Friday, 12 October 2018

Manchester WI’s ‘Lady Grey IPA’

Love British Food’s ‘British Food Fortnight’ runs from 22 September to 7 October 2018. It is the biggest, annual celebration of British food and drink. The following guest blog has been written by Manchester WI about a special beer that it brewed in partnership with a local brewery in Manchester, to celebrate 100 years since some women were given the vote for the first time.

President Shelly shares how members created ‘Lady Grey IPA’, why British independent produce is important to them and how the beer has been received in the local community…

Manchester WI and Runaway Brewery celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which granted some women the vote for the first time, and International Women’s Day 2018 by brewing a limited edition beer called ‘Lady Grey IPA’.

We wanted to celebrate votes for women by doing something a little out of the ordinary that lots of people across Manchester could enjoy. Brewing a beer 100 years on from the first women being granted the vote shows one small way how far women have come in the last 100 years – it’s about demonstrating equality in a fun way that other people can join in with.

All of our members voted on the flavour of the beer and tried testers at our Christmas party last year. The final product was infused with Lady Grey Tea, Bergamot and citrus zest for a delicately perfumed, fruity IPA.

We had decided to launch the beer at the beginning of March, to coincide with International Women’s Day (8 March). During the week in February that marked the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, members spent a day at The Runaway Brewery, getting stuck into the start of the brewing process.

Working on the brewing process!
As a local community group, supporting independent businesses in our community is very important to Manchester WI. We wanted to work with a local brewery that we could really get to know and become friends with, it’s been a great experience and Mark and his team from Runaway are definitely honorary WI members!

On Saturday 10 March Runaway opened its doors for the Lady Grey IPA Launch Party and there was an open invite to beer lovers across Manchester to come and raise a celebratory pint.  Seven other beers all brewed on site were available, plus we were joined by Steep Soda serving locally made, all natural soda on their pop-up gin bar - so something for every taste!

The Lady Grey IPA Launch Party soundtrack was an eclectic and celebratory mix of female led bands and artists with recommendations from across the decades suggested by Manchester WI members.

Members of Manchester WI at Runaway Brewery

Mark Welsby, the owner of Runaway kept back two kegs of Lady Grey IPA for the launch – which were all drank before the end of the day! The rest of the beer was distributed around pubs and restaurants in Manchester and sold out in record time.

A percentage of the price of each bottle and pint went into the Manchester WI bursary fund, supporting the WI’s original purpose of education for women. This raised us over £200, giving us a fantastic boost to the bursary fund available for our members this year.

We’re thinking about brewing another beer for International Women’s Day 2019 following the success of the Lady Grey IPA!

Friday, 20 July 2018

It’s time for the Government to commit to a proper measure of food insecurity

Written by Lynne Stubbings, NFWI Chair 
Today I have written to the Prime Minister, asking her to commit to measuring the prevalence of food insecurity in the UK. The work that has been done on this so far in the UK is patchy at best; I have urged her to commit instead to ongoing and robust measurement. Without it, we cannot hope to find proper solutions to the problem of hunger in this country.

As the largest women’s organisation in the UK, the Women’s Institute (WI) retains a strong grassroots ethos at the core of all policy and campaigning work. Over its 103 year history, the WI has worked across a wide-ranging portfolio of issues. As Chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI), I am proud to say that all WI campaigns are member-led. The issues we work on reflect the concerns of nearly 220,000 members who are committed to realising the potential of an active and informed civic society.

In 2016 a resolution was passed by the membership which calls for the WI to work to tackle the issue of food insecurity. WI members across the country are organising discussion events to learn about the issue of food insecurity, and to learn how this can be tackled at the local and systemic levels. Through this work WI members have been disappointed at both the lack and quality of statistics available which measure the extent of the problem.

There are easy and validated tools for collecting data on food insecurity which are already in use in other countries. For example in the United States, the Department of Agriculture operates the Household Food Insecurity Survey Module. At the United Nations the Food and Agricultural Organisation has developed a Food Insecurity Experience Scale. Proper implementation of these tools in existing surveys would allow robust and effective measurement.

By committing to measure household food insecurity in the UK, the government would also be working towards meeting its obligations under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – especially Goal Two, which calls for an end to hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture.

Without proper measurement it is clear that both the Government and civil society are ill-equipped to understand the full extent of food insecurity. Only once the true scale of the problem is known do we stand a chance of responding effectively, and ensuring that no-one goes hungry in the UK.

