Wednesday, 29 March 2017

"That's not for me!" Read more about our IAM Driving Days... written by the original Miss Daisy!

Guest blog by Gaye Bramley, Earl Shilton Afternoon WI, Leicestershire & Rutland Federation

Your WI has received the flyer entitled Are You a Confident driver? The WI and IAM RoadSmart are joining forces to develop women's driving skills. How many of you I wonder immediately say "that's not for me"!  Why?
·         I'm too old - Wrong!  I was born during the war.
·         I couldn't possibly do that - Wrong!  I was told many years ago there is no such word as can't, and until you try you don't know; (the IAM also offer a Mature Driver's Assessment which is done on a fairly informal basis, you can even take a friend with you, and they say that around 90% of older drivers assessed only need some minor guidance).
·         I don't need to do that - Wrong!  Don't forget we are never too old to learn and things have probably changed if, like me, you passed your test some 50 years ago.
·         They might stop me driving - Wrong!  They don't want to stop you driving, they aim to improve your driving and point you in the right direction if you need help.

I lost my husband at the end of 2015 and after some 50 years of driving a variety of vehicles, all over the country at times, I also lost my confidence in driving so I decided to sign up for the course at The British Motor Museum in Gaydon, Warwickshire last year. We were made to feel very welcome with coffee and hot croissants (breakfast was a distant memory!) and all refreshments were included in the course fee. The IAM volunteers were so friendly, and needless to say I was in good company with other WI members. Every effort was made to put us at ease. We each went out for a drive with a qualified IAM Instructor and were given a written log sheet at the end. We then had a manoeuvrability course to drive, of which I made a complete pig's ear!  After lunch we had some interesting talks on various aspects of driving, and of course in true WI tradition, tea and cakes!  There was absolutely no pressure to apply for the Advanced Driving Course but having been advised by the Instructor that he thought I would benefit from it, I decided I would, especially as there was an added incentive of a £10 discount if you signed up then!

In due course a qualified observer from my local IAM group, Bill, contacted me.  He provided me with his full details, qualifications, an email address and phone numbers- so don't worry if you don't use the internet - and I am free to contact him at any time for help.  We go out every week for an observed drive, followed by a de-brief.  You are taught to continually assess the situation; to look for hazards and potential hazards, and plan how to approach them; how to be tolerant to other road users; how to overtake safely; how to drive up to the speed limit if it is safe to do so; and how to use the road, something I'm not very good at doing at times, which has prompted my "passenger" to say GAFMO (Get a Flipping Move On!).

I have also learnt what abbreviations such as OAP stand for (no, it does NOT stand for Old Age Pensioner!) - Observation Anticipation Planning; TUG - Take Use Give; and LAD - Look Assess Decide; and the most important of all IPSGA - Information Position Speed Gear (if manual - I drive an automatic) Acceleration - the basis of all driving (I have this one blue-tacked to my dashboard to remind me!)

I have good days and bad days and at one point was ready to throw in the towel - I was told to turn left and promptly turned right amongst other things - and emailed Bill to that effect. I received a wonderful email back from him, and as a result of which I continued.  I have been accused of "Driving like Miss Daisy"- I was not amused - but it had the desired effect and we put her to bed (although she has been resurrected on occasions!)  She is now a standing joke between us and I have taken to signing my emails Miss D. I am accused of "comfort braking" which has progressed to "calendar braking" - in other words braking too often and sometimes too soon, especially on approach to bends and roundabouts, and taking too long to pull out of junctions. Bill has threatened to mark it on a calendar to see how long it takes me (I don't think he's cottoned on to "Calendar Girls" yet thank goodness!)

You also have to give a running commentary of what you see and explain what actions you are going to take and why. This really does make you concentrate on your driving, and when doing it in your head when you are on your own, it helps you concentrate instead of thinking about all the other things that need doing!

