The Swedish Martha Association in Finland

The Swedish Martha Association in Finland is a non-political, non-governmental organisation that provides adult education and extends advisory service in matters related to home, family and society. Key words in all our activities are quality of life, welfare and sustainable development. Marthaförbundet influences decision-makers and authorities through initiatives and statements and serves as a channel between the authorities in the society and people at grass-root level.

How it began

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 both in the countryside and in the cities. The founder, Ms. Lucina Hagman, wanted to make women, the fosterers of coming generations, aware of the political situation in the country, increase their self-confidence 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 it out of practical reasons was divided into two separate organisations: the Finnish-speaking "Marttaliitto" and the Swedish-speaking "Marthaförbundet".

The organisation of today

Today Marthaförbundet (The Swedish Martha Association in Finland) has over 10 000 members, is organised into 13 districts and has about 450 local associations and clubs. The members come from all of the Swedish-speaking areas in Finland, and are women of all ages, old as well as young. The association also has a children´s club, UngMartha, with over 900 members. The popular monthly magazine "Martha" is the voice of Marthaförbundet.

The headquarters, located in Helsinki, has a staff of approximately 14 people. Since the beginning of the 20th century the organisation has received financial support from the government.

Objectives

The objective of the organisation is to provide education and extend service within the following areas:

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

Marthaförbundet offers advisory service, arranges lectures and demonstrations, writes informative articles and produces information material within the above mentioned topics. Within the household area the 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, the effect different chemicals have on especially women, waste handling and means of preserving the Finnish nature. The main concern within home economics is teaching young families sound consumer behaviour 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 organisation ACWW (Associated Country Women of the World), which is a worldwide organisation with 9 million members in over 70 countries, and a member of the Nordic Women`s Association (Nordiska Kvinnoförbundet). From 1977 to 1998 Marthaförbundet carried through a project in Sri Lanka, building and supporting 13 nursery schools for small children. During three years at the beginning of the 1990's, education for women in small scale enterprising was arranged in co-operation with the local organisation Lanka Mahila Samiti.

Marthaförbundet is one of the founders of Marta Centrs in Latvia. Marta Centrs is a resource center for women, promoting mutual support, understanding and solidarity between women, regardless of age, ethnicity or socioeconomical status. Marta Centrs educates clients about their rights, provides them with information, and helps women develop their knowledge base and competency so that women gain confidence in their own abilities to successfully realize their goals. Local associations have co-operation projects in e.g. Estonia and Romania.

Today Marthaförbundet (The Swedish Martha Association in Finland) has over 10 000 members, is organised into 13 districts and has about 450 local associations and clubs.