You can read the full letter here.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Craftivism and the WI

Guest blog written by Claire Wade, President of Swallowtail WI in Norfolk Federation. This article was originally published in the Eastern Daily Press on 11 July 2018.

Swallowtail WI's craft entry for the Norfolk Show 

Political activism is often seen as radical and potentially aggressive. The term conjures up images of petitions, protests and rallies, but these are not the only ways to raise awareness of important issues. Not everybody can or wants to take to the streets to march, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care or are unwilling to get involved. Fortunately there are alternatives, ways to use your skills and experience to demonstrate in a form that’s right for you.
The WI is known for its campaigning, it introduced the initial plan for Keep Britain Tidy in 1954 and passed a resolution to ban smoking in public places in 1964. The WI has a voice and it’s not afraid to use it.

The problem with some forms of protest is that if people feel they’re being preached to or shouted at, they can shut down and stop listening. Global warming, domestic abuse or mental health are all subjects that are often met with a cool reaction, especially when the person doesn’t realise that the issues affect them or those they know.           

That’s why the WI uses craftivism to raise awareness in a subtler, but no less powerful way. Craftivism combines craft with activism; it’s a way of voicing your opinion through the use of crafts and creativity to influence long-term change. It can be easy to dismiss it as unimportant or “airy-fairy” but the WI is successfully leveraging its members’ skills to create stunning works of art and start important conversations. With craftivism it doesn’t matter your background, your political party or religion, everyone can get involved because the issues cross party lines, they affect us all.   

Norfolk WI members have been involved in numerous craftivism projects. As part of our long running campaign, No More Violence Against Women, we created a giant white ribbon, because wearing a white ribbon demonstrates your pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women. Our ribbon stood ten feet tall and was inscribed with messages of support from people across the county.

Every February, WIs craft green hearts to raise awareness of climate change and “Show the Love” for the places we want to protect. This year the hearts formed a display on the railings outside St Peter Mancroft.

For International Women’s Day 2016, Erpingham with Calthorpe WI encouraged visitors to the Forum to sew inspirational words onto patches to make a quilt for Leeway, a domestic abuse charity.

In October, Buxton & District WI celebrated its 90th birthday by yarn bombing their village, to bring the community together.
This year, Swallowtail WI paid tribute to the centenary of some women in the UK getting the vote. Members incorporated suffragettes and the colours Green, White and Violet (Give Women Votes) into their Norfolk Show craft entry.
Norwich All Saints WI (NASWI) made sensory bands and lap blankets for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and crocheted red triangles to raise awareness of Female Genital Mutilation. Members also help run Crafternoons at The Millennium Library on the first Saturday of every month. The sessions are free to attend, open to everyone and help to alleviate loneliness, which was last year’s WI resolution.
“If people can wear a brooch, make a creative display, paint a rock, hang a piece of bunting they are able to let people know how they feel and what they want to say without having to confront folk with words and printed messages,” said Kathy Riviere from NASWI.
While the finished project is important, the act of creation is almost more important. It brings people together and gets them talking about the issue while enjoying a relaxing activity. It’s easier to talk about the hard things while your hands are busy and there’s tea and cake nearby. If this is the new face of political activism then sign me up.        

Friday, 15 June 2018

Progress on food waste

May was an exciting month for the Food Matters campaign, with two major campaign wins. First, Morrisons published its food waste figures for the first time – one of the key asks of our campaign. Second, Tesco announced that, in direct response to the WI’s campaigning and research, it will be removing best before dates from 70 lines of packaged fruit and veg. These are two great examples of the power of the WI coming together to make positive long lasting change.

The Food Matters campaign

The Food Matters campaign was started in 2016 as a result of a resolution at that year’s annual meeting. Over five thousand WI members took part in our food waste research project, telling us about their own food waste habits and visiting supermarkets to investigate practices on the shelves. This led us to publish a report in which we set out a series of recommendations to retailers, which was turned into a manifesto for WIs to hand to in to their local supermarkets.

The NFWI has been pushing retailers to change their practices by meeting with key players in the retailers’ food waste teams to outline our recommendations. This combined with WI members speaking up in their local communities, ensures that the WI is a powerful voice for change.

Tesco removing best before dates from packaged fruit and veg

Thanks to the WI’s research and campaigning (or as The Times put it in its article covering the move, our “intense lobbying”) Tesco is now removing best before dates from 70 lines of packaged fruit and vegetables. This is a great step that we feel have a positive effect on lowering food waste levels in the home, as our research showed significant confusion around date labelling. WI members told us that they believe people may be too reliant on best before labels (which are not linked to food safety) when deciding whether or not food is safe to eat, often throwing perfectly good food out unnecessarily.

