How important is the role of women in farming in Ireland?

The Irish Countrywomens Association (ICA) has been at the forefront of the rural communities of Ireland since 1910. As the association grew so did the amount of guilds and as the demographics changed in Ireland more and more guilds began opening in urban areas. Of the members in rural areas many of their families are involved in farming so the role of women in farming in Ireland is an important one.

What are the major challenges facing the ICA?

The ICA has been at the heart of the community since 1910 and it has faced many challenges over the past 100 years. We have consistently attracted new members and more than 25 new members joined us every week in 2011 and 2012. The major challenge facing the ICA is retention of members. Some guilds have members who have been in the guild for 50 years and who find change difficult to cope with. It is difficult when a new member joins this guild and tries to implement new ideas and meets with resistance to change. Often that can lead to the new member becoming disillusioned and leaving the guild. The ICA has therefore adopted a strategy of opening new guilds where there is sufficient interest in a given community.

Is social media a key platform for the ICA in terms of communication?

The ICA Central Office joined Facebook in 2010. At the AGM of the Irish Countrywomens Association in May 2013 it was reported that during the previous 12 months the ICA Facebook pages had registered “1,056” likes. The Facebook page has become very popular among members with increasingly more members joining the page.

The Irish Countrywomens Association Adult Education College An Grianán in Co Louth also has a facebook page and in 2012 this facebook page became a “like” page and it is no longer necessary for people to wait for confirmation to be a “friend” and this is helpful from a business perspective.

The ICA joined Twitter in 2012. To date we have tweeted 188 tweets, have 484 followers and follow 234 groups or individuals.

Where do you see the ICA in 30 years?

I see it exactly as it is today, the largest membership organisation of women in Ireland.  I see the ICA at the centre of community life, an organisation of fun, friendship and support as well as a life line for rural and urban women all over the country.

What do you like best about your job?

One of the things I love best about this job is the spirit of volunteerism in ICA. Every member of our board, every member of the National Advisory Committee and all the Regional, Federation and Guild presidents and officers are all volunteers. It is very motivational and inspiring to work with people who are so dedicated to their work and want to improve the lot of women all over the country.

I also enjoy the opportunity to travel all over Ireland and meet the members. I am often invited to anniversaries and celebrations and these are always wonderful opportunities to meet our grass roots members.

For more on the Irish Countrywomens Association , log on to its website.

Image Liz Walsh, courtesy ICA