The International Women's Tribune Centre (IWTC) is an international non-governmental organization established in l976 following the United Nations International Women's Year World Conference in Mexico City. With a commitment to empowering people and building communities, IWTC provides communication, information, education, and organizing support services to women's organizations and community groups working to improve the lives of women, particularly low-income women, in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
IWTC's work is grounded on the premise that access to information and the ability to communicate are basic to the process of women's empowerment, to women's ability to re-defining development paradigms, to women's participation in the public policy arena and to the building of democratic societies. IWTC's work is focused in four programme areas: (1) human rights, (2) information access and communication capacity-building; (3) networking and organizational support; and (4) Women, Ink, a knowledge-brokering service.
Underlying IWTC's work is an emphasis on participatory approaches to work and the need to make explicit the linkages between global policies and the everyday realities confronting women living in poverty. Through workshops and training programmes, information materials and services, networking and enabling linkages, IWTC builds bridges between the international and the national, between the abstract and the concrete, between policy and people, and between ideas and actions.
IWTC is interested in reaching individuals and organizations working in low-income communities who see themselves as information multipliers and/or community change agents. Findings from a 1998 external evaluation confirm that IWTC is in fact reaching this key constituency. One of the largest of the women's international networks, IWTC's constituency exceeds 25,000 in 150 countries, 94% in the Global South.*
IWTC works collaboratively with regional and national women's and community development organizations to meet the following objectives:
– To increase women's access to information and resources and their ability to utilize that information to advance their rights;
– To encourage the development of approaches and activities that mainstream women's projects rather than compartmentalize them as purely social programmes;
– To support groups working to increase the participation of low-income rural and urban women in all aspects of the development process, particularly in the economic arena;
– To provide a communications link for the sharing of information, ideas and resources among individuals and groups working on behalf of women in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Western Asia, North America and Europe;
– To link together groups and individuals who are working on similar research, action and/or advocacy activities; and
– To strengthen the institutional capabilities of women's groups that are working as advocates of change, programme innovators and providers of services.
IWTC is widely recognized for its pioneering work and innovative approaches in the information and communications arena. It was one of the first to develop skill-sharing opportunities for women in the Global South with the new information technologies; one of the first to develop systems to support the growth of networks and networking; and one of the first to demonstrate the possibilities of translating research findings and policy mandates into highly visual, participatory materials for use at the community level. IWTC's materials and graphics have been reproduced and adapted, translated and shared by women's and community organizations and development agencies worldwide.
IWTC has played a key role in providing timely, relevant information that enabled women worldwide to participate in the global United Nations conferences of the 1990s––as well as the preceding world conferences on women in 1980 and 1985. In retrospect, these conferences are seen as contributing significantly to political skill-building among women which in turn has created a worldwide women's movement capable of negotiating change at global and local levels. IWTC's work has been central to this effort. Beyond serving as an information-provider, IWTC has been instrumental in coalition-building efforts in the areas of human rights, science and technology, and media.
As a producer of popular education and participatory media materials, as an information and knowledge-broker, and as a consensus-builder between diverse sectors and groups, IWTC has demonstrated a unique ability to bridge the gap among diverse sectors and people and to create linkages that "make things happen." As a lead organization, a partner or co-sponsor, or as a committed participant, IWTC has lent its organizational resources and expertise to organizing global campaigns, developing communication strategies, putting forward advocacy positions, mobilizing support, and publicizing opportunities for women to participate in policy-shaping or change-making events.
IWTC has similarly facilitated the creation of new international networks by providing initial back-up and support services including staff expertise, use of office equipment and space, contacts for funding, and the development of internal systems to support networking activities. This support has given visibility to important issues at international level, mobilized global action and, ultimately, shaped policy.
IWTC provides technical and capacity-building support to women's organizations in the Global South through one-on-one consultations, workshops, the provision of "how-to" resource materials and/or facilitating linkages with other appropriate institutions.
In its role as an information-broker, IWTC responds to an average of 4,000 information requests per year, linking individuals and groups with like-minded organizations and responding with appropriate information. The Women, Ink. programme, which brings together more than 300 women and development publications from some 100 small presses and information-producing groups, plays a key role in ensuring women's perspectives are visible and that quality, cutting-edge resources are available worldwide.