Monday, 5 February 2018

Celebrating Federations and WIs 2018 anniversaries

2018 is a year marking significant anniversaries for the WI and for women’s history in Britain. Tomorrow marks 100 years since The Representation of the People Act received royal assent, which granted the vote to women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification.

Three years on from our centenary, 2018 is also 100 years since the WI’s first resolution was passed in October 1918. 

For many WIs and Federations around England, 2018 is also a special year for celebrating anniversaries. Several federations will be marking their centenary year, while many local WIs have also reached their 80th, 90th or 100th year since formation. 

Steeple Aston WI in Oxfordshire Federation

Written by Merrill Bayley, President of Steeple Aston WI

January 2018 meeting, Merrill stands aside whilst Julie H tells members more about the resolutions.  

In March 2018, Steeple Aston WI in Oxfordshire Federation will celebrate its centenary. Based in the small village of Steeple Aston, just north of Oxford, Steeple Aston WI is the oldest extant WI in Oxfordshire.

Towards the end of 1917, Mrs Vincent of Cedar Lodge Steeple Aston, called a meeting of the women in the village and told them of a new society called The Women’s Institute, which had just started in Anglesey North Wales in 1915. Miss L G Worrell took the minutes of the first documented meeting held on 21st March 1918 and she subsequently became the first President. 

Members dressed up to re-enact Steeple Aston’s first WI meeting at Steeple Aston WI's 70th birthday 

Having kept minutes diligently over the past 100 years with just a few gaps during WWII, Steeple Aston WI have a large collection of minutes and memory books. Over many years, members have covered these memory books with beautifully embroidered work which inside hold souvenirs and photographs taken at WI events and meetings. 

Steeple Aston WI's banner uses the motif of a cockerel 

Steeple Aston WI has always had the community at the centre of its efforts and achievements. During WWII, members organised the women of the village to make-do and mend and collect vegetables and fruit for picking and preserving. They also knitted scarves and socks for members of the armed forces overseas.

Today Steeple Aston WI continues to undertake various projects within the village. The WI is 36 members strong, with 4 new members joining recently.

A special programme of activities and speakers has been arranged for this milestone year, including a surprise outing for members in June. Its centenary dinner celebration will take place on 13th March 2018 at the Village Hall. 

Birthday cards for Steeple Aston WI's 75th Birthday celebrated at Linda Needle’s (President) home

If your WI or federation is celebrating a significant birthday this year, email us with stories and photos at pr@nfwi.org.uk as we would love to share your WI’s history and celebrations.

Keep your eyes peeled this year as we will continue to celebrate women’s suffrage and the many important resolutions that the WI have campaigned on over the past 100 years.  

Thursday, 25 January 2018

#ShowTheLove 2018

WIs and Federations are crafting green hearts this February to protect the world we love from climate change.

The NFWI is a founding member of The Climate Coalition, the UK’s largest group of people dedicated to action on climate change and members have been crafting, baking and sharing green hearts to start important conversations about climate change since 2016. If your WI has not yet planned any green heart activities, we hope that you will be inspired by these ideas to #ShowTheLove.

Isle of Wight Federation has asked its 35 WIs to make a green heart which they will display outside its federation office on Valentine’s Day. They will then walk into Newport to hand out these hearts and raise awareness of the campaign.

Photograph: High Littleton and Hallatrow WI

High Littleton and Hallatrow WI in Avon Federation held a community workshop in January and made paper hearts with messages to send to its local MP. If you would like to take part in a similar activity, why not make paper seeded hearts, following our step by step instructions, attach it to the postcard insert in your February WI Life and send onto your MP.  

Photograph: High Littleton and Hallatrow WI 
Godalming Meadrow WI members crafting green hearts 
Godalming Meadrow WI in Surrey federation has arranged several activities. Its members will be delivering an assembly to a local girl’s school on Valentine’s Day about the campaign and have engaged four other schools to display ‘places they love’ in shop windows. 

Photograph: Godalming Meadrow WI
Godalming Meadrow WI will also been ‘bombing’ the high street with banners and crafting green hearts in its local cafĂ©, inviting customers to join them. 

Ideas for the Reculver Beacon WI members
Reculver Beacon WI in East Kent Federation has put together packs so that its members can make a heart themed brooch, pin cushion or lavender wardrobe bag.

Claire Hallett, Reculver Beacon WI Secretary, explained the idea behind the packs: “As a lot of our members are working, it is difficult to get together during the daytime so we have made packs which our ladies can take home and bring back to show off what they have made for Show The Love in February.”