Behind all this of course is the serious message of how to be a better, and safer, driver. They see capabilities in you that you probably don't realise you have and you can ask them any questions, even if they sound daft. They also take you out for a demonstration drive and will probably scare the living daylights out of you! You learn about your car - you have to do a "cockpit drill" before you drive off including a POWDERY check  (P - enough fuel, O - oil level is OK, W - water in your radiator and windscreen washers, D - any damage to bumpers etc., E - electrics as in lights and indicators etc., R - rubber, i.e. your tyres have the legal minimum amount of tread, the pressures are correct, and the rubber on your windscreen wipers is OK, Y - is yourself and that you are feeling fit to drive; what all your controls are and how to use them to the best advantage and your seat, head rest, steering wheel and mirrors are set correctly for you and all seat belts fastened.)  At the end of the course, which can go on for up to a year if you want, you don't actually have to take your Advanced Motorists test if you really don't want to although of course you are encouraged to - I have yet to take mine!

Besides the benefit that my driving confidence has increased, and I hope improved,  I have discovered other benefits.  My general confidence has also increased and I am finding I have a more positive attitude in general and with that has come an added bonus. I am disabled and walk with a crutch and suffer pain most days. I suddenly realised recently that after a particularly enjoyable, albeit long, busy and tiring day at our County ACM, I hadn't been in any pain and I am sure this is as a direct result of me taking the plunge. So a big thank you to the WI and the IAM and not least to my observer Bill for believing in me. So go on ladies, you can do it, you never know what benefits may result. And just in case you are wondering they do have female observers but they are in a minority!

Friday, 24 March 2017

Take part in Earth Hour on 25th March

With just one day to go until Earth Hour 2017, preparations are well underway for what is set to be the biggest year yet.

Every year since 2007, WWF’s ‘Earth Hour’ has reminded us all of the pressing need to treat our environment with the care it deserves, by calling on individuals across the world to turn off their lights for one hour on one day each year. On this tenth anniversary year, we wanted to take a closer look at what this Hour really represents, and what makes this year’s Earth Hour so important.

2017 has been the hottest consecutive year on record, and in the wake of major climate talks in Paris and at home here in the UK, political action is desperately needed. With polar ice caps melting and sea levels rising at an alarming rate, it is no wonder that nearly 1 in 6 species now run the risk of extinction. By switching off your lights for just one hour, you can join millions of people across the globe in a symbolic show of support to protect planet Earth before it’s too late.

In the run up to March 25, well over 200 landmarks across the country are preparing to make their Earth Hour matter by switching off their lights and plunging into darkness for one hour. Last year saw families and friends across the nation holding candlelit board games, dinners and talks in the name of climate change.

With the government set to release their plan for how they are going to reduce emissions, WWF need more people than ever to sign up and #MakeClimateMatter.

If you would like to join them and take part, you can take inspiration from the resources available on WWF’s website to help you plan your own event.

Remember to switch your lights off for one hour at 8:30pm on March 25, and make this year’s Earth Hour count by sending a clear message that you want action on climate change right now.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Million Women Rise march in London #BeBoldForChange

Guest blog by Nicky Amos, Westbury-sub-Mendip WI, and Public Affairs Chair in Somerset Federation

You could ask yourself what benefit could possibly be derived from 10,000 women marching along London’s busy Oxford Street on a sunny Saturday afternoon, waving placards and shouting at the tops of their voices “Whatever I wear, wherever I go, yes means yes and no means no”.

And why add a group of WI ladies to this noisy mix?

‘Together we can end violence against women’ is the founding slogan for Million Women Rise, an umbrella organisation for hundreds of women’s groups from around the UK, who come together once a year to take part in this important march, and to raise awareness of violence against women in all it’s terrible forms.

Since 2008 the WI has had its own campaign, ‘No more Violence against Women’, and has helped lift the lid on dreadful issues long hidden behind the cloak of ‘not quite nice to talk about’. Domestic violence; use of porn in schools; trafficking of women to work in the UK sex industry, to name just a few.

Newspaper reporters and TV crews turned up in force to publicise the 2017 march, but for me what was just as important as ‘official publicity’ was to see thousands of tourists, many from countries where violence against women is veiled in secrecy, reading the leaflets and filming the march on their phones. 

I am sure I speak for all the WI ladies who joined me last Saturday, when I say how proud I am to have taken part in this important event. 

Maybe your WI could take part in 2018?

International Women’s Day Solidarity Walk in Reading #BeBoldForChange

Guest blog by Ruth Ng, Redlands WI, Berkshire Federation

On Wednesday 8th March, members from Redlands WI, Berkshire Federation as well as some friends and family, joined with local community groups and members of the public for a solidarity walk through the town centre to celebrate International Women’s Day.  The night before, some of us met under the guise of book group, but spent most of the evening putting together our WI banner and making placards to carry!  It was a lovely evening, with much hammering, lettering and laughter! 

