History

INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF WOMEN LAWYERS
BEGINNINGS FIDA was founded on the 4th day of August, 1944, in Mexico City, Mexico. Founder members were: Rosalind G. Bates from U.S.A., Esther Talamantes from Mexico, Luisa Maria Capo from Puerto Rico, Isabel Sierro Pérez from Cuba and Alma Paredes from Salvador. The first Convention took place in 1945 in Havana, Cuba, and the first president was Isabel Sierro Pérez. FIDA has grown to have members in 72 countries all over the world.THE FOUNDERS OF FIDA María Esther Talamantes Perales Esther Talamantes Her nephew Antonio Ramirez Talamantes writes: In 1944 in Mexico City there took place the “Congress of the International Bar Association”at which my aunt Esther Talamantes was present. She was the only female Mexican lawyer that attended the congress; and there she met Linda Bates a lawyer from the United States. As a result of their conversations the idea of founding the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) was born and was formally established that same year on the fourth of August 1944 in Mexico. This is the reason for the Spanish name of the organization.Esther Talamantes’ work in forming this organization of women lawyers from all over the world deserves recognition. There are at present members from 73 countries. Lic Esther Talamantes was a founder and lifetime Vicepresident of FIDA, and in 1962 was the second World President of FIDA. She died in Mexico City in February 2015 at the age of 95. Linda BatesLinda Bates and Esther Talamantes were the founders of FIDA. In 1944 at the International Bar association Conference in Mexico City, Linda was a candidate for the board of the International Bar Association but as she was a woman she was not accepted. Disgusted at the discriminatory culture of the International Bar Association, the two of them made the decision to start a lawyer’s association only for women, and so founded the International Federation of Women Lawyers or FIDA; its Spanish acronym. Linda’s life ended tragically in 1961. She was murdered sometime between Nov. 13-14, 1961. Her body was found at her home on the 14th. The family believe it was a murder carried out by a hired killer. She had received a phone call telling her that if she did not withdraw from a case in which a great deal of money was involved, she would be killed. She went to the court and put the phone call on the record, but took no other precautions. No one has ever been brought to justice for the crime. When the news broke, the Los Angeles City Council adjourned for the day in a state of shock. She was divorced at the time from her second husband. Her first husband Ernest Sutherland Bates had died in 1939. GROWTH Unfortunately most of the records of the organization’s early growth were lost when the member in whose custody they had been left, died. However, it’s known that, from that very small beginning, by 1952 we had grown sufficiently to be accepted into the family of non-governmental organizations at the United Nations. In 1954, we were given consultative status with that body. In 2008, FIDA had membership in more than 72 countries in every region of the world and the federation is still growing. ACTIVITIES (i) To enhance and promote the welfare of women and children, realizing that on the well-being of women’s and children’s depends the happiness of the home and the strength of society. (ii) To promote the study of comparative law. (iii) To promote the principles and the aims of the United Nations in their legal and social aspects. FIDA seeks to enhance the status of women by effectively pursuing the following priority themes:

  • (a) Equality03
  • (b) Development
  • (c) Education
  • (d) Health education (including drug addiction)
  • (e) Eradication of prostitution
  • (f) Support for “Aids” programs
  • (g) Abolition of harmful traditional practice, inimical to the welfare of women and children, through primary health care
  • (h) Protection of women and children against violence in the family and supporting programmes for the achievement of world peace.

Activities: The Federation Executive Officers establish, and each Country Vice-President follows closely, the legal, economic and social position of women and children in their respective (72) countries and direct the efforts of the membership towards securing better conditions through improved legislation and other visible ways:

  • (a) The Federation supports the United Nations in all its programs;
  • (b) Organizes Women Lawyers and Bar Associations in 72 countries;
  • (c) Advocates the establishment of juvenile courts staffed by competent and qualified women judges, wherever possible;
  • (d) Works for better penal laws and administration;
  • (e) Urges political and civil equality of rights for women;
  • (f) Encourages greater participation of women in public office;
  • (g) Urges changes in both public and private law affecting women;
  • (h) Arranges conferences and forum discussions on legal questions.

In the last several years, our Federation membership has grown dramatically. FIDA has had an influx of brilliant young members from all over the world, dedicated to the betterment of their own and all society, attracted to our organization by its internationalism. REALIZING OBJECTIVES FIDA seeks to realize its objectives mainly through three avenues:

  • (A) Its work at the United Nations;
  • (B) Its work at FIDA’s biennial conventions; and
  • (C) Through its publications.

