The SWI – still going strong at 100

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100 Years of the Scottish Women’s Institutes / Trusadh: Dachaigh’s Dùthaich

Monday 26th June 2017, 9pm, BBC ALBA

IMAGINE a 100th birthday celebration with 17,000 women involved…  well, it’s happening this year, all over Scotland!

Throughout 2017, members of the Scottish Women’s Institutes are marking its centenary.

This feel-good documentary, presented by Christina McGonigle, shows the ingredients that make up the SWI’s successful recipe for fun and friendship and explores why the SWI is still relevant to women, and still welcoming new members, in 2017.

The SWI, formerly known as the Scottish Women’s ‘Rural’ Institutes, was set up by a charismatic and determined East Lothian famer’s wife – and suffragette – Catherine Blair.

Her aim was to encourage educational opportunities, friendship, and skill sharing for ordinary women. In the programme, Catherine’s great grand-daughters Mairead Blair and Catriona McDougall discuss their pride in their great grandmother and how they have now joined the Leith Women’s Institute to help celebrate 100 years of this much-loved institution, run by women for women.

Christina explores some of this history as she joins some 21st century members from Dingwall, Glasgow, Skye, Leith, Pitlochry, North Uist and Harris to find out how the original ethos is still just as relevant to women in 700 local groups today.

Today, there are new SWI groups exploring issues around women’s safety and taking part in gender politics issues such as how to prevent violence against women, the Reclaim The Night march, and more.

These groups sit comfortably alongside the traditional groups in rural areas whose members are still preserving skills such as embroidery, baking and knitting.

Christina mucks in with dancing classes, joins an inner-city group for a frank discussion about sex, participates in a rural show and accompanies ladies from some of Scotland’s most remote Island institutes at a special centenary rally.

The programme also travels to the SWI’s headquarters in Edinburgh where members from around Scotland are busy preparing for a Royal visitor.

Christina says: “I started on this journey with some stereotypical prejudices about the SWI – I thought it was all jam and Jerusalem.

“But I ended it completely won over by the SWI and the comradeship and camaraderie between the women. It is an excellent organisation. I would urge women of all ages to not brush the SWI aside and to give it a go.

“It is a great way of finding fun and friendship and learning a new skill – whatever your age or background.

“There’s a motto in the SWI – ‘If you know a good thing pass it on’ – and the SWI is a really good thing – pass it on!”

Trusadh:  100 years of the SWI / Trusadh: Dachaigh ’s Dùthaich – Produced by MacTV for BBC ALBA, 26th June, 9pm-10pm.

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