Thursday, 17 December 2009

I have sampled my first Twitter party; and what a fantastic experience it was.  Invited by Sarah Brown to No 10 Downing Street, I mingled with individuals and organisations, all as surprised as I was at being invited, whom the Prime Minister’s wife follows on Twitter.  Sarah hosted this party to raise the profile of Million Mothers campaign, which raises awareness of the many women across the world who still die in pregnancy and childbirth.  Highlighting this issue must eventually lead to better care – one day.

As I went upstairs in No 10 to that event the Prime Minister himself came down the same stairs exhorting me to “enjoy the party”. That party I did enjoy, but I certainly did not enjoy the party in Copenhagen he is attending right now. In fact, the WI cut short its stay in the Danish capital because it could not gain access to the Bella Conference Centre to attend the UN climate change talks. Many hundreds of people, no, thousands, were in the same position  and the organisation of the whole event left a lot be desired.  To have the right cards in one’s possession to allow entry, entry first had to be gained.  Once in the centre, after waiting for more than five and a half hours in the freezing cold, and with no explanation as to why, (no facilities either!) the collection point for said cards was closed.  Hence no opportunity to collect them before our proposed 9.30am meeting the next morning with Joan Ruddock MP. The collection point would open at 10.00am!

I could go on, but discourse at this stage will not change a disastrous situation. Even though we were in telephone contact with relevant people inside the Centre they could do nothing to change the entry criterion. So the whole WI delegation – the Head of the Delegation (me) and the WI’s climate change campaigns officer (Emily) – decided to cut its losses and return to England, complete with head colds brewing and looking forward to a proper meal.

Now, from a warmer distance the whole experience was as bad as it felt at the time. I am completely confident that the WI would have done a much better job of organization. But the real point is that by not even being allowed into the conference, ordinary women’s voices were ignored and the role of women was undermined. We were left feeling humiliated at being ignored along with the many other NGOs there and annoyed at the cost and CO2 emissions perpetrated by the thousands who, like the WI, did not gain entry to the most important conference in a long time for the future of this planet. Lets hope that this will not be an opportunity missed.