Our History

Indian Federation of Indian Women’s Associations (IFUWA)

More than 100 years in serving the cause of women empowerment

Indian Federation of University Women’s Association is the national body whose motto is to ‘Serve Humanity’ and thrives to provide better education and help women across the nation to build their own future.

The journey

Federation of University Women in India, founded in 1920, was affiliated to the then International Federation of University Women (IFUW) in 1921. In 1952-53, the Federation became a registered body and in 1961-62, the Memorandum, Constitution and Bye-laws of the Federation were amended to introduce a federal structure. The name was changed to ‘Indian Federation of University Women's Associations’ (IFUWA) and all local chapters became ‘Associations’ with membership status. Since 1961, all member Associations of that before have been known as University Women’s Association of (city). In some cases, the original name was retained for local reasons. Of all the Associations, the Mumbai Association, known as Women Graduates Union, has achieved the longest lifespan.

IFUWA commenced its activities with Ms Prativa Chaudhuri as its first President and Miss Cornelia Sorabji as the first Secretary. Miss Sorabji was one of the first women lawyers in India and pioneered the opening up of the legal profession to women in India. The commitment of the pioneers to make IFUWA a central body guiding, advising and assisting the local Associations affiliated to it, saw the setting up of local University Women’s Associations pan India. Since its inception, the mission of IFUWA has been to give opportunity to university educated women, to help them express their united opinion, to encourage cooperation in academic endeavors and independent research and above all, if need be, to voice their concern to government authorities seeking justice for women.

To establish the motto of IFUWA, the logo of a lamp encircled with the words ‘Enlightenment promotes Understanding’ was made which till date is the identity with IFUWA vision.

IFUWA is proud to have had 29 distinguished women presidents who have led the parent Association till date and under whose guidance and concerted efforts the Association has grown from strength to strength. It has empowered women to enhance and establish themselves with better education. IFUWA believes in the effectiveness of voluntary work for the creation of peace and dignity for women.

History of achievements

  • IFUWA developed its public relations via representation on the Indian National Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO through the then IFUW (presently GWI)
  • IFUWA has undertaken Study Groups and organised conferences, forming the platform for exchange of diverse ideas in matters related to educational interests. Empowered members are therefore prepared to take action leading to policy formulations.
  • Between 1962 – 1967 IFUWA under the leadership of Lakshmi Menon, directed studies on part time employment for women and their impact on family life. She was consecutively president for three terms in which fifteen new local associations were formed.
  • In 1978, the ‘Bina Roy Partners in Development’ (BRPID) Program commenced where a national affiliate wishing to benefit from the grant of the then IFUW (presently GWI) sends a project proposal to the then IFUW related to higher education or leading to advancement of women and girls, which if approved is matched with other suitable donor/s. Over the years local chapters under the aegis of IFUWA has been the recipients of this project grant.
  • In 1986 at Christchurch New Zealand, University Women of Asia (UWAsia) was formally constituted within the framework of the then IFUW (presently GWI). This was done to ensure greater participation of the members from the Asian Federations of India / Bangladesh / Korea/ Japan / Hongkong Sri Lanka and Thailand.
  • In 1987 the then IFUW President Dr Ritva – Liisa Karvetti visited Project 5-O in Calcutta, a local chapter of IFUWA.
  • In 1994 The Bina Roy Memorial Research Fellowship in Postgraduate Studies and Research in areas of Humanities, Social Sciences Education, Law and Women’s Development studies came into being. In 2007, The IFUWA – WGU Scholarship was instituted in Bombay headquarters and in 2016 IFUWA introduced the Kumararani Meena Muthiah scholarship in Chennai headquarters for doctoral and post doctoral research work.
  • In 1995 SAARCFUW was established with the objective to foster a Federation of University Women associated with the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries who will promote understanding, friendship and cooperation irrespective of race, religion and nationality. It was set up for greater involvement of women of the region to encourage and reciprocate regional contacts in dealing with women related issues. Dr Sudha Padhye and Dr Panna Akhani from India were the founder members of SAARCFUW.
  • In 1998 – 99 The Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (VGIF) provided funds to IFUWA to conduct Leadership Training Workshops which benefitted a number of women from the cities of Bengaluru and Pune.
  • 2001 – 2004 IFUWA held the charge of SAARCFUW.
  • In 2009 IFUWA - VGIF celebrated the 40th year Anniversary Friendship Tour and Joint Conference in Calcutta (now Kolkata), hosted by the local chapter during the tenure of IFUWA President Mrs Enakshi Chattopadhay.
  • In 2013, at the Istanbul Conference, the past President of IFUWA, Late Dr Mrs Chitra Ghosh declared an Award for the best project conducted by any NFA that will have maximum sustainability and highest number of beneficiaries. The Award came to be known as the ‘Chitra Ghosh Award for the Best Project on Women Empowerment’. It includes a Citation and a cash award of $1000 USD.
  • From 1965 onwards IFUWA members have served on the board of the then IFUW and now GWI as Vice Presidents, Conveners and Members of different committees. IFUWA has contributed constructively in passing of significant country specific resolutions at GWI.
  • In August 2020, IFUWA in her Centenary year instituted a new scholarship ‘IFUWA Centenary Scholarship’ and recognised the Icons who over the years have made the Association proud with their contributions.