We had decided to write some of the mandates that the WI has campaigned on over the years on our placards, such as ‘routine smear tests for cervical cancer (1964)’ and ‘adequate sentencing for rape (1988)’.  Reading through the mandates the WI has been involved in was an inspiring experience, and I felt very proud to belong to such an active organisation.

These feelings continued the next day as we met up ready for the walk, and with our placards and banner we felt like a ‘proper’ group!  Joining others from our local community on the walk was exciting, with both women, men and children from a variety of organisations including trade unions, Berkshire Women’s Aid, the Women’s Equality Party, the University of Reading Students’ Union and other local residents.  Meeting first in Forbury Gardens we then walked down the high street, with lots of onlookers coming out of the shops to see us, and some even grabbing cardboard boxes along the way to quickly make a sign to hold and join in.  I had brought my two children along (aged 10 and 4) and they both had placards to hold as well, thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere!  The messages being carried across the whole walk were all very different, but there was definitely a communal feeling, with us all having the same desire for equality.

The walk ended by the town hall, with speeches and songs.  One of the speakers specifically mentioned the WI’s involvement and how glad they were for our presence at the march, to which we all cheered loudly, of course!  The whole experience felt empowering, and it was a very positive and inclusive event, and left many of us feeling emotional, and proud.  I personally found it an inspiring experience, and I particularly enjoyed taking my children along, speaking with them about the WI, and about women’s rights and opportunities.  We are all eager for our next opportunity to take our banners out into the community and continue to spread the word about the amazing things that the WI has already, and continues, to achieve!

Monday, 6 March 2017

International Women's Day #BeBoldForChange

Guest blog by Mary Dorrell, Chairman of Norfolk Federation’s Public Affairs Committee and a member of Barford, Wramplingham and District WI.

Norfolk Federation will be holding an International Women’s Day event in line with this year’s theme, #BeBoldForChange on Wednesday 8 March 10:30 am - 12:30 pm. Men, women and children of all ages, religions and cultures are welcome to come along to the event to be held in Norwich Cathedral.  

With three million women experiencing rape, domestic violence, forced marriage, sexual exploitation and other forms of violence and abuse each year in the UK alone, we must pledge to #BeBoldForChange. The NFWI’s campaign WomenReaching Women was launched in 2008 as a three year educational project, focussing on world poverty, climate change and gender inequality. The campaign continued to flourish in Norfolk; a coalition of women’s groups and organisations was set up, including Mother’s Union and the Women’s Equality Party. An annual event on International Women’s Day also started, with 2016’s event focussing on connecting the different lives and cultures of women living in Norfolk.

This year’s event focuses on achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls to be bold for change. In November 2016 Norwich City Council asked us to help with the Norfolk-wide #IWalkedAway campaign, a 10 foot tall White Ribbon, which symbolises the global effort of men working to end male violence against women, was sewn by the WI and over 20 other community groups. The White Ribbon will be at the event in the Cathedral, which will bring together a variety of groups to highlight the work already being done and to pledge for future action.

The keynote address will be given by Aneeta Prem founder of the Freedom Charity, which aims to raise awareness and prevent child abuse affecting girls in the UK, on issues such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Other guests include: The Lord Mayor of Norwich, Councillor Marion Maxwell and Lorne Green, Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk.  

We will come together on International Women’s Day to highlight our concerns for women and girls facing violence and pledge to #BeBoldForChange.

If you would like more information on the event please contact Louise Casson: 

Friday, 24 February 2017

Resolution selection results announcement

Between November and February, every WI member had the chance to have their say about the resolution they wished to go forward to the Annual Meeting in Liverpool on 7th June. The results of the 2017 resolution shortlist selection process are:

As the two most popular resolutions were only just over 2000 selections apart, the NFWI Board of Trustees decided to put both forward to the Annual Meeting. This means that the following resolutions will be considered at the Annual Meeting.

Alleviating loneliness
This meeting calls on every WI and the NFWI to work alongside health and social care providers and their local community to raise awareness of the causes and impacts of loneliness, thus ensuring better identification of lonely people in order to be able to offer them the appropriate assistance and support.

