Working together, empowering others and keeping Women’s Institutes relevant for the women of today was top of the priority list for members at their recent national conference.
The New Zealand Federation of Women’s Institutes held their 102nd annual general meeting at Caroline Bay Hall, in Timaru.
National president Jude Vaughan, of Staveley, said the two day conference had the theme ‘empowered women, empower women’ and there was plenty of robust discussion about issues affecting the organisation, as well as celebrations of achievement, prizegiving and laughter.
It was officially hosted by Waimate Federation of WI but was held in Timaru due to accommodation needs of the 288 attendees.
Jude said the conference was about boosting everyone up, making things happen.
‘‘We got a great bunch of people here and we’ve got the opportunity to share it with new members, and younger members,’’ she said.
She said the fundamentals of the WI was to encourage, to educate women and empower to make a difference in their lives, families and communities.
‘‘There is a need for us,’’ Jude said.
As an incorporated society members of the WI are due to rewrite their constitution as part of the new Incorporated Society Act.
It’s something they have to do ahead of its fruition date later this year.
‘‘Hence why a constitutional remit of how the structure of the organisation is going to alter to meet the needs of the WI members of today.
‘‘It’s just actually our main focus is to make sure WIs are supported and keep going and that they don’t go into recess, to make things simplified (for members).’’
It was a positive meeting where people have gone away inspired, and heading in the same direction, she said.
‘‘Over the last year, the national executive committee has started to push the boundaries of the NZFWI.
‘‘We realise that we have to change, to take risks, to start looking outside the square if we are to survive as one of the largest women’s institutes/organisations in New Zealand – and survive we will.
‘‘However it’s a bit like pushing water up hill with a rake, or herding cats, we have to work together as a cohesive membership who are passionate enough to start making changes.
‘‘This is a national organisation and it has to raise its profile in order to reach out to those women who we know would benefit from being a member of the WI.’’
It’s about friendship, fellowship, support for women within their communities, she said.
It starts with the WIs, getting committee members willing to take on office roles such as president, secretary, treasurer, and planning for succession in those roles.
During the conference members donated scores of knitted incubator vests for babies in need.
The vests were given to Timaru Hospital’s children’s ward. It was knitting created for the WI’s national competition challenge for the Edna Way Cup for over 80s, but made with the babies in mind.
Jude said 142 vests were donated; 27 from members in the competition and the rest from members nationwide.
The WI also donated a hand-woven wahakura or pepi pod (baby bed) they were given by the Ngai Tahu iwi. The WI have regifted it to the hospital to be given to a family with whakapapa to the iwi.
A wahakura is a sleep device for babies woven from harakeke (flax) and fitted with a mattress. It is a safe sleeping space and allows mother and baby to be close while bed-sharing, avoiding accidental suffocation or smothered by blankets.
The conference was officially opened by Waimate Federation president Judy Clark who welcomed members to the conference and, in a tongue in check presentation, sought to right a few misgivings about Waimate, among them that ‘Wai mate’ meant stagnant water, and the town was shut and locked at 5.30pm ‘‘… at least not this week’’ she said, holding aloft a giant padlock and key.