When we were discussing what Ruralmums should represent, we talked about friendship, support, inspiration and community. It turns out that we share many of our aspirations with the great British Institution that is the Women’s Institute. They have very kindly written the following article for Ruralmums.
The WI welcomes all women
The WI is the largest women’s membership organisation in the UK. It has around 200,000 members in 6,000 WIs across England, Wales and the Islands. The WI prides itself on being a trusted place for all women of all generations, to share experiences and learn from each other. A WI membership offers the opportunity to meet women in your local area and virtually, to make friends and make a difference in your local community. There are national campaigns to get behind, life-long learning and self-development opportunities alongside WI member exclusive discounts and experiences to take advantage of.
While the WI today is widespread in the UK across cities, towns and villages, the WI’s roots are very much in rural life. Formed in 1915, the Women’s Institute was originally brought to life to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War. The WI movement had started eighteen years earlier in Stoney Creek, Canada and was founded by Canadian educational reformer Adelaide Hoodless. The first WI to open in the UK was on Anglesey, Wales in 1915 and later that year in Sussex, England. The WI also played a huge role during World War Two, supporting the Women’s Land Army and making hundreds of tonnes of jam to stop fruit from going to waste.
Today the WI is still very active in rural communities, and it’s a brilliant resource for women looking to connect with people in their area, or join community projects and find volunteering opportunities.
Campaigning to make a difference
The WI’s campaigns tackle issues that matter to members. From equal pay to climate change, mental health and violence against women, over the past 100 years members have embraced a diverse set of challenges. As a WI member, you have the opportunity to influence and implement real change through the WI’s democratic resolutions process. WI members can ‘propose’ resolutions on issues they feel passionate about. Resolutions are shortlisted and then voted on by the organisations 200,000 members before going forward to the National Annual Meeting for a debate and final vote. The most recent resolution to pass was to raise awareness of the subtle signs of ovarian cancer, which became a WI campaign in July 2021.
Find out more about the WI’s history of campaigning here.
So how do you become a member?
When you join the WI, you join at a local level which is usually a WI in the area you live. Every WI is unique and the WI really is what you make of it, so you can try a few different WIs and see what suits you before joining. During the past year, the WI has also launched several fully virtual WIs, who hold all their monthly meetings and sub-groups online, so if you can’t get to meetings in person regularly, this might be the option for you.
The WI’s website has a handy ‘find a WI’ tool on its homepage. All you have to do is type in your postcode, and the WIs nearest to you will pop up on the map. You can click on each WI to find out when and where they meet, and a contact box at the side so you can send a message through to their regional federation for more information about joining. Don’t forget, many WIs are also active on social media, so if you want to get more of a feel for the group before you go along, try searching online to see if they have a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page.
If there isn’t a WI in your area, you are more than welcome to set a new one up! Find out more about starting a WI here.