A headline in the Farmer's Weekly Interactive on Saturday 18 June announced “WI saga highlights need to educate more”. Adam Bedford is so right – the primary reason for any WI resolution is to educate, to inform and to promote discussion around the issue raised. Initially, this all takes place within WI meetings between members, but it's not long before the general public gets to know more too. It does not matter that there wasn’t a vote on the planning permission for factory farming resolution because raising awareness of the whole issue has well and truly taken place. Yes, we do need a public debate; yes, we do need to look more into the whole saga of factory farming, but right now, ‘for’ or ‘against’ is not the answer. The media is still talking about this topic ten days after the AGM, so LET'S TALK!
Talk is what the WI did with the Great Milk Debates in 2007. Across the country, dairy farmers, processors, retailers and consumers, including WI members, held at least 100 discussions, which in a number of cases resulted in better prices for milk. Last November the debate was reinvigorated with the Mission Milk campaign; the WI remains on the case until a goal is reached.
Another case we are still concerned about is Ending Violence Against Women. Following the proposals made yesterday in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, the NFWI believes that vulnerable women are still potentially unprotected. Whilst it is positive that the government has acknowledged the importance of the provision of legal aid in cases involving domestic violence, these proposals do not reflect the reality of women’s lives. Changing the scope of legal aid, as these new proposals have, just serves to risk excluding vulnerable women from the justice they so badly need.
On a lighter note, I spent a very enjoyable and interesting morning with members from the two Kent Federations – West and East – discussing all things WI from badges and the NFWI's centenary, to Denman College and rising membership numbers. 21,000 women have joined the WI since this time last year; the reasons for joining will be myriad but I bet some really wanted to learn to make jam.
More and more members are becoming moodlers too; there are now over 10,000 of us! I urge all members and NFWI Associates to check it out.
Looking back to the AGM and membership, blog readers might be interested to learn that an NFWI Associate from Boston, USA came over specifically to attend the meeting in Liverpool. During her short three-day trip to the UK, she also visited the NFWI office at 104 New Kings Road and Fulham WI. Denman College is on the itinerary for her next visit to these shores; we’re looking forward to seeing her then.