The Women’s Institute (WI) was formed in 1915 with two clear aims: to revitalise rural communities and to encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War. Since then its aims have broadened and it is now the largest women’s organisation in the UK. The WI celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2005 and currently has 205,000 members in 6,500 WIs across the country.
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.
he national headquarters of the WI, the National Federation of Women's Institutes, is in London. There is also an office in Cardiff, NFWI-Wales, and a residential college in Oxfordshire, Denman College.
The individual WIs are grouped together to form 70 county and island federations, each with a regional office. Together the WIs and federations make up the National Federation. Each level of the organisation is run by a committee of elected members. The NFWI Board of Trustees is democratically elected every two years by the members.
The National Federation of WIs run campaigns that are close to the hearts of its members; currently there are campaigns being run focusing on the plight of the honeybee, maternal health in developing countries (in conjunction with Oxfam), country of origin labelling of food and many others. Members can submit resolutions for discussion at the annual AGM, and if passed will go on to become mandates and form the basis of campaigning activities in the years ahead.
For more information about the national and regional federations take a look at the national WI website.