(A) OUR WORK AT THE UNITED NATIONS Under its consultative status, FIDA has the privilege and the right to attend meetings of the United Nations Economic and Social Council and some of its functional and special commissions, such as the Commission on the Status of Women, the Commission of Human Rights, the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of the Minorities and others, and many Committees formed in connection with the work of these commissions. The federation participates in their work by making its position known on various subjects through oral interventions and written statements made by FIDA’s representatives at those meetings. FIDA is a member of the Non Governmental Organizations Board of Directors and enjoys consultative status Number 2. (B) CONVENTIONS Our Federation holds international conventions every two years in the country of the current president. These conventions rotate by regions so that every region and the various countries in those regions may have equal opportunity to have a president and a convention. At the conventions our members generally make a comparative study of some particular phase of the law, write papers, and after debate, come to consensus conclusions, embodied in resolutions which are thereafter published in our periodicals and circulated to be acted upon by our members in their respective countries. The conventions also give us the opportunity to become personally acquainted with members from different regions and cultures, to understand each other better and to formulate policies to make our Federation more effective in carrying out our objectives. (C) OUR PUBLICATIONS The purpose of our publications is twofold, to keep open lines of communication with our members and to keep them informed about our work and results.

  1. The Abogada Newsletter: The International Women Lawyers Newsletter published quarterly in three languages, viz: – English, French and Spanish;
  2. La Abogada Internacional – Convention Review issued once a year;
  3. papers are also prepared by individual members or committees which are read at various Conferences and Conventions of the Federation.

OUR MEMBERSHIP Not only have we grown so that we have members now in almost every corner of the globe, but we proudly number among our members some of the great women leaders of the world, many of whom also served as presidents of our organizations.

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FEDERATION’S POLICIES The present size and strength has not been easily attained. We have made mistakes, but hopefully we have learned from our errors and through the years have formulated policies to carry out our goals and avoid setbacks. When our Federation was born, a very loose and vague constitution was adopted with few operational guidelines. The same people were elected and re-elected and kept in office year after year. Conventions were held every year, wherever expedient, either in Europe of the Americas, with little attention to regional considerations or geographic distribution. As the membership grew and expanded to the far parts of the world, yearly conventions became a financial impossibility and a policy of biennial conventions adopted, to be held in the country of the current president. The realization was also brought home to our pioneering members that we could not retain so diverse a membership unless we also adopted a policy of rotation of officers and conventions by regions, and that our constitution had to be revised. In 1958 we elected our first Asian president, the late JOSEFINA PHODACA-AMBROSIO of the Philippines and a committee was appointed to redraft the constitution. At the first Asian convention held in 1960 in Manila, the further policy was established, after protracted and heated debate, that we could not elect a president or hold a convention in a country with an unsavory record of human rights violations. Our members took the position that they would not honour such a country by conferring the presidency upon one of its citizens, no matter how personally popular or competent such citizen might be, or by holding an international convention of our organization, dedicated to the promotion of human rights, in a country which showed no respect for such rights. That policy since has been strictly followed. ESTHER TALAMANTES was then elected president and in 1962 our convention was held in Mexico City where we elected the late Violet Alva of India our next president. In 1964 at the convention of New Delhi our revised constitution was adopted. Written into that constitution is the mandate that conventions should rotate by regions, that a president could not be re-elected and that no executive officer could be elected to the same position for more than two successive terms. A policy was also informally adopted that no country in any region should be given the honour of the presidency a second time unless there was no other member in any country in that region ready, able and willing to accept the presidency and hold the convention in her country. The following is the list of Presidents and Conventions by countries since 1960:

YEAR PRESIDENT CONVENTIONS – WHERE HELD
1960 Josefina Phodaca-Ambrosio Manila, Philippines
1962 Esther Talamantes Mexico City, Mexico
1964 Violet Alva New Delhi, India
1967 Angie Brooks Monrovia, Liberia
1969 Mehranguiz Manoutchehrian Teheran, Iran
1971 Filomena Quintana Santiago, Chile
1973 Beng Oon Penang, Malaysia
1975 Helga Stoedter Hamburg, West Germany
1977 J. Aduke Alakija Lagos, Nigeria
1979 Dora Aberlin Sta Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A.
1982 Ana Lucia Garcia Caracas, Venezuela
1984 Daphne A. Kok Sidney, Australia
1986 Anca Postelnicu Brussels, Belgium
1988 Rose Taylor Accra, Ghana
1990 Angela Cuevas de Dolmetsch Cartagena, Colombia
1992 Maria Eugenia Charles Nassau, Bahamas
1994 Nicole Huguenin-Gonon Paris, France
1996 Elsie Leung Hong Kong
1998 Surinder Kapila Nairobi, Kenya
2000 Mary Wilburn Washington, U.S.A.
2002 Alvarina Miranda De Almeida Manaus, Brazil
2005 Puan Sri Saraswathy Devi Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2008 Pirkko Koskinen/Giovanna Chiara Milano, Italy
2011 Stella Ugboma Lagos Lagos, Nigeria
2014 Sheela Anish Bangalore Bangalore, India
2017 Jethlyn A. Burrows Freeport, Bahamas

