Honouring the visionaries: celebrating 70 years of the founding of FIGO

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On 26 July this year, we proudly mark the 70th anniversary of the creation of FIGO. Founded in 1954 in Geneva, FIGO was born out of a compelling international movement with the aim to share knowledge and align best practices in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology.  

At its inception, FIGO brought together representatives from 42 national OBGYN societies, united with the common goal to improve women's health worldwide. The founding members included societies from Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ireland, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, Uruguay, USA, USSR, Venezuela and Yugoslavia. 

The first historic meeting was convened on 26 July 1954 by the inspiring Professor Hubert de Watteville from Berne, Switzerland. During lively discussions, FIGO's mission was crafted: 

"To make better mental and physical health for all women, mothers and their children, using all adequate means; to expand and improve the exchange of information and ideas in the areas of gynaecology and obstetrics; to contribute to the investigation of new knowledge; to perfect the teaching of the profession; to improve international cooperation and relations between national societies of gynaecologists and obstetricians." 

Milestone moments 

As a member-led organisation, FIGO has driven progress in the field of women's health and rights globally.  

In 1963, FIGO launched the International Journal of Gynaecology & Obstetrics (IJGO), furthering our commitment to research and knowledge dissemination.  

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Past International Journal of Gynaecology & Obstetrics (IJGO) editorial covers

In 2000, Spanish was added as an official language, alongside English and French, to expand our reach and inclusivity. 

Another milestone moment came in 2003 at the General Assembly in Santiago de Chile, where Professor Dorothy Shaw was elected as FIGO's first female President. This paved the way for future female leaders, including Dr Jeanne Conry and the current President, Professor Kihara Anne-Beatrice. 

In 2021 our World Congress was held online from Sydney due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, our flagship event, which had been taking place every three years since 1954, moved to a two-year cycle. 

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Previous World Congress invitations and abstracts.

From then to now 

To date, FIGO has been led by 26 Presidents coming from countries across the world, representing our global commitment to women's health. Over the past 70 years, FIGO's membership has grown to a total of 139 national societies, which engage actively through specialist Committees and Divisions. FIGO's diverse membership strengthens our global reach and our ability to mobilise networks, cementing our position as the global voice for women's health.   

FIGO continues to lead global programme activities to protect and progress health and rights of women and girls worldwide, particularly in low-resource areas. We remain fully committed to collaborate with our member societies on projects that help increase access to safe abortion care, reduce maternal mortality and address neglected health issues affecting the most vulnerable in our communities. 

As we celebrate 70 years of FIGO, we honour its founding members and the importance of our growing membership. We are a global movement working together to improve women's health and rights, reduce disparities in health care and advance the practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. Together, we will shape a better future for women, girls and newborns worldwide.