So, I joined the CWA…

Barham CWA

This month, the Barham branch of the Country Women’s Association (CWA) re-formed.

There were over 35 women in attendance and ten apologies for the first meeting which, in our small town, is pretty amazing. The CWA is a community group of women of all ages, across all different groups in our society and it’s lovely.

There has been an incredible amount of interest in the new CWA. So many women are really excited about it and there were women as young as 30 at the first meeting. It’s got me thinking a lot about what the appeal is for women; why is it so popular? It’s also made me think about feminism and equality.

Why have women embraced the re-establishment of the CWA and flocked to the meetings in droves? What is it that excites me about the CWA?

I think there are a number of reasons. For me, it felt like it would be a lovely opportunity to come together with other women and do good things — I was particularly attracted to the opportunity to raise awareness about mental health and suicide in our community and also just to work with a group of community-focused people. I also love the idea of preserving the old school skills of making scones and knitting and I’d really love to learn how to make a sponge properly!

There is something about the CWA that resonates with women in our community. Maybe it’s because of the history of it and that we all remember our grandmothers being involved in it or maybe it’s the appeal of an women-only group?

I was recently out for dinner with our local NSW MP Adrian Piccoli and a group of local business people. We talked about many things but we also got talking about the re-formation of the CWA and this lead to a discussion about equal rights and women’s equality. Adrian’s wife is actually the President of Soroptomists International in Griffith.

It was put to me during this discussion by one guest that the CWA might been seen as backwards with phrases like “sitting around baking scones is so old fashioned” and “what does the CWA do anyway, bake cakes?” bandied about. It seems that some people around town were also surprised that many young women were joining this seemingly antiquated group. I must admit that I had considered this myself when the CWA was forming, I wondered it if was anti-feminist and old fashioned. Does it send the right message?

Here’s the conclusion that I’ve come to…

The CWA is amazing. Their aim is to “improve the conditions for women and children and make life better for families, especially those living in rural and remote Australia”. Their “old-fashioned” scone baking last year raised over $80,000 at the Royal Melbourne Show. They made 72,500 ‘trauma bears’ for kids undergoing procedures in hospitals. They send packages to women in East Timor to help them after childbirth and they raise loads of money for different causes every year.

Last year they raised awareness of the domestic violence against women and this year it’s mental health and suicide, a cause particularly close to my heart. The CWA is the largest women’s organisation in Australia with a membership of over 22,000 in over 1,200 branches around the country and they have representatives on over 12 boards nationally including: Consumers Telecommunications Network, Telstra Consumer Council, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Consumer Consultative Committee and Australian Communications Industry Forum. The CWA has a long history of achievements and helping to connect women around Australia and to improve the quality of life for women, particularly in rural areas.

In The Age recently there was this great article written by Annabel Crabb entitled “Feminsm, like humanity is messy and imperfect”. This article really resonated with me. Annabel states that sometimes she does things that she’s frightened Germaine Greer will find out about like “wearing high heels”. I love this comment. I think perhaps this is a bit like the CWA for me. I am a strong women who believes very strongly in equal rights, of course! But, it’s OK for me to want to bake scones too isn’t it? It’s OK if I want to wear high heels but also Blundstones? Isn’t it OK for me just to do what I want? Isn’t that where we want to get to?

In her piece, Annabel Crabb says that she was “bothered that women are more than 50% of the population and more than 60% of university graduates but only 3% of chief executives…it bothers me that one women per week gets killed by her male partner and it bothers me that ‘working Mum’ is a phrase used all the time but you never hear ‘working Dad’.” I couldn’t agree more.

Getting together with awesome women to do good things like raise awareness about suicide prevention makes me feel good. So does making scones. The CWA is a friendship group for women of all ages, it’s a group that focuses on kindness to all and on helping others. To me that’s pretty cool.

I’ll be sticking with the CWA. I’ll continue to run my business with my husband. I’ll also be looking after the kids and running the household. I’ll be doing an online business course and presenting when I’m asked to. I’ll be getting involved with the community and trying to do as many positive things as I can to contribute to making life awesome for everyone in our community because that’s what I want to do.

It was International Women’s Day last Sunday so let’s celebrate being a woman. Bake a scone, run a company, look after your kids, run a marathon, join the CWA! Do whatever you like!