Lifeline for Institute members

A friendly face when we are isolated and scared is a priceless gift. An online community launched by Connect has enabled members of Scottish Women’s Institutes to escape the loneliness of lockdown and ‘meet’ every day throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Our mission was clear: to keep members connected and offer them a slice of Scottish Women’s Institutes life online. The creative solution: ‘Womankind by SWI’.

For more than 100 years, the SWI has played a vital role in communities across Scotland, bringing together like-minded women to learn new crafts and activities, enjoy each other’s company and provide friendship and support. For many members, the SWI events are their social life and for some these are their only opportunity to get together. With many of the women living in rural communities and some being older, we felt we had to fill the gap and offer an alternative online.

We have launched a new ‘Womankind by SWI’ Facebook page to help SWI members enjoy each other’s company and share skills with women across Scotland – from Shetland to the Scottish Borders – as well as offer a platform for them to support, care and entertain each other during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Now each day we host a 2pm Touch Point – a video conference which allows everyone to see each other and to chat about anything they want to. Members have shared laughs, poems, memories – and a few tears – and the feedback has been fantastic, with many participants saying we were the only people they had talked to ‘face-to-face’ for many days. While initially daunting for those who weren’t tech-savvy, these Touch Points have brought the friendship which is synonymous with Scottish Women’s Institutes right into the living rooms of members when they need it most.

The Womankind page also features a wide range of specially curated material, plus original content and videos from SWI’s own expert bakers, craft makers and artists. A structured plan for the week gives members a routine to their day, which is beneficial for mental well-being. Mind-mend Mondays and Wellness Wednesdays offer activities to keep members’ mood and self-esteem high, while Teach Me Tuesdays and Showcase Saturdays offer tutorials and updates by members – many of whom were social media novices before stepping up to share their skills.

Each day rounds off with the 6 O’Clock Social, where viewers can ‘tune in’ to see a classic comedy or dance performance and share a communal watching experience with their online friends.   

Womankind was the brainchild of our account manager Pauline Burnett who also edits SWI’s members’ magazine Women Together. She said: “While SWI members can’t get together at present, we’re helping to maintain the community virtually through Womankind on Facebook. 

“Our priority is easing loneliness and social isolation and keeping our members fit mentally and physically in the weeks ahead.

“It’s a place where they can all socialise and share thoughts and activities, have fun and gain comfort from each other. 

Many of the members are older and social media was not on their radar, but the benefits of this page are clear to see and the feedback has been fantastic with people thanking us for giving them something to look forward to and something which keeps them connected. We all need a friend, especially when life is difficult.”

Linda Retson, SSWI National President, said: “I think it goes without saying that the whole country faces a very difficult few months as we wait for this crisis to pass and we want all our members to stay safe and take care of one another. That’s why we have set up Womankind by SWI where we can all continue to enjoy all that our meetings give us – friendship, projects, fun and learning new tricks.”

Join in the fun by visiting Womankind by SWI.