The Martha Association is a Finnish non-proft organization well-known for its dedication to educating the public in matters of home economics. Founded in 1899 The ”Marthas” are often turned to for advice on food, nutrition, gardening, the environment, family finances and consumer issues. It provides cultural and civic education and engages in advocacy work in Finland, and is activie in the field of cooperation with women’s NGOs in Africa.
Home economics is the main activity of Martat. We deal with:
- Food and nutrition
- Home gardening and environmental protection
- Family finances and consumer issues
In addition to this, the Marthas take part in a variety of campaigns in collaboration with other organizations and the authorities. Adult education is an important field of activities and is implemented in study groups. The themes vary from human relations, women and development, gardening and environment to cooking and healthy eating.
We are international
The Martha Association is a member of the International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE). In the 2022 IFHE World Congress in Atlanta, the Martha Association was invited to open the congress with a keynote speech on its history and present.
We have carried out development projects together with African Women’s NGOs since the early 1980s. At present, we are involved in four projects: in Somaliland (nutrition skills and income generation to SGBV victims, women’s self help groups and mothers of children with disabilities), in Ethiopia and Zambia (life skills to women with disabilities) and Malawi (prevention of sexual and gender-based violence in rural communities). Our joint projects always provide beneficiaries with information on home economics, such as the nutritional value of locally produced food, as well as with entrepreneurship skills and small-scale financing for their business ideas.
How it began
Towards the end of the 19th century, Finland was experiencing hard times under the Russian Empire. A group of far-sighted women realised that in order to endure these hardships Finland needed to start educational work at grass-root level, which is why the Martha Association was founded in 1899. Advice on very basic skills was needed in the home, and the association started to offer home economics counselling, first by visiting individual households, an activity that soon developed into planned courses.
In time, the Martha organization gained a firm footing both in rural areas and in towns. Its current membership count is 38 500, the majority being women. The members are organized into 1000 local clubs headed by elected leaders. The organization is divided into 13 districts. Each district association has an executive director, employed home economics specialists and an elected board. The central association Marttaliitto (The Martha Association) has its headquarters in Helsinki. The magazine Martat has been published since 1902, and other material on home economics is being produced continuously. The organization has been receiving state subsidy since 1907 for the expenses incurred by home economics counselling.