Cakes and Women’s Rights
Supporting charitable organisations with baked goodies: the International Women’s Institute Basel is collecting for good causes, and has already been quite successful.
By Isabelle Wanner
If anybody mentions the words “cake” or “cookies”, only very few will think of charity organisations. What rather springs to mind are sugar, butter and chocolate that, mixed together, will deliciously melt on your tongue. However, not only can baked goodies create moments of sheer bliss, they can also bring in money. This was what the International Women’s Institute Basel (IWIB) had in mind when organising baking competitions. Last year there were three of them; in the end they brought in around 1,800 Swiss Francs, according the head of the Institute, Helen Gilroy. With the revenue they support local organisations, such as “Frauenhaus” (women’s shelter), “Soup & Chill”, and the “Surprise Street Choir.”
Inspired by the Women’s Institute in the United Kingdom, a similar group was brought to life in Basel in 2015. However, apart from the name, there are no connections to their namesake in the UK. Originally founded across the pond in Canada towards the end of the 19th century, the Women’s Institute was then also set up in the United Kingdom a few years later. The first meeting took place in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Anglesey (Wales), and after that several other branches sprang up across the country very quickly. Originally the aim of these get-togethers by women was to revitalise rural communities and rural towns and to increase food production during World War I. Since its inception, the Women’s Institute has expanded its areas of activities. Today it ranges from sporting activities to political discussions, and also includes collecting donations for charitable purposes and learning traditional arts and crafts.
The primary aim in Basel is creating and offering a relaxed atmosphere to allow making new contacts. Apart from that, activities by the Women’s Institute in Basel include dance lessons, cooking courses, yoga, weekly walks and visits to the theatre. All the events that are for entertainment and to nurture and stimulate talents are organised by the members themselves. A visit to the IWIB’s website or to its Facebook page, where future events are advertised, will allow you to see all its various activities; this is also the place where the IWIB will be publishing pictures of previous events it has held.
The official language of the WI is English, thus attracting expats from English-speaking countries all over the world. This can lead to member just moving within a circle of like-minded and like-speaking people, without making any attempt to immerse themselves in the local community. At the same time the IWIB is offering an environment for women that have just arrived in Basel and are trying to link up with a familiar community. It is not just women newly arrived in Basel that you can find among the members; a few members have been living in Switzerland for several years, and some of them are even married to a Swiss partner. By collaborating with local charities that are based in Basel, Helen Gilroy is trying to help IWIB members make contacts with the locals here in Basel. At the same time, this also ensures that the curiosity and interest of the women of Basel are tickled. Any woman is certainly welcome to join the group.