Experience has also taught us that rotation of the presidency and the convention should also be orderly and follow a specific pattern. Members are proud of their own countries and sensitive to any intended or inadvertent slight. We lost much of our South American membership when there was a misunderstanding about the convention that had been scheduled for Venezuela. When we seriously began to adhere to the policy of rotation, in our eagerness to be fair to the third world and developing countries, we by-passed Europe, with the result that our European membership eroded. We regained some, but not all, when we finally elected a European president and had an European convention. Since 1960 se have had four eastern presidents and conventions, three in Africa, two in North America, three in South America and two in Europe. Regular order must be followed and no region may be by-passed unless the region itself turns down the opportunity for a president and a convention. It should also be noted that were we to permit the presidency to go a second time to a country in a particular region, it would mean the other countries in that region would not have the opportunity to opt for the presidency and a convention for at least another ten years. ACCOMPLISHMENTS In 1956, the women of Haiti could not vote. We went to Haiti, held public meetings and as a direct result of our efforts, the women got the right to vote shortly after we left. In 1960 the laws affecting women in Thailand were antiquated and oppressive. We were asked to come to Thailand, to hold meetings there to help the women in their struggle for equality. Through the constant pressure of our Thai-members, in 1974, laws were finally passed giving women full equality and mandating that all existing laws discriminating against women were to be abolished within two years. A drafting Committee on Family Law comprised of six men and six women was also set up. Three of the women on that committee are our members. Another of our Thai-members is now a senator. In 1971 at our Congress in Chile, the Latin American Women asked us to adopt resolutions for rectifying the many iniquities in their laws under the principle of “Patria Potestas” giving almost absolute power over the children and their separate property, to the father. We are advised that since then, much has been accomplished in that respect. Some Delegates at the Convention In Korea Dr. Tai-Young Lee founded the first legal aid clinic to help the indigent and particularly poor women. In Singapore our members have instituted free legal counseling, have distributed pamphlets about what women should know about the law, in all languages and dialects in use there, and have established a scholarship for handicapped children. In Iran, our former president Dr. Manoutchehrian, at her own expenses, translated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into Persian and distributed thousands of copies throughout the land. The establishment of family courts and legal aid clinics has received high priority in our members programmes and we are collecting up to date statistics thereon. In the United States our members have been in the forefront of the battle for ERA, and have held open forums and panel discussions on the future effect of ERA. Dr. Marguerite Rawalt is the chairman of the Equal Rights Amendment Ratification Council. In Nigeria the drafting committee for constitutional amendment, composed of 49 men and no women, incorporated provisions affecting women’s rights to vote on religious grounds. Our Nigerian members are vigorously contesting these provisions, in line with our policy of supporting the abolition of discrimination against women in religious tenets and tribal laws, wherever found. FIDA Nigeria has recently been honored by the Nigerian Government for their work on the Eradication of Drug Abuse. In 1991 FIDA Colombia pioneered the political rights of women. Colombia’s national Constituent Assembly, under the clause of Political Rights, approved “the duty of the State to guarantee adequate and effective participation by women at decision-making levels of public administration”. We have fought and are fighting discrimination not only against women but against all human beings, and have actively joined in the struggle against the unequal administration of justice, against torture, terrorism, high jacking, apartheid and many other problems. Our women have also made great strides in the struggle to put women into policy making positions and the higher judiciary ranks. While we do not claim sole credit for the progress already made, we believe we have been a compelling force, and still are, in the battle to obtain equality for women and human rights for all. GOALS FOR THE FUTURE If, as an organization, we are to have and continue to have significant impact, we must have a large, strong membership. Our first priority is to increase our membership. There is strength in numbers. Not only must we increase our membership, but we must hold it. To do this we must have adequate means of communication and we must strictly and unflinchingly adhere to principles of equity and fair play. All members in our countries in whatever regions must be treated alike and fairly and must be given equal opportunity to be elected to policy making positions in our own organization. We must adhere closely to and fight for the objectives for which we were organized. Otherwise we have no reason for being.