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

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