Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Meeting the Minister for Women

Here I am a mother of 2, starting the day like any other with hunts around for school shoes, bags and my usual pleas of “brush those teeth and hurry up! Today especially as I had to be out early. I left a sunny morning in the Wye Valley behind me and 2 hours later found myself in central London.

There I was as a member of the Public Affairs Committee, waiting to meet up with Fay Mansell and Farah Nazeer before heading into the Houses of Parliament for a meeting with Harriet Harman, Minister for Women. Harriet had asked for a meeting with WI, to talk about Trafficking of Women and other issues. The main reason was to explore ideas and ways of joint working to increase awareness of trafficking. We also hoped to discuss the strategy to End Violence Against Women.

Walking through the corridors and watching the procession I was really conscious of the history and splendour of the place, what was a bonnie wee lass from Scotland doing here!

We had a relaxed and open meeting in the style of a round table discussion – we talked about adverts selling sex in the press, the End Violence Against Women strategy and asked why the UK hadn’t signed the EU Convention on Trafficking yet. I felt like Harriet Harman skirted over the issue by responding that it was because the UK wanted to put legislation in place first before signing the strategy. She was genuinely keen to know how WI members across the country could become involved in some of the issues she wanted to work on like the Care of the Elderly, and we suggested a focus group.

A sobering thought as I left the meeting… in the course of our 45 minute meeting 90 women and young girls would have been trafficked and sold into slavery.

On the journey home, I had time to go over the events of the day and indeed the journey that I have taken with the WI over the past 4 years. I have always been a person with a social conscience. My early career was in juvenile justice and youth homelessness and would have given my eye-teeth for a meeting with a high profile government minister. Having worked at the sharp end and now being part of the campaigning side of WI, once again I am proud to be part of WI and overwhelmed by its influence and the doors that open for our organisation.

Isla Arendell

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Woman’s Hour pays tribute to WI Love Food Champions project

This week we launched the WI Love Food Champions project which involves WI members working with individuals in their communities to share tips on preventing food waste.

Hear Suffolk Love Food Champion, Fran Saltmarsh, promoting the project on Woman’s Hour.

Each Love Food Group will endeavour to hold their first of four monthly meetings by the end of February. The Groups are being run in communities throughout England and the first meeting in Sussex will take place this Friday. The Sussex Love Food Champion, Janice Langley, will tell us all about it next week.

Find out more about the project or join your local group by visiting

Noelle Virtue

Monday, 28 January 2008

This year’s WI resolutions

There are two resolutions which will be carried forward to the 2008 AGM. The first calls for a “Ban on Bottom Trawling” and the second challenges the “Inappropriate Imprisonment of the Severely Mentally Ill”.

Resolutions are the backbone of NFWI campaigns and provide us with the powerful mandate to state what the majority of WI members think on an issue. To most protagonists – be it a Government body or a particular industry – the thought of the WI on their case will concern them enough to stop and listen.

The above two resolutions cover very different subject areas but both reflect the WI’s fundamental commitment to social and environmental welfare. I am sure that they will provide much food for thought and WI members across the country will enjoy debating, discussing and voting upon them.

More information will be sent out to members in the WI March mailing.

Farah Nazeer

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Dreary thoughts on a Sunday morning

As I settled in to my Sunday paper, I read about the ongoing trial regarding the Ipswich murders I found myself thinking about the stories that had really stuck in my mind that week – alleged forced marriages and an alleged honour killing in Cumbria, grooming of young and vulnerable girls for prostitution in Yorkshire, a discussion on trafficking in London and Cardiff – my list was beginning to seem like a glossary on the forms of violence against women.

There seems to be an ever-increasing litany of abuses – stalking, harassment, female genital mutilation, trafficking, forced marriages, honour killings, domestic violence, and rape - that can be committed against women and girls. Are things getting worse for us or are they the same they’ve always been but we are now naming the offences and taking a stand – declaring them to be unacceptable?

There is much discussion about the causes of violence against women and whether it is on the up. Is it the way women are portrayed in the media, easy access to increasingly violent forms of pornography, or is it rooted in our changing behaviours that have accompanied emancipation? Whilst I think the “why’s” need to be explored what I would really like to see is some more “how’s” particularly the how to address the issue – we do not need to think about the “when’s” - the time is obviously now. How many more instances of gender based violence do we need to see splashed across our papers before our political representatives sit up and do something?

The Making the Grade report was first published in 2005 and scored the Government on its performance to tackle violence against women – a shocking 1 out of 10. In 2006 the score went up to 2.28 out of 10. An improvement yes, but hardly reassuring when you are walking home in the dark.

The WI is concerned about violence against women and last October decided to start a new campaign on the issue to encourage the government to take action that will make a real difference to all our lives. I hope that any women (or indeed men) will take this issue personally and campaign with us - for more information visit

Farah Nazeer

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Launch of the WI Public Affair's Blog

Welcome to this new addition to the Public Affair’s emporium. As a department we hold the reins of the WI campaigns – and over the last 93 years, well, that’s an awful lot of campaigning to go through. But we love it!

As for me, I’ve been involved with the WI since birth it seems; my mum was a member and it seemed only natural that I should join when I grew up. So I did, and have loved it ever since working my way from local WI President to County Executive Chairman and then onto the NFWI Board four and a half years ago.

I have the privilege of opening this PA blog. For the last two and a half years I have chaired the NFWI PA committee but before that, as a committee member, I was heavily involved with the campaign we ran to put strong legislation in place regarding hazardous chemicals that slip through regulation nets into so many products we use every day. I am still passionate about this and do as much as I can to raise awareness of the whole subject.

The WI often works with MPs on areas on mutual interest and recently we were involved with the Sustainable Communities Bill, a piece of legislation which will enable communities to be more actively involved in local decisions and which I hope will prove a useful tool within all our campaigns. After all the WI is all about communities and positive changes and that’s because we’re Women Inspired!

Ruth Bond