Thursday, 28 February 2008

Have your say about rural life in Wales

The National Assembly for Wales Rural Development Sub-Committee is currently undertaking a scrutiny inquiry into poverty and deprivation in rural Wales. The aim is to learn about people’s experiences of living in poverty/deprivation in rural Wales and to get feedback on how the Welsh Assembly Government can address the problems faced by communities.

People in rural Wales may well be affected by rural poverty/deprivation but be oblivious to it as defining rural poverty and deprivation can be difficult. The first thought that may come to mind is that these are money and income issues and are related to economic inactivity. However if we go back to the WI’s 90@90 report, a number of other issues relating to rural poverty and deprivation become apparent.

An issue highlighted in 90@90 and which is raised by the WI time and time again is that a community needs certain basic services – bank, post office, school, corner shop and hospital etc. – to thrive. Yet access to local services is becoming increasingly problematic in rural areas.

Poor public transport provision in rural communities is another issue giving rise to social exclusion and which is prominent in the 90@90 report. A member from Powys Montgomery who took part in a 90@90 focus group said “The Government is always banging on about how we should use public transport, but you can’t if there isn’t any”.

Labour market exclusion, lack of affordable childcare, and difficulties in the farming industry are examples of other issues prevalent in rural communities and impacting on rural quality of life.

The NFWI-Wales Office is currently drafting a response to the inquiry and we would very much like to hear your thoughts concerning poverty and deprivation in rural Wales.

Sarah Thomas

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Third time lucky?

Another meeting with the Minister and another failure to get an answer on whether or not she intends to hold true to her promise of a cross-Governmental strategy to end violence against women.

We met with Harriet Harman and Barbara Follett, Ministers for Women, yesterday to discuss what women’s organisations want the Government to focus on over the coming year. When asked whether a Government strategy to end violence against women was still a priority for the Minister, she disregarded the question entirely.

It appears the Government’s priority is now focussed on addressing violence against women as individual issues. For instance they have a
UK Action Plan on Tackling Human Trafficking and two days ago the Home Office released its Violent Crime Action Plan which deals with some aspects of domestic violence, rape and honor-based violence. So why are they so averse to giving women their basic human rights by putting together a holistic strategy to end violence against women, encompassing not only allocated funding for victims and survivors support services but also looking at ways to prevent violence in the first place.

It looks as though we have our work cut out for us with this campaign.

If you are interested in helping to lobby on this issue please send your name, number and email address to and please state whether or not you are a WI member.

Noelle Virtue

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Would Jeremy Clarkson take ending violence against women seriously?

How is it that the petition with the third most signatures on the Downing Street e-petitions site is to Make Jeremy Clarkson Prime Minister? And with over 45,000 signatures, no less! By comparison a petition aimed at ending violence against women has just over 1,000.

Now I’m not a huge fan of Jeremy Clarkson’s carbon emissions policies and he’s not exactly known as a campaigner for gender equality, but if he ever announced his intention to put forward a strategy to give women their basic human rights by ending violence against women then I may just vote for him in the next elections.

The Government’s aim to end child poverty by 2020 may go some way to help prevent some instances of violence against women, after all child poverty is linked to women’s poverty, but it will take a fully fledged strategy with targets and allocated funding for prevention and survivors services to see the eradication of violence against women. And why shouldn’t we strive for that ultimate goal?

I ask all readers to please sign the End Violence Against Women coalition’s e-petition calling on the Government to take a more strategic approach to ending all forms of violence against women, including a commitment to long-term funding of specialised violence against women services thus ending the postcode lottery for such support services.

Sorry Jeremy but I think this issue deserves more attention than the bid to make you Prime Minister.

Noelle Virtue

Thursday, 7 February 2008

A World Without Jam

Can you image such a world?

Check out our new short film which captures our members’ knowledge and enthusiasm for fighting climate change and envisions a possible future where we witness some of the realities we may face as a consequence of not acting sooner.

