The Martha Organization is a Finnish home economics organization, founded in 1899 to promote well-being and quality of life in the home. It carries out cultural and civic education and does advocacy work in Finland.
Home economics is the main activity of Martat. We deal with
- food and nutrition,
- home gardening and environmental protection,
- household economics and consumer issues.
In addition to this the Marthas take part in a variety of campaigns together with other organizations and authorities. Adult education is an important field of activities and is implemented in study groups. The themes vary from human relations, women and develpoment, gardening and environment to cooking and healthy eating.
How it began
Towards the end of the 19th century Finland was struggling through hard times under the Russian Empire. A number of far-sighted women understood that in order to withstand the 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 do home economics work, first by making house-to-house visits which soon developed into planned courses.
As time passed the Martha organization gained a firm footing both in rural areas and in towns and its membership grew to the present number of 46 000. The members are organized into 1200 local clubs headed by elected leaders. The organization is divided into districts. Each district association has an executive director, employed home economics specialists and an elected board. The national Marttaliitto (The Martha Association) has its headquarters in Helsinki. A magazine called Martat has been published since 1902, and material on home economics is produced continuously. The organization has received a State subsidy since 1907 for the expenses incurred by home economics.
We are international
Marttaliitto is a member of the Nordic Women’s Association (Norfens kvinnoförbund, NKF) and of the International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE). We have carried out local development projects with African Women’s NGOs since the early 1980’s. At present the Martha organization is working with Cameroonian home economists and cooperating in two projects in Ethiopia and Malawi. Our joint projects provide poor women with information on home economics, such as the nutritional value of near produced food, and with entrepreneurship skills and small scale financing for their business ideas. In Ethiopia we focus on disabled women’s empowerment through life skills in home economics.