What is the Co-operative Women’s Guild?
The Co-operative Women’s Guild (the Guild) was founded in 1883 in England and Wales and 1892 in Scotland, to educate women in the principles and practices of Co-operation and to work for the improvement of the status of women. It is an auxiliary of the Co-operative Movement.
Early Guildswomen campaigned and achieved much. A Maternity benefit was included in the 1911 National Insurance Act because of Guild pressure. At the same time the Guild also campaigned successfully for infant welfare facilities.
After World War 1, the Guild actively campaigned for peace and introduced the white peace poppy in 1933. These are widely distributed today and working for world peace is an important part of Guild policy.
The Guild today is still battling for social justice and is constantly monitoring and lobbying on social policy issues.
The Guild is a democracy of women. Besides making its opinion heard by national and local governments and national bodies, Guildswomen also enjoy outings and social functions organised by many Guild branches.
The Structure of the Guild
Founded in 1883, the Co-operative Women’s Guild of England and Wales is one of the oldest women’s organisations in existence. Its objects are to encourage and educate women to play a full part in the Co-operative Movement and in local, national and international affairs. It strives, through a wide variety of educational, social, cultural and recreational activities, to enable each of its members to live a full, interesting and useful life.
Currently, the Guild has 58 Branches in England and Wales. Each plans its own programme around the Aims and Objects of the Guild and elects its own officers. Most raise money for a nationally agreed charitable project, as well as supporting local causes.
Branches are encouraged to work in close contact with local Co-operative Societies.
Policy is determined by an Annual Congress to which each Branch is entitled to send one delegate, who has one vote. District and Regional Councils and the National Executive Committee are elected annually by the Branches.
The Guild has had strong ties with women in many countries through the Women’s Committee of the International Co-operative Alliance and, in association with other Co-operative organisations; played an active part in a variety of projects in developing countries.
- Guild branches are each responsible for their own programming and activities, in accordance with the policy and rules of the Guild as laid down by Congress.
- The President, Treasurer and Secretary of each branch are democratically elected by the Branch members.
- Branches should be closely linked with their local Co-operative Societies, from whom, most receive financial assistance to run the branch.
- Branches pay a yearly affiliation fee to Guild Head Office for all its members; a proportion of those fees are sent to each District and each Region
- Guild districts co-ordinate the work of the Branches within its own area
- Each Branch can have two representatives on the District Council
- Larger Districts have an Executive Committee elected by and from the Council.
- The District Secretary is directly elected by the Branches. Other officials are elected by the District Council.
- Districts liaise with Regions through an elected Regional Representative
- The country is divided into 9 Regions, each with a Council elected directly by Branches within each Region.
- The Regional Representative is elected by the Branches.
- The National Executive Committee Member is the Chairman of the Region. The Region is responsible for liaison with Districts through the appointment of Council Members to serve specific Districts.
National Executive Committee
- The National Executive Committee (the NEC) is the highest tier in the Guild. It should comprise of 9 members, one from each region, who are democratically nominated and elected annually, for a one year term of office, by the branches. Should there not be a nomination from each Region, the NEC has the power to co-opt a representative from a Region already represented.
- Each NEC member acts as the Chairman of her own Region and should report back on the work of the NEC at Regional meetings
- It meets bi-monthly to discuss Guild business and is responsible for the running of the Guild according to its Constitution and policies agreed at Annual Congress. It directs the organisation of the Guild’s Annual General Meeting and Annual Congress and elects one of its number to be the Guild’s National President and another as the National Vice-President, who will be the National President the following year. The NEC also appoints the General Secretary/Membership Officer and the Secretary to the Mrs. Ben Jones Guild Convalescent Fund.
- The NEC has the power to appoint sub-committees should they be needed.
- The Co-operative Women’s Guild’s Congress is held directly after the Annual General Meeting in May of each year. It is held at a suitable venue in the National President’s Region
- Each Branch, which has met all its financial commitments to the Guild for the previous year, is entitled to send one delegate to Congress. The delegates hold the voting card for their own branch. If a branch does not wish to send a delegate to Congress, that branch’s vote is not valid
- Resolutions for Congress and Amendments to Rules may only be submitted by Branches and the National Executive Committee. Once accepted, they are binding on all Branches, whether represented at Congress or not.
- Guildswomen have the right to attend Congress as a visitor; attending all aspects of Congress including listening to the debate, speaking to any of the Resolutions and joining the Conference dinner and entertainment in the evenings
Mrs. Ben Jones Guild Convalescent Fund
- The Mrs Ben Jones Guild Convalescent Fund is a fund set up, as a registered charity, for the benefit of guild members. It was set up in memory of Mrs. Ben Jones, a former National President.
- It is run by a committee of four Trustees and is served by a Secretary, who is appointed by the National Executive Committee.
- The Fund, which is a registered charity, depends upon donations from Branches, Districts and Sections.
General Secretary/Membership Officer – Head Office
- The General Secretary/Membership Officer is appointed by the National Executive Committee to carry out the administrative work of the Guild under the direction of the National Executive Committee, in particular the National President