Journey to help women worldwide

COUNTRY woman Ruth Shanks has no dolly of a task in front of her before she journeys from Dubbo to India this year.

Mrs Shanks aims to collect school supplies to contribute to an education initiative by a group that represents more than nine million women.

The leading voice will pack the donations in her luggage when she travels to the Associated Country Women of the World's (ACWW) triennial conference in Chennai.

Mrs Shanks, ACWW South Pacific area president, and her eight colleagues set the books, pens and pencils challenge to help children in the conference's host city, some of whom work in a quarry for part of the day before attending school.

A similar effort had worked well at the previous gathering of the ACWW, formed in 1933 as an umbrella group for those that were by name or nature Country Women's Associations (CWA).

The ACWW works in partnership with the many rural women's organisations from Samoa in the east to East Timor in the west, on projects aimed at improving lives, often by giving financial independence or better health.

Papua New Guinea's Voice for Change is involved in fish pond projects, to raise the amount of protein in diets.

In her role as South Pacific area president Mrs Shanks communicates with the groups - not always a quick matter where a village may have only one point of email access, she said.

It is also a monitoring role to make sure money distributed is spent appropriately.

Mrs Shanks recently went back to where her involvement in improving the lot of women began - the Terramungamine CWA, which she joined in 1969.

She told branch members, who now meet at Dubbo, about her work and the lead-up to the conference in September.

The area president brought with her a symbol of the ACWW's endeavour, which she sewed especially for the conference year.

'Warrawe Matilda', whose name means 'strong woman', is a doll that will accompany Mrs Shanks across the South Pacific, gathering donations and postcards to take on to India.

There the doll will be reunited with her eight well-travelled sisters, also made by the crafty mother and grandmother and given to other area presidents.

Mrs Shanks told Terramungamine branch members the most valuable way they could help would be to collect English-language books, exercise books and other school supplies.

It would be a load she'd be happy to bear to the streets of Chennai.

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