If your WI or federation are holding an event or crafting green hearts, remember to share them using the #ShowTheLove and get in touch at pa@nfwi.org.uk for stickers and resources.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Support our campaigns this festive season

The festive season is a time for fun, sharing gifts with friends and family, and of course enjoying delicious food. But it’s also a chance to make a difference in support of WI campaigns. This post gives you some top tips - from tackling unnecessary plastic waste to reaching out to combat loneliness.

Stay updated with the latest resolution news and campaign actions by subscribing to the NFWI’s Public Affairs Digest, an e-newsletter sent to your inbox once a month. You can sign up via the website.

End Plastic Soup

Our End Plastic Soup campaign seeks to raise awareness of the problem of marine pollution from microplastic fibres released from clothing when it is washed. Here are some ways you can help reduce your impact over the Christmas season.


Tackle clothing waste
  • One rubbish truck full of textiles is landfilled or burnt every second. Instead of buying new clothes for your loved one that may not fit or suit them why not swap a clothing gift for a ticket to an event or activity, or a gift voucher that allows them to choose something they really love?  
  • If you are given clothing that doesn’t quite fit or you don’t like, hold a clothes swap at your WI in the New Year or try upcycling the item to your taste or turn it into something else altogether! 
  • New research from charity Hubbub found that one in four Christmas jumpers bought last year were thrown away or were unlikely to be worn again. Instead of buying a new jumper every year, dig out your old Christmas jumpers, swap with a friend or even refashion something you already own into a festive jumper. 

Wash well
  • With lots of events and visitors over the Christmas period you may be washing clothes more often – ensure you are filling up your washing machine to the max, washing at a low temperature (30°) and using washing liquid instead of powder. These measures will help to reduce the amount of microplastic fibres released when washing your clothes. 

Avoid plastic waste
  • Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. Tackle disposable and single-use plastics by avoiding serving people with plastic plates, cups and straws and use paper or china if you are entertaining guests. 
  • Single-use plastics include coffee cups and plastic bottles. Only 1% of disposable coffee cups are recycled, with the UK throwing away 2.5 billion of them a year. 38.5million plastic bottles are used every day in the UK – just over half make it to recycling, while more than 16m are put into landfill, burnt or released into the oceans. Once in the ocean they break down further into microplastics which fish can mistake for food. Re-usable alternatives are available - why not consider a re-usable aluminium water bottle or re-usable coffee cup as a gift and use it as a way to tell your friend or family member about the WI’s campaigns to tackle plastic waste. 
  • Take inspiration from the NFWI Craft Committee’s creative, fun projects that use resources which would otherwise be thrown away. Why not use old milk bottles to make our festive fir tree or turn jam and baby food jars into a hot chocolate kit?
  • The WI successfully campaigned to get a charge introduced for plastic bags in order to tackle waste. You can avoid using plastic bags for your Christmas shopping by using a bag for life or the WI’s cotton bag


Link Together

Our Link Together campaign recognises that loneliness can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender and life stage. The festive season is a great opportunity to reach out to others in your community.
  • A small act of kindness could make a real difference to someone’s day over the festive period, such as calling a fellow member you haven’t spoken to in a while or taking the time to speak to neighbours who may be lonely. For more ways to get involved with the campaign, download our action pack.

Food Matters

Christmas is a time to enjoy good food and good company, but this can often mean more waste too. We can all play our part in reducing the waste that often comes with the festive season. Our Food Matters campaign focuses on reducing food waste so that good food isn’t wasted at all levels of the food chain.


Credit: iStock.com/Eivaisl
  • According to Wildlife and Countryside Link, 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will end up in the bin - and not recycled - over the festive period. To avoid unnecessary wasteful packaging, buy your fruit and vegetables loose and be aware of what types of plastic can be recycled.
  • No matter how hard you try there is bound to be some leftover food at the end of the festivities – you could use the leftover turkey to turn it into a completely different meal like this WI recipe for turkey in a leek and mustard sauce. Love Food Hate Waste also has lots of ideas about how to use up all your Christmas leftovers.
  • Recycle your Christmas tree – if your tree has roots it will be possible to plant it in your garden or in a large pot with fresh compost, you can then bring it back into your house for next year. If your tree cannot be re-planted, check whether your council collects Christmas trees (which they usually turn into compost). If they don’t, then take it to the garden waste area of your local tip. Find your local council here

