University women’s federation marks 70 years in Nanaimo

NANAIMO – Federation’s goal to advocate for women and girls.

Kathy Torhjelm

Kathy Torhjelm

It might have 70 years under its belt, but the Canadian Federation of University Women Nanaimo is still keeping with the times, according to co-president Jenny Webb.

The Canadian Federation of University Women Nanaimo, a group dedicated to education, advocacy and action on issues affecting women and girls, is celebrating 70 years in the Harbour City.

The club has seen changes since those early days in 1945 when there were 13 women, $4 membership fees and a push to help in wartime.

Members then supported campaigns to send clothing to sister members in Europe, joined in emergency registration for civil defence and donated gifts for displaced university women.

By 1951, the group had grown to 26 members. Today there are 130.

The university club is no longer just for degree-holders and their associates, membership dues are $100 and the focus is on education, with the belief that the way for women to succeed and be active in communities is through education, said Webb.

Scholarships are handed out every year, with an endowment fund at Vancouver Island University that’s close to $150,000.

Women can also get involved in book, dining and coffee groups through the club. Webb started in a coffee group 21 years ago when she had two young children, seeing it as a social outlet to get involved with like-minded women. The different groups tend to stay together and grow up together, she said, but they also know they are part of a bigger purpose where they all believe in the CFUW values of advocacy, action and education.

“Women traditionally like to work together and when they’re single minded in a purpose, I think it builds a stronger club,” she said.

The organization has been around for seven decades but is still current, according to Webb. With an initiative of child poverty at the CFUW provincial, violence against women at the national level, and a global effort to allow women the opportunity to further their education, Webb believes their topics are as relevant in today’s world as it was 70 years ago.

“We’re very forward thinking and with that focus in mind I think the club is still in for bigger and better times.”