Moments of international and national glory

Members continue to present and participate in innumerable paper and workshop presentations at the international conferences as well as in the local chapters keeping to the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). IFUWA encourages young members to actively participate at the Young Members Forum at international conferences. A number of accolades and honors are received by IFUWA members at GWI and at other conferences. The local and national projects, workshops and seminars have fulfilled IFUWA’s mission of helping the society at large having opened new vistas for IFUWA. IFUWA continues to encourage meritorious women and helps them pursue research through her Scholarship program.

The strength of IFUWA lies in the summation of educated empowered and enlightened members who have overcome barriers to make life more effective and meaningful for women.

Looking to the future

IFUWA has worked towards worldwide connection of women graduates who have come together to design measures for fostering peace at all levels and educate the girl child for her independence and self respect. Much work has been done, but much more is left to be done.

Looking to the years ahead, IFUWA needs to form pressure groups, promote interventions and take up advocacy work. In the years to come IFUWA will continue to lead in several women centric domains empowering women and encouraging them to be self-reliant. It will continue to be the harbinger of hope to all sections of women in India.

IFUWA Presidents over the years

  • 1950-53  Lady Rama Rao
  • 1953–55  Ms Amy B H Rustomjee
  • 1955-56  Dr S Sridevi
  • 1957–59  Ms Mona Hensman
  • 1959–61  Ms V Koman
  • 1961–67  Ms Lakshmi N Menon
  • 1967-71  Ms Mary Agnes Saldanha
  • 1971–75  Ms Daisy L Gopal Ratnam
  • 1975–79  Dr Bina Roy
  • 1979-83  Professor Chitra Ghosh
  • 1983–87  Ms Minal Saran
  • 1987–91  Ms Maithreyi Ramadurai
  • 1991–95  Dr Goolcheher Coyaji
  • 1995–99  Ms Nellie Dwarkanath
  • 1999-02  Ms Devyani Sircar
  • 2002–05  Dr Panna Akhani
  • 2005–08  Dr Sudha Padhye
  • 2008–11  Ms Enakshi Chattopadhyay
  • 2011–14  Dr Vinaybala Mehta
  • 2014-17  Dr Meena Muthiah
  • 2017-20  Ms Swati Bedekar
  • 2020-23  Dr Ranjana Banerjee (present)

Graduate Women International

An overview

Three accomplished women, Virginia Guildersleeve the Dean of Barnard College, USA, Prof Caroline Spurgeon of London and Mrs Rose Sidwick of Birmingham first conceived that a functioning women’s organisation needed to be set up that would be internationally acclaimed with national federations affiliated to it. Hence International Federation of University Women (now Graduate Women International) came into existence in 1919, which has just completed its centenary in 2019, with celebrations at Geneva with a widely attended Conference.

Graduate Women International (GWI) which has its Head Quarters in Geneva, advocates for women’s rights, equality and empowerment through access to quality secondary and tertiary education, and training up to the highest levels. Her vision is to ensure that girls and women in the world achieve education beyond primary school. There are national affiliates in 60 countries and individual members in more than 40 others who join the international advocacy and grant programs to learn how one can become part of an international network of women working for change. The members volunteer their expertise in a wide-range of community projects. Literacy, financial literacy and vocational training programs/Mentoring workshops to promote women’s skills and learning/Campaigns to increase women’s awareness of their rights. It has The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) status with the Commission on the Status of Women and has women working for the United Nations in New York, Paris and Geneva and Vienna. GWI focuses on a) Projects (b) Fellowship and Grants (c) Advocacy and Policy (d) Policy Papers.

The purpose of GWI is to:

  • Promote lifelong education for women and girls;
  • Promote international cooperation, friendship, peace and respect for human rights for all, irrespective of their age, race, nationality, religion, political opinion, gender and sexual orientation or other status;
  • Advocate for the advancement of the status of women and girls; and
  • Encourage and enable women and girls to apply their knowledge and skills in leadership and decision-making in all forms of public and private life.


IFUWA provides women and girls with every opportunity to complete their higher education and pursue research to realize their innate potential to the maximum. IFUWA nurtures cooperation, networking, support and understanding through advocacy and endeavours to establish collaboration with likeminded associations that enhance women’s awareness of their rights.


IFUWA seeks to nurture women and girls to become knowledgeable, resourceful and empowered individuals to respond to the needs of their society.

IFUWA endeavours to promote the process of developing competence, commitment and skills to enable women to become responsible and self reliant. Thereby empowering them to apply skill and learning to take up leadership and decision making roles in public and private life.

IFUWA undertakes research and devises relevant strategies through academic programs, vocational training and skill-based education to help women adapt to a changing society to facilitate an effective lifelong sustenance.