Please watch it, and tell you family and friends too! We hope this film will motivate more people to start up new conversations about climate change and inspire them to take action together.

The Public Affairs Team

Monday, 4 February 2008

Love Food Groups begin

What better way could there be to start the West Sussex WI Love Food Champions’ Group than to sit down together to eat?
Six non-WI members joined me on Friday 1st February for our first meeting. I think we were all a little apprehensive as to what the evening would be like; not everyone had met before but one thing they wanted to know was how they could reduce food waste in their home.

To get the evening off to a “food” start everyone was asked to say something about themselves and food.
Here are some of the comments –
"I love food and eat too much."
"I don’t really like food. I enjoy cooking but don’t always want to eat it when I do."
" I love cooking but I eat late and too much."
"I do 95% of the cooking and my husband is a trained chef."
"I love eating, I am a good cook and I can’t stand waste."
"I am a diabetic and need to eat regularly; I don’t like veg and love sugary things."

I said – “I love cooking and get great pleasure in feeding people” and with that we tucked into a pasta bake!

With their Love Food Champions’ Workbook for reference we discussed various aspects of food shopping. Most of the group made a comprehensive shopping list before setting out on their weekly, some twice weekly shop.

Moving on to the topic of special offers and “buy one get one free” one participant told us she shares these with her mother as they often meet in the super market when doing their weekly shop.

We talked about how often we shop –
One participant said her husband does the shopping early on Saturday morning armed with a well prepared shopping list also often taking with him their son who is almost 4 while she stays at home with the twins who are just 2.

Another participant stated she shops after work when she have decided what she wants to eat. She feels she probably wastes more food than anyone else in the group.

We had a long discussion on understanding the date marks and how one could interpret them and being confident about making the right decision. The group then moved on to the subject of eggs – how did you know if they had “gone off”, what happened when they got past their sell-by date? What are the advantages of free range against economy eggs and the differing cost of eggs?

Everyone agreed that our family backgrounds and especially our mothers had a huge influence on the way we shopped and planned our menus. Not being quite as rigid as our mothers were, having roast on Sunday, cold meat with bubble and squeak on Monday, egg and chips Tuesday etc. but this certainly had an affect on the way we plan our meals and do our food shopping.

To round off the evening each wrote down which particular food they felt they wasted most and the papers were selected at random for the group to discuss how these could be used. There was quite a selection including cheese, bread, melon (this was a difficult one), hummus and crème fraiche and they used their Kitchen Journal to write in hints and tips from the session.

We kept to the 2 hour limit we had set ourselves – we could have gone on a lot longer! - with instructions on how to use their Kitchen Caddie and with their Love Food Champions’ Workbook and Kitchen Journal everyone departed for home inspired to reduce their food waste and to check their cupboards, fridges and freezers when making out their shopping lists.

I would like to thank my group for agreeing to become WI Love Food Champions and I look forward to our next meeting on the 29th February when we will be talking about portion size and meal planning.

Janice Langley

Friday, 1 February 2008

So you think you know about composting

Tuesday morning I travelled to Coton Village, Cambridgeshire, for the first of 8 regional home compost workshops the NFWI is running in partnership with the Waste & Resources Action Programme. As the final 90@90 project, these workshops aim to encourage people to reduce their food waste, and get the most out of composting.

As a non-composter, suffering from “no outside space” issues living in central London, I was very eager to learn about the virtues of composting and how this may be possible under my current circumstances. Organising a community compost with my neighbours may be the solution as I’m not prepared to keep a wormery in my kitchen (no matter how dedicated I may be!). Needless to say I learned a lot about compost. From bokashi bins in the kitchen to heaps in the garden, I’m no longer a novice when it comes to compost bins – nor what can and should go in them.

But don’t take my word for it; after all I am no expert. However the community members that came to this workshop had all been composting for years, and guess what? Not a single one of them didn’t learn something new about composting.

Over the next month we’ll be running 7 more of these workshops. Check out the 90@90 page to see if there’s one near you!

Emily Boost