Just some of the press coverage the move received, all of which outlined how the change was a result of WI campaigning.
We congratulate Tesco for taking this important step, and will encourage all other retailers to consider following this step.

Morrisons start the journey towards food waste transparency

We would like to see all of the supermarkets be much more transparent about their food waste statistics, so we were excited to see Morrisons publish its food waste figures for the first time. This provides a baseline from which progress on food waste can be measured. It is important that all other retailers join Morrisons (and for a few years now, Tesco) in publishing their figures on an annual basis. Lynne Stubbings, NFWI Chair, wrote to the editor of The Grocer to welcome this move, and to push Morrisons to go further. She argued that:

“While this initial publication is a good start, Morrisons still have much further to go to increase transparency around food waste in their business. First, it must commit to extending the scope of these figures to their suppliers. Second, it must ensure that they publish these data on their website, in a format easily accessible to the public, not buried in deep in a CSR report. Third, it must move beyond providing merely a single headline figure and outline a breakdown of the figures.”

These are two great successes for the Food Matters campaign, and we will continue to push all supermarkets to follow all of the recommendations in the “Wasted Opportunities” report.

Friday, 8 June 2018

World Oceans Day 2018

This World Ocean’s Day we reflect on how WIs and federations engaged with the End Plastic Soup campaign in its first year.

Our campaign calls on Government and industry to develop solutions to reduce the amount of microplastic fibres entering our oceans. Microplastic fibres are shed from synthetic clothing when washed and pose a health risk to marine life. The campaign has also been a chance for WIs to consider the amount of single-use plastic they use every day and look at reducing the environmental impacts ‘fast fashion’ has on the environment.

Isle of Wight Federation is theming their Annual Council Meeting around the campaign.
“As an island federation we really see and feel the impact of plastic pollution. It was an obvious choice for us to not only embrace the campaign, but to widen the scope of impact and look at the many ways in which plastic pollution affects us, and how we can make a difference.”

Their Annual Council Meeting will feature speakers from their local MP, Bob Seely, speaker for the resolution at the 2017 NFWI Annual Meeting, Dr Natalie Welden and a Southern Water representative.

The federation is also making a difference in reducing the amount of plastic waste in their own office:

“Our federation office has a "no single-use plastic" requirement in place, and we have even told our local Agricultural Show, where we provide refreshments, that we expect to see recycling stations this year! All of us can do something, however small, to protect our environment for years, and generations, to come.”

Cornwall Federation is also acutely aware of the threat plastics poses to the oceans, as the Federation’s Climate Ambassador, Pippa Stilwell highlights:

“A sift through the sand of every pristine beach reveals tiny chips of plastic.  A wander along a forgotten cove shows larger objects – polyethylene rope and endless plastic bottles.”

Two Cornwall WIs, Liskeard and Downderry and Seaton, caught people’s attention by entering their carnival parades festooned in plastic collected from local beaches.   

Hawkesbury & Horton WI organised an awareness event for the local community: “The aim was to have something for everyone, as well as lots of delicious cake!”  

The event featured a Make Do and Mend corner and clothes swap rail. They screened Sky’s documentary 'A Plastic Tide’, there was a produce table offering free soaps and raffle prizes included bamboo toothbrushes and Fairtrade chocolate and wine.

Sotonettes WI invited Dr KatsiaPabortsava, a biogeochemist at the National Oceanography Centre, to speak at their meeting.  They even had their washing machine samples analysed and presented back to them by Katsia!

Selby Swans WI has a team of members spearheading their End Plastic Soup campaign. The campaign got off to a great start with a launch article in their local newspaper, which will feature their campaign actions every month.

The team are also appealing to businesses to ban plastic straws and asking their members to pledge changes they will make in their own lives using a selfie board. One particularly crafty member is raising awareness of the issue by creating a piece of clothing using recycled plastic and producing cotton washing bags for other members.

Lymington WI took over the foyer of their local supermarket where they handed out the WI’s End Plastic Soup checklist to passers-by. Their MP, Sir Desmond Swayne, came along to lend his support, as well as their local newspaper. 

“Our WI is based in an estuary town so making sure our oceans and beaches are clean is very important to us. Lots of people were astounded that microplastics can be released from washing your synthetic clothing.”

