Friday, 8 June 2012

The Jubilee and AGM

What a whirlwind of activities the last week has been! The Diamond Jubilee celebrations of one of our WI Presidents have been well recorded, and many WIs have had a presence at events all over England and Wales; rom the WI Tent at the Battersea Park Jubilee celebrations, to my own WI in Cambridge federation, joining in with the village diamond festivities. It has all been a wonderful showcase for the WI at its best and I would like to thank  the many members for their hard work.

Just a few days before these celebrations began, the NFWI celebrated the whole of the WI at its AGM in the Royal Albert Hall. This included a round up of another very successful year, with increasing numbers of members and achievements, particularly within recent campaigns and projects. I think of the more liaison and diversion schemes announced by the government via our Care Not Custody mandate; and some shift for the better with the two rather than one year timescale for reporting of domestic violence in the new, revised Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, which has recently come on to the statute book. Again, all the campaigning came out of our mandate on Legal Aid being available for all.

Julian Fellows entertained and delighted the audience of over 5,000 women, and some men, with his acknowledgment that he has always been surrounded by strong women, for whom he is most grateful.  His fictional female characters often fall into this category too- and indeed, is this not why we love them?!

Space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, together with her two year old daughter, elucidated why she wants inner city children to aim for outer space; in other words aim high, as everyone has a gift for something and it only needs a spark to ignite a passionate flame.

She was also one of our adjudicators in the knitting challenge undertaken to secure a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the most number of people knitting in one place for 15 minutes.  We await verification, but with the current record standing at just over 1,400, the WI is hopeful.

Dancing from four of the Strictly Come Dancing artistes rounded off the day; but one of the most important issues to come out of the meeting was the adoption of this year's mandate:  “There are chronic shortages of midwives. The NFWI calls on the Government to increase investment in the training, employment and retention of midwives in England and Wales to ensure services are adequately resourced and are able to deliver a high standard of care”.  96.16% of the membership backed the resolution put forward by Horwich WI in Lancashire, which means a new campaign will begin shortly.

On the evening before  the AGM I spent a few minutes explaining the WI to a Japanese diplomat. He was attentive to my description, but I know that in such a short time he could not understand the depth and breadth of our great organisation.

I was speaking to him at the reception prior to the showing of the film “In the Land of Blood and Honey”. Angelina Jolie, the film’s Writer and Director, and Special Envoy to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, was there along with three of the actors, and the United States Ambassador, Louis Susman. The film was shown on the same day that the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, announced a UK initiative on preventing sexual violence in conflict. The initiative forms part of the UK’s forthcoming Presidency of the G8 in 2013. It includes the establishment of a dedicated UK team devoted to combating and preventing sexual violence in conflict. This team will be able to be deployed overseas at short notice to gather evidence and testimony that can be used to support investigations and prosecutions.

“In the Land of Blood and Honey” is set against the backdrop of the Bosnian War of the 1990s, and tells the story of two people from different sides of a brutal ethnic conflict; and the sexual violence in the conflict is never far away.

Just another week in the WI.