SOS for honey bees

While our honey bees will be tucked up in their hives for the cold weather, now is the time to start thinking about how you can support these precious pollinators once spring arrives. Our SOS for Honey Bees campaign calls for more research into the causes of bee decline, and for communities to create habitats to support pollinators.
  • Now is the time to plan your spring planting, ensuring there’s plenty of pollen and nectar for bees to forage on throughout the seasons. Make your garden bee friendly using our gardening guide by planting these flowers

SOS for High Streets 

Our high streets campaign encourages members to celebrate their local high streets and urges decision makers to support high streets that are fit for the future. 
  • Over the last ten years changes in shopping habits have hit the high street hard. When combined with a slowdown in consumer spending and increasingly high rental and business rates, many high street businesses are struggling. By shopping local to buy your gifts and food you are supporting the high street as a hub of social and community life. You can read more about the campaign online




Monday, 18 December 2017

Didcot Sewage Treatment Works Visit

Guest blog by Catherine Blaxhall Chair of Oxfordshire Public Affairs Committee



Following a discussion with our Public Affairs team in Oxfordshire around the ‘End Plastic Soup’ resolution we decided to contact our local water supplier, Thames Water to ask if they were aware of the enormity and seriousness of the contamination of microplastic fibres and what, if anything, they were doing to help alleviate the problem. Waste water treatment centres play a vital role in the issue; tiny microplastic fibres are too small to be caught by their filters and are flowing into rivers and the sea where fish and other sea creatures are mistaking them for food. Waste water treatment centres also produce sludge from the process, which contain microplastic fibres that is then applied to farmland across the UK.

We decided to ‘go to the top’ and emailed their CEO and were very pleased to receive a reply the next day from their Senior Public Affairs Advisor who had been delegated to respond.  His response was so enthusiastic and positive. He had researched the WI and our previous campaigns before we spoke and clearly realised how beneficial working together could to both organisations – we had so much in common!

Henry suggested OFWI members meet himself and his colleague from the Thames Water Education Team at our local sewage treatment works in Didcot on 18 September to learn more about how waste water treatment centres work.

The day was designed to encourage us to think more about how we can change our own washing habits to play their part in tackling the problem, the impact of plastic and non-flushable objects, such as wet wipes, entering the sewage system and to learn more about how waste water treatment centres operate.


We were given a fascinating and insightful tour of the site and a presentation in the education centre explaining the process of filtering sewage from its arrival at the plant to clean water finally returning to the water course less than 24 hours later. On the tour we saw a whole skip load of congealed wet wipes and other objects inappropriate for flushing that had been caught in the process.

Filtering out the tiny microplastic fibres at sewage treatment works is not currently happening, but research is ongoing and it is hoped that, with pressure, sampling for microplastic fibres could become mandatory at waste water treatment centres to better understand the scale of the issue. The onus is on all of us to address the problem by washing our clothes at lower temperatures, washing full loads only, using liquid detergent and being more conscious of the amount of clothing we purchase and then dispose of.  


Everyone agreed that the visit had been fascinating and informative and not quite as aromatic as we had anticipated! It really helped us understand so much more clearly our own responsibilities in contributing to the problem and how by just making one minor change we can make a difference and influence change. 

Friday, 15 December 2017

NFWI Loneliness Survey

Over the summer, the NFWI launched a short survey on loneliness. In total, more than 500 responses were received, amounting to over 2,500 individual thoughts, opinions and personal experiences shared across all of the questions! Thank you to everyone who took part!

The results have revealed a huge variety of measures and strategies that could be adopted more widely by local communities, including WIs and Federations, to help alleviate loneliness amongst different demographics. Valuable suggestions were also made around how local and national government could take further action. Here we set out some of our main findings. 

The role of government

Respondents were divided as to whether it should fall to government to tackle loneliness. We heard from several respondents that as a hyper-local issue experienced by many of us, loneliness is best tackled through community action and by simply taking responsibility for those around you. Of those that believed government should play a bigger role, there was support for an awareness raising campaign to remove the stigma associated with loneliness and a dedicated national strategy.


 The role of local communities 

As expected, respondents were almost unanimous in recognising the importance of local communities in tackling loneliness.  A few key themes emerged from the range of ideas that were shared. First, the value in organising regular local events that are free or low cost and accessible to people of all ages. Several respondents highlighted the need to ensure the availability of evening as well as day time opportunities to accommodate people who work full-time. It was recognised that community spaces, including churches and community centres, could be used more to host activities.