This was followed by a beach clean where over twenty sacks of rubbish was collected.

How is the National Federation of Women’s Institute (NFWI) working on the campaign?

The NFWI has met with a range of industries to gain a better understanding of how they are working on the issue of microplastic fibres. We plan to bring together relevant stakeholders to discuss upcoming work and next steps.

The NFWI has also developed an End Plastic Soup survey, which closes on 20 June, and looks at the makeup of our wardrobes and washing habits. The findings of the survey will form part of an NFWI report launching later this year.

Do you want to take action now? The NFWI is holding a drop-in session at Parliament on 4 July for MPs to come along and learn more about our campaign and what we are calling for.

Invite your local MP along using our template letter. Download it here:

A more detailed update on how the NFWI has been working on the campaign will be in the August Mailing, so keep an eye out for it!

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Breast Cancer UK Ambassador Programme helps people reduce their risk of breast cancer

Guest blog written by Nikki Mattei, Ambassador Programme Project Manager, Breast Cancer UK

Breast Cancer UK is a small national charity with a focus on prevention and reducing risk.  The charity aims to help people lead healthier lives with a particular focus on the environmental and chemical causes of the disease.  It believes our exposure to the mixture of chemicals, present in many everyday products and in our environment, could be making us more vulnerable to breast cancer. 

Breast Cancer UK launched its Ambassador Project in 2016 with support from The Big Lottery Fund in order to educate people in communities across the country about the accepted and potential risk factors for breast cancer.  Ambassadors are trained and provided with resources to go out into their communities and deliver talks about breast cancer prevention.
A real need for prevention
It is predicted that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer at some point in their lives.  55,000 people are diagnosed with the disease every year and incidence rates have more than doubled since records began in 1971.  1 in 5 will be under the age of 50.  It is alarming that so many younger women are being diagnosed with breast cancer and it is not a trend we can put down to screening and awareness alone.
In recent years, breast cancer awareness has become enormously visible – most people know that they should be checking their breasts and know that they should report any changes to their doctor.  However, there is not always high awareness about breast cancer risk factors and, importantly, what action can be taken to reduce those risks with some studies suggesting that 1 in 4 cases are preventable.

The risk factors for breast cancer are many. It is known that a lack of exercise, being overweight, having a family history, alcohol consumption and various medications such as HRT for example are directly linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. 
There is growing scientific evidence to suggest that a group of chemicals known as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) present in our environment and used in many everyday products may also increase our risk of the disease. Breast Cancer UK aims to raise awareness of these chemicals, campaigns for universal measures to reduce our exposure and supports scientific research so that we better understand their role in breast cancer. 
We are looking for more Ambassadors
We all want to prevent breast cancer, to prevent the agony that is felt when one of our close friends or family is diagnosed and, whilst we are glad to see more women surviving breast cancer, we would all rather none of them had to go through it in the first place. 
The Breast Cancer UK Ambassador Programme was launched in 2016 to address the lack of focus on the risk factors for breast cancer but also to show people that they can take positive action themselves.  We knew that the best way to get across our prevention message was talking to people face-to-face in clubs, community groups and local companies.
Our Ambassadors are fully trained on the known and suspected risk factors for breast cancer and equipped with presentation tools, leaflets and ongoing support to help them deliver their message in a positive, upbeat way – showing people what they can do rather than what they can’t.
As well as sharing information, our Ambassadors become part of a growing community of people who are not prepared to accept that breast cancer is inevitable, but that we can take action to reduce our risk.  In doing so, we hope that breast cancer incidence rates will eventually start to fall.
Since the programme began, we have recruited and trained 36 volunteer Ambassadors across the country but we still need more!

Our next Ambassador Training Day is on Saturday 12 May in Birmingham and there are still some places available.  Travel expenses will be reimbursed and a cooked lunch is also provided.  You will learn about the rise in breast cancer rates, the acknowledged and potential risk factors, how the disease starts and then, most importantly, you will be provided with resources and advice to go out into your own community and deliver ‘Let’s Prevent Breast Cancer’ talks.
If you are interested, you can read more and sign up for the May Training Day (or put your name down for the next one) on our website.
Host a ‘Let’s Prevent Breast Cancer’ talk

Our Ambassadors are always on the look out for groups to talk to and we would welcome the opportunity to hear from any WI groups who would like to host one of our talks.
The talk covers the following:
  • How breast cancer develops
  • Risk factors for breast cancer
  • Why oestrogen is significant for breast cancer
  • Simple ways to reduce your risk and lead a healthier life

