Speech at the Annual General Meeting Cardiff 2011
Association of Inner Wheel Clubs in Great Britain & Ireland
Associasion President Pam
IIW President Pallavi
Inner Wheel friends
I am delighted and honoured to be able to participate in your annual general meeting, and many, many thanks for the fantastic welcome given to Sissel from Norway and myself. Actually, I invited myself, partly because I really wanted to see how things are run in Great Britain and Ireland, but also because throughout my 2 years as National Representative and counsil chairman for Denmark I have come to realise, what a wonderful organisation Inner Wheel is. We live in a global world, and Inner Wheel presents us with the possibility to learn so much about the world outside of our own small circle.
As you probably know, Denmark is quite a small country. We have 5 Inner Wheel districts with about 3,000 members. Our National Governing Body consists of 11 members – 5 district presidents, 5 past district presidents, and me. We hold 2 weekend meetings and 2 day meetings in the course of the Inner Wheel year.
As National Representative, my motto has been:
Simplification – Innovation – Cooperation
– three things which are of the utmost importance to Inner Wheel, if we want our organisation to continue to exist in the future.
The bureaucracy in Inner Wheel is very cumbersome. If we want to attract younger and working women to join Inner Wheel, we must simplify the bureaucracy at club, district, national and international levels. During my term of office, I have tried to simplify the workflow – among others, we have prepared a new and simplified set of danish bye-laws which I hope will be adopted at our annual general meeting in October.
At our national governing body meetings, we have not only dealt with administrative matters, but also other matters. At each meeting we have exchanged district experiences and initiated several projects which have proven to be useful to the clubs. It has been very important for me to close the gaps between the national governing body, the districts and the clubs, so that the individual member feels part of a larger community and not just a member in a local club. The international aspect is important, and I have noted an increase in interest in the clubs for, what is happening abroad.
I have had the pleasure of meeting all my Nordic colleagues in Finland, and at the same to participate in the Nordic Rally which takes place every third year. For the first time– but definitely not the last -, Denmark participated in the 2010 European meeting held in Switzerland. This meeting was most rewarding, and I hope that representatives from GB & Ire will attend the next European meeting to take place in September in Holland. The European Rally was held in conjunction with the European meeting in Switzerland, and that, for me, was a fantastic experience.
I strongly believe that it is most important that we in Europe meet and exchange views.
The Danish clubs have many different projects which they support, and at the national level we have an annual collection where each member contributes at least £6. The clubs put forward their suggestions as to which project we shall support, and three of these are selected by the National Governing Body to be voted for by the clubs.
This year, our collection goes to a shelter for trafficked women. Trafficking is a serious problem all over the world, and we in Denmark would very much like to set focus on this problem.
In addition to the annual national collection, the governing body has instigated a nationwide competition for high school students to write an essay on the subject: “Can you accept a Denmark where women are trafficked for prostitution, or should Denmark be known for its social sustainability?”
The essay competition has been instituted mainly to heighten the awareness of our young people of a serious social problem, and also to promote Inner Wheel’s profile.
It is sad to say that membership in Denmark, as in so many other European countries, is dwindling. The members have quite simply become too old, the clubs have forgotten to make innovations, and that usually means there is only one thing to do – close clubs. We are losing a great many elderly members in these years. We do enrol new members, too – but unfortunately, not enough so that we can see an increase in membership. The restrictions in our criteria for membership are unfortunately a hindrance, but luckily we do at least have the possibility to enrol a certain number of so-called honorary members. However, is that enough to create growth in our number of members?.
In the latest minutes of the IIW Executive Committee, one can read that 26 clubs have closed in GB & Ire, and that in India 46 new clubs have been opened – this says much about the present development of Inner Wheel. One can also read that at the last Governing Body meeting it was discussed how we can recruit new members. It is thought-provoking, that among things, it was suggested that Inner Wheel should be more flexible, and should consider new ways to attract new members.
When one reads about the considerations at top level about how to increase membership, it doesn’t make sense at the same time to adhere stubbornly to the restrictions in the criteria for membership, and that time after time at the Convention, certain countries vote against opening up the requirements for membership. We in Denmark really hope that at Convention 2012 there will be a willingness to open up for members also without connections to Rotary. Inner Wheel was founded in a completely different era than the one in which we live today. We should continue to maintain our links to Rotary, but it is of the utmost necessity that Inner Wheel stands on its own feet, and meets the changes in society around us.
I do not believe that we in Inner Wheel are capable of halting the changes that are taking place in modern society, so we are therefore obliged to adapt ourselves to the reality of the contemporary world. Inner Wheel is a worldwide organisation, but it is important that IIW has the will to realise that there exist both cultural and social differences between countries, even if we are one organisation. There must be room for diversity.
At the next Convention we have the opportunity to turn Inner Wheel into a contemporary women’s networking organisation, which can attract more independent, active and socially engaged women, so that Inner Wheel will, also in the future, be a source of pleasure and benefit to women throughout the entire world.
Don’t let this opportunity slip!