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The Swedish Martha Association

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The Swedish Martha Association in Finland is a non-political, nongovernmental organization that provides adult education and extends advisory service in matters related to home, family, and society.

The Martha Association was founded in 1899, at a politically difficult time when Finland was still a part of Russia. The aim of the association was to spread knowledge and enlightenment among the women living in the countryside and in cities. The founder, Lucina Hagman, wanted to make women, the fosterers of coming generations, aware of the political situation in the country, increase their selfconfidence, and improve their knowledge and skill in housekeeping and family-raising.

In 1924, the movement had spread all over the country and grown so large that, for practical reasons, it was divided into two separate organizations: the Finnish-speaking “Marttaliitto” and the Swedish-speaking “Marthaförbundet.”

The organization today

Today, Marthaförbundet in Finland has about 11,000 members, is organized into 12 districts, and has about 450 local associations and clubs. The members come from all Swedish-speaking areas in Finland, and are mostly women of all ages. The association has a children’s club, the M-club, with 500 members. The monthly magazine Martha, which has about 7,000 subscribers, is the voice of Marthaförbundet. The headquarters in Helsinki has a staff of about 10 people. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the organization has received financial support from the government.

Objectives

The objectives of the organization are to provide education and services in the following areas:

  • Household, food, and nutrition
  • Ecological consumption and environmental control
  • Family economy and debt management
  • International co-operation

Marthaförbundet offers advisory service by telephone, arranges lectures and demonstrations, writes informative articles, and produces informational material within the above mentioned topics. The household focus is on teaching the use of healthy food, berries, mushrooms, and other domestic products, whereas the ecology aspect concentrates on informing about ecological consumption, waste handling, and ways to preserve nature. The main concern within home economics is teaching young families sound consumer behavior and giving economic advice.

The international aspect

International co-operation is another important field of the Martha work. Marthaförbundet is a member of the international organization ACWW (Associated Country Women of the World, a worldwide organization with 9 million members in 67 countries), and the Nordic Women`s Association (Nordiska Kvinnoförbundet). From 1977 to 1998 Marthaförbundet carried out a project in Sri Lanka, building and supporting 13 nursery schools for small children. During three years in the early 1990s, education for women in small scale enterprises was arranged in co-operation with the local organization Lanka Mahila Samiti.

In 1998, a new education project, financially supported by the EU, was started for women in Latvia. The objectives of the project are to promote the integration of unemployed or low-paid women into society and to increase the equality between women and men. Local associations have co-operative projects in countries such as Estonia and Romania.

Quality of life, welfare, and sustainable development are keywords in Martha activities. Marthaförbundet influences decision-makers and authorities through initiatives and statements, serving as a channel between the authorities and people at the grass-roots level.

For more information, contact: Finland’s svenska Marthaförbund r.f., Lönnrotsgatan 3 A, 00120 Helsinki. Tel: 358- 9-696-2250; Fax: 358-9-680-1188; E-mail: mailto:martha@marthaforbundet.fi Website: http://www.marthaforbundet.fi

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