The talk consists of a quiz, PowerPoint presentation and short film, followed by questions, taking about an hour in total. All guests are provided with useful literature to take away.
If you would like to enquire about hosting a talk and find out more, please go to our website and complete the booking form at the end of the page.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Lighting the Flame: Norfolk Women Reaching Women International Women's Day (IWD)

Guest blog written by Mary Dorrell, Chairman of Norfolk Federation PR Sub Committee, Digital Team Leader & Web Editor 

How often do we say "my back is killing me?" I thought about this recently, in Tanzania, when I witnessed so many back breaking jobs as women went about their daily tasks.

Back home and hoping for signs of spring, it is time to think about planting out my cabbages. Maybe not yet, but on the shores of Lake Victoria vegetables are planted on a two-month rotation, so there is always a crop to harvest as well as one to plant. The soil is rich, but water is difficult to bring to the fields. As a man moved the hose-pipe from plot to plot, the women carrying buckets on their heads, wanted to stop and chat, "You are welcome in our village". Women at work, building a sense of community. The cabbages being planted, I noticed, look much like ours; but the hazards are different. We were warned to expect a noisy night if elephants from the nearby Serengeti had to be chased off and I saw footprints across the fields from Africa's deadliest animal, the hippopotamus. But none of the locals expected the 15 foot python we chanced upon whilst walking through the reed beds and which horrified them; as well as providing an obvious explanation of the goat that had gone missing.

The welcome had been the same when we stood in line to join the Maasai women singing, days earlier. They taught me how to flip or toss the traditional women's Maasai collar (the action, it turns out, is in the shoulders, not the bosom). A useful skill now I am back in Norfolk? The Norfolk Women Reaching Women community has been preparing for Norfolk's 2018 International Woman's Day. In many countries IWD, March 8th, is the day when mothers are given flowers and in some countries it is a public holiday.  This year, thanks to Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, we are combined the event with our traditional flower-giving day: Mothering Sunday, March 11th.

Consisting of over a dozen organisations; NWRW is convened by Norfolk Federation WIs and we have celebrated International Women's Day and Norfolk's equality and diversity together for some years. Amongst over twenty organisations, we include: the WI, Mother's Union, Soroptimists, Norwich Dedza Partnership and the Daisy Project. This year's event was called "Lighting the Flame" with an educational theme that is both a UN sustainable development goal and part of the WI aim to offer a wide range of learning opportunities. “Girls who see the flame lit by their mothers will one day light the fire for their own children.” said Patience Unazi of Diversity Plus, who had hand crafted items on sale as well as entertaining us with African story telling.

Our Keynote Speaker was Janet Clark of Gambian Aid Through Education, another local charity, that helps some of the poorest people in Africa by selling their handicrafts. "By helping the women in The Gambia we can get more children into education which is the path from poverty." Other locally based charities included The Freedom Charity working to prevent FGM in UK and organisations working with Norfolk women who have low self esteem: “This is a fantastic opportunity to network with other women’s organisations.” Mandy Proctor CEO, Leeway.

Part of the annual Mothering Sunday event,  Miriam Burroughs, of Gressenhall, told us: "The spring flowers are coming into bloom so spend some precious time together exploring our 50 acre site. There were activities for the whole family including stalls, crafts, talks, singing and story-telling. There was also be a chance to look behind the scenes at the Norfolk Collections Centre. And in the Mardlers’ Rest CafĂ©, a treat awaied with a free cream tea for all mothers!"

Much of what mothers and women do, around the world is back-breaking, but on this day over 20 organisations met together today, in friendship and sisterhood.

·      It was good to meet old friends and new.
·      It was good to hear familiar tales and new.
·      It was good to see connections being made and remade.

Let us continue to support each other in future endeavours!

Many thanks Gressenhall for their generosity of time and effort.

Thank-you, so much, everyone.

Participants in Norfolk IWD 2018

Norfolk Federation of Women's Institutes (Conveners)
Associated Country Women of the World
Daisy Programme
Diversity Plus
Equal Lives
Freedom Charity
Gambian Aid Through Education
Girlguiding Norfolk
Mothers' Union
NCC Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator
Norwich Dedza
Nurtured Naturally
Samia Malik
School Readers
Women Against State Pension Inequality
Women's Equality Party
Women's International League of Peace and Freedom
Woodcraft Folk