The Women's Institute (WI) was formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War. Since then the organisation's aims have broadened and the WI is now the largest voluntary women's organisation in the UK. The WI celebrated its centenary in 2015 and currently has almost 220,000 members in approximately 6,300 WIs.
The WI plays a unique role in providing women with educational opportunities and the chance to build new skills, to take part in a wide variety of activities and to campaign on issues that matter to them and their communities.
Every year, WI members put forward a range of issues for national debate at the Annual Meeting, which, if passed, form the basis of the organisation’s campaigning in the years ahead. The resolution process means that members play a central role in defining policy and bringing issues onto the WI’s national agenda.
The preservation and protection of the countryside has always been of great importance to WI members. One of the WI’s most significant campaigns over the past century led to the formation of the ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ group, after a resolution was proposed in 1954 calling to ‘preserve the countryside against desecration by litter.’
WI mandates are also often concerned with issues relating to rural and farming communities. In 2007, in reaction to the critical situation facing the dairy industry, the NFWI launched the WI Great Milk Debate to raise awareness of the challenges faced by dairy farmers and the importance of the dairy farming industry.
Since the WI’s formation, WI members have always been actively involved in their local communities and many WIs campaign on local issues as well as putting national campaigns into action in their locality. Following our ‘Link Together’ resolution passed in 2017, WI members have been campaigning to ‘alleviate loneliness’ in their local communities. This has included encouraging members to connect more with friends, neighbours and colleagues and to host community events open to all.
While the WI has expanded over the last decade, with many WIs opening in cities and large towns, its roots in rural life remain at the heart of the organisation.
If you would like to become a member or find out more information about your local WI, enter your postcode on the WI homepage to find the WIs nearest to you: www.thewi.org.uk
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