5W (or 3W, as it was then called) was founded in 1984 by Frances Alexander in High Wycombe, UK. It was first envisaged as a European organisation and publicised by Dr Patricia Niedzwiecki, then editor of ‘Women of Europe’, the EU information bulletin on women’s affairs. However, as friendship knows no boundaries, 5W now has members in every continent except Antarctica!
5W is an organisation with few rules – just those of general courtesy, consideration and common sense. An essential condition of membership is to sign the promise of confidentiality on the application form. This is to protect all members. Its infringement is an offence under UK law.
Women Welcome Women (as it was originally known) was constituted as a non-profit Trust. On March 1,1999, the organisation became a Company Limited by Guarantee with an international Board of Directors/Trustees. The role of Chair is currently shared by a Trustee from the UK and from Switzerland. There are Trustees from Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA. 5W continues to operate as a non-profit Trust.
5W helps women become more self-confident. After experiencing other countries and ways of life from within private homes, members return to their own with greater understanding and a broader vision. Members in a number of countries do not have the option to travel, but they tell us how much they value the contact of women visiting them.
“If only people would learn that experiencing a different lifestyle is interesting, enriching and mind-opening. Too many people regard different as threatening. This suspicion and mistrust causes wars. Women have a gift for making friends, and I know 5W has in its own way made the world a smaller place. It pleases me that ordinary women travel the world, discover the joy of befriending people from very different cultures, and learn about themselves at the same time in our web of international friendship.” Frances Alexander, Founder
“It is the people I’ve met – friends now – from across the oceans, over hills, in valleys beside rivers; the conversations I’ve had. I’ve learned to listen and to understand. Frontiers, borders mean nothing when women get together. I have gained the confidence to say what I feel, without embarrassment, to stand tall.” SM, England