Second, the importance of being aware of neighbours who might be lonely and taking the time to speak to them and simply say hello. Third, respondents believed that local events and support services could be signposted better through, for example, a community newsletter and leaflets in GP surgeries, chemists, libraries and supermarkets. Finally, several felt that local communities could do more to help raise awareness of the causes and impacts of loneliness as well as the barriers to accessing activities and support.

How WIs and Federations are already combatting loneliness

By its very nature, we know that the WI can help to alleviate loneliness. As part of the survey we asked members to describe any activities they undertake to reach out to people who are lonely. What we found was that many members, since the launch of the campaign and before, have identified their own ways of tackling loneliness which they have embedded into their everyday procedure. If your WI or Federation would like to take action and is looking for more inspiration, download our campaign action pack to read our Basic Guide. 



Next steps

The survey results will be used to help us shape the direction of the Link Together campaign in the New Year when we will be looking at ways to progress the NFWI’s resolution to ‘alleviate loneliness’ during 2018. We also plan to share the results of the survey more widely to spread best practice and influence the development of local and national policy around loneliness.

Please contact publicaffairs@nfwi.org.uk for further information about the survey and the Link Together campaign. 

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Healthwatch and the WI: Together we can help people get the best care

Kaf from Old Trafford Wonder Women writes about how you can work with your local Healthwatch to feed back about your experiences of local health services.

Photo: Altrincham hospital 

When you or somebody you care about is ill or needs support, nothing matters more than good quality local health and social care services.

One of the reasons I love the WI is the way it enables members to get more involved in every area of the community. We’re doers – we don’t sit back, we speak up for ourselves, our families, and for all local people.

As an organisation, we’ve done lots to help people get the best health and social care. Our campaigns have stimulated more people to donate their organs and discuss their organ donation wishes, to call for more midwives, to help reduce social isolation and encourage carers to feel welcome in hospitals. I’m the President of a relatively new branch - the Old Trafford Wonder Women WI, all of 2.5 years old - and one of our most interesting challenges has been to find ways to take action locally on the national resolutions passed at the Annual Meeting.

In addition to my role with the WI, I’m the Volunteer Co-ordinator for Healthwatch Trafford. Healthwatch is here to listen to what people think of health and social care, to call for changes where they’re needed, and to help people find information about local care. I’ve worked in the public sector since 1999 and I believe strongly that people should have a say about local services.
My team of volunteers speak to people across Trafford, finding out what works and what they’d like to change about local care. They travel to all areas of the community, making sure that everybody can have their say.

No matter how big or small the issue, speaking up about it can make a real difference, as the odds are that if it matters to you, it matters to somebody else too. There’s a Healthwatch for every local authority area in England, so there’ll be one local to you – you can type your postcode into the search box on the www.healthwatch.co.uk homepage and it’ll show you where your local Healthwatch is based and how to get in touch.

During the last few months, Healthwatch has been running its ‘It Starts With You’ campaign, to demonstrate the power people’s voices can have. 

As advocates for our local community, there’s a huge opportunity for Healthwatch and our WI to work together more effectively. I would love to see us encouraging more people in our community to speak up about what they think of services. Healthwatch has already supported parts of our work too, such as our Time to Talk about organ donation campaign, and I’m looking forward to finding more opportunities for us to collaborate.

I'm sure your local Healthwatch will be keen to hear members' experiences of being a carer supporting a patient in hospital - how was their care? Were you enabled to stay / did you have extended visiting hours? You can work with your local Healthwatch to ensure change happens in your area.

So please do spread the ‘It Starts With You’ message. You can find out more about the campaign here.

And if you’d like to become a Healthwatch volunteer in the Trafford area, or you have an experience of local care to share – good or bad – please get in touch.

You can find details of your local Healthwatch branch here.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Link Together: How WI members marked World Kindness Day on 13 November

On 13th November, WI members came together to mark World Kindness Day as part of our Link Together campaign to alleviate loneliness. This blog highlights some of the unique and inspiring ways that members sought to reach out to others in their community and brighten someone’s day. If your WI or Federation took part in World Kindness Day and hasn’t yet let us know, we would love to hear from you! Please email publicaffairs@nfwi.org.uk.


World Kindness Day is just the start. We hope that members will take inspiration from these ideas and continue to carry out small acts of kindness throughout the year. 


Chadderton WI left little gifts around Greater Manchester.



Members of Chirk WI (left) and Maple