Interview: Suzanne Mumford of the International Women’s Organisation

IWO Meeting

The International Women’s Organisation (IWO) is an incredible outlet for women of all nationalities living in Kampala. I had the lovely opportunity to interview the president of their Kampala chapter, Suzanne Mumford, this week and learn a bit more about their group.

Their mission statement reads, “The International Women’s Organisation is an organisation of women dedicated to fostering greater understanding between women of all nationalities living in Uganda and to promote fundraising for charitable purposes for the benefit Ugandan women and children.”

Suzanne, originally from America and New Zealand, has been living in Kampala for about eight years.  She joined IWO three years ago and spent her first year of membership learning more about the organization. Each year, she continued to get more involved. During her second year of membership, she was elected Assistant Membership Secretary, and this past May of 2013, she became the president.

The Kampala branch of the International Women’s Organization just celebrated a pretty big milestone: 30th anniversary of their presence in Kampala. Suzanne reflects on how the their group began saying, “The Kampala chapter started as a group of international women, some were diplomats and one was a United Nations business woman. They were all from different nations yet decided to join together to both socialize and do something good with their spare time!

One of IWO’s top priorities as a group is to give back to the women and children in their community. Suzanne recalls a story from the original IWO Kampala members 30 years ago. “The first thing (service project) the group did was buy milk! At the time, there was a shortage of milk throughout the country. The first members of IWO saw the need and responded by setting up station and distributing milk to women and children. Another notable service project was purchasing sanitary napkins and taking them to the women in prison. Ultimately, they just wanted to raise money so that they could make a difference!”

Today, this well-established women’s organization still upholds the same values as the original founders. Suzanne summarized the purpose of the group by highlighting their top three goals: Raise funds to provide materials for local groups, provide hospitality, and to provide members with learning opportunities that are current and relevant.

Providing for the community

First and foremost, IWO Kampala aims to raise funds to provide materials to groups serving Ugandan women and children.  Members participate in community service projects selected by the Project Committee who reviews the applications.  The projects chosen are always groups that serve local women and children. Instead of giving in monetary form, the money raised for each project goes directly towards donating materials or supplies. One of their newest projects is raising money to provide a few water tanks for students in Mulago area!

Providing Hospitality

The second goal of IWO is to provide hospitality through their networking circle. Open to both Ugandan and expat women from all over the world, they currently have 200 members from 47 different countries. Their various interest-based clubs – Scrabble, Bridge, gardening, book club, and craft club – are a great way for women of all nationalities to connect through similar hobbies. Their monthly coffee meetings are also open to newcomers and a great way to get involved.

Providing Learning Opportunities

The final goal of IWO Kampala is to continue educating their members. In my opinion, the very concept of the organization provides a valuable learning experience. They bring together intelligent women from all over the world and create a place for them to gather together and learn from each other!

Their monthly member meetings also provide opportunities to hear more about different programs in the area, bringing awareness about current issues. They facilitate guest speakers who focus on issues that pertain to women and children in Uganda and the topics are always current and relevant.

Get Involved!

The International Women’s Organisation of Kampala is a great social and educational outlet for women of all nationalities and interests living in the city. The women meet regularly at the Uganda Museum and invite you to come for one of their meetings! The best way to get in touch is to visit their website, http://www.iwokampala.org/. From there, someone will let you know the details for upcoming events. Membership fees are only 30,000 UGX for the year, which is a great price considering the inspiring and educational community you’ll get to be a part of.

Membership is obviously only extended to women, yet everyone is invited to their “Annual Christmas Bazaar” on November 23rd. The event will be held at Kampala International School (KISU) and, with a small entrance fee of 2,000 UGX, you can get a head start on this year’s Christmas shopping! In addition to the many vendors, there will be fun activities for the kids, such as photos with Santa, and plenty of food and entertainment. We hope to see you there!

(Photo by Dani Lynn Walker)

About Lauren McBride

Hey, I’m Lauren. I’m what you’d call an “expat by marriage.” When my husband and I stepped off the plane in Entebbe in June 2012, I had no idea what I was in for: the breezy traffic on the open road, enjoyable boda rides through the heart of town, or the gentle, lingering smell of exhaust blowing in my face. I continue to be amazed by the strong community in Kampala, the arts, the delicious food, and the fun hangs around this town. I’m committed to sharing the very best of Kampala with you through this website. Contact me anytime with your ideas, feedback, or jokes at lauren@livinginkampala.com.