been altruistic and were we happier now with the final gift of our trading adventure? The exercise gave us insights into how women make financial decisions.

David Fritz, Head of Communication for BioVision Foundation for Ecological Development, presented “Nourish the People-Nurture the Planet” and showed thriving communities growing food in difficult landscapes with simple techniques and hard work aiding their efforts.

Johanna Dishongh (AWC The Hague), FAWCO 3rd VP and Target Program Chair, shared a video of women who had been promised a career in dancing and then ended up victims of trafficking and how even women from our own communities find themselves deceived into this life unwillingly. Following some free time, dinner was a fun evening of traditional Swiss cheese raclette in the Walliser Keller.

Saturday opened with a presentation of FAWCO and the United Nations. Paula Daeppen, UN NGO Rep spoke of FAWCO’s support for the UN Sustainable Development Goals in the areas of education, environment, health and human rights. Paula stressed the importance of starting a dialogue between the Target Project and the UN NGO Reps’ efforts on human rights.

Of particular concern is the fact that the United States is the only nation that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a treaty in recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. Paula asked the US Liaison to draw up a letter for club members to send to US Senators, stressing how important it is to all of us. To find out more click here to go to the FAWCO website.

Fellow UN Geneva Rep, Anne Riz (AWC Bern), was recently elected Treasurer of the UN Geneva NGO Committee on the Status of Women. Anne detailed the UN’s efforts on women’s health.

Our audience were then entertained by Sylvia Day, a professional comedian based in Zurich who cited a hilarious list of reasons, coming from the audience, as to why women do not like sex. After hearing that one woman ‘believed in purchasing what she needs’, all other rationale went out the window!

Participants viewed a video from the Youth Cultural Program held in Shanghai for teenage children of FAWCO members last year. The 15-18 year olds work with charities during their 10 day visit and many found that the experience has been life changing.

The final presenter was Edwin Schmidheiny, President and Creative Director, Accent Brand Consultants AG, Zurich. As advisor to the Rebranding FAWCO Task Force, Edwin shared the branding position and confirmed that the team had submitted a selected logo design to the FAWCO Board. He then gave a history of the Swiss brand, traditions, values innovations, etc. which make up what we perceive as the country of Switzerland.

After another delicious clubhouse lunch, two Workshops were held. Leslie Collingridge taught participants how to take their photographs and use their laptops to turn them into a film. Other participants were treated to a workshop on “Raising Your Game, Leveraging Cultural Competence” by Elizabeth Vennekens Kelly, Cross Cultural Consultant, Antwerp. We talked of experiences that confused us or embarrassed us and Elizabeth involved us in experiments to help us deal with the complexities of living and working in cultures not our own.

The conference ended with a city tour ran by professional tour guide Katrin Gygax followed by a dinner in one of the Zürich guildhouses, the restaurant Zunfthaus Zur Waag.

For those still in Zürich on Sunday, we had brunch on a cruise ship and admired the banks of the Zürchersee and its beautiful mountains in the background. The weather was gorgeous, a nice way to say goodbye to everyone.

Kathleen Simon

Region 6 Regional Coordinator

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