Plastic Soup: Keep microplastic fibres out of our ocean
Microplastic fibres are shed from synthetic clothing with every wash and are the main contributors to microplastic contamination of the oceans. The NFWI calls on Government and industry to research and develop innovative solutions to this problem in order to stop the accumulation of microplastic fibres in our oceans.

What happens next?
Members now have the opportunity to learn more about the issues, and to discuss the two resolutions in their WIs before deciding how they wish their delegate to vote at the AM.

How does my WI cast our vote?
All WIs get one vote for each resolution. This means your WI shouldn’t vote for one resolution over the other, but should vote for or against each one independently. If both resolutions are passed at the AM, the NFWI will campaign on both issues.

Your WI can also choose to give discretion to your delegate to decide how to vote after hearing the presentations and debate at the annual meeting.

Only votes cast for and against the resolutions will be counted, in accordance with the voting procedure set out in the NFWI Memorandum and Articles of Association. Abstaining means that a delegate would not cast a vote, and therefore this abstention would not be counted.

What resources are available to support WI discussions? 
To support members to get involved the Public Affairs team has produced a range of resources.

Alleviating loneliness

Plastic Soup: Keep microplastic fibres out of our oceans

Other resources available include:

  • a guide to holding a resolutions meeting; 
  • a frequently asked questions document explaining the process. 

All these resources are available to download from the website.

The Public Affairs Team will also be holding social media Q&A sessions in the run up to the AM to answer member questions. Dates and times for these sessions will be published on the website shortly and promoted on Twitter @womensinstitute and Facebook.

I’m passionate about one of the resolutions that was unsuccessful, can my WI work on this issue too?
While the resolutions going forward to the AM have the potential to become flagship national WI campaigns, there are many other ways WIs and members can work on other issues at a local or Federation level.

The WI has worked on violence against women for many years, and there are a number of existing mandates that allow members to work on these issues in their own communities. The NFWI regularly promotes opportunities for members to get involved in campaigning activity on this issue. Most recently, the WI has supported the IC Change campaign to push the government to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women and girls.

Members who would like to work on issues related to violence against women could raise awareness of local, national and international gender issues during International Women’s Day on 8 March or attend the Million Women Rise March. NFWI Wales is also promoting the Not in my Name campaign to engage men in pledging their support in ending violence against women.

Similarly, the WI’s longstanding More Midwives campaign has called for action to ensure that women get the right support before, during and after birth, most recently with the launch of our Support Overdue 2017 report. Our report found that nearly 20% of women are not seeing a midwife as often as they needed to after birth, and half of those women told us they wanted to discuss their mental or emotional wellbeing but were not able to. Members can support the campaign by writing to their MP or AM asking them to end the midwife shortage.

You could also consider approaching your Federation to put forward a resolution at Federation-level. To find out how to go about this, please contact your Federation direct.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The WI Walks the Trans Pennine Trail

By guest blogger Louise Checkley, member of N1WI

WI Walks is the walking group from N1WI, Middlesex federation. The group is run by Anna, Helena and myself. We have an active Twitter and Facebook account promoting WI walks around the country, inspiring women to get active.

2015 was the year of the WI Centenary. To celebrate, WI Walks walked the whole length of the Thames from source to Thames barrier, a total of 184 miles in 8 days. We raised £700 for our N1WI centenary bench appeal and local charities. We carried the WI centenary celebration baton and met a wealth of WI talent along the route.

This year Denman needs us!

After watching Jo Brand walk from Hull to Liverpool for Sport Relief last year we were inspired to take on 185 miles of the Trans Pennine Trail.

We will be walking from Liverpool to Hull, learning from Jo Brand that walking into head wind is no fun! We start walking Saturday 27th May 2017 finishing Sunday 4th June 2017, just before the National AGM on the 7th June in Liverpool.

We will be raising funds for the Saving Denman Appeal and meeting lots of WI members along the way. Donations are welcome via the JustGiving page.

If you would like to join us on our trek to save Denman see the itinerary below. 

You are more than welcome to join us for the total 185 miles, 1 day, a morning or afternoon or meet us for lunch, we are always grateful for cake…! If you can’t walk with us follow our story via our Twitter and Facebook pages. 

You can contact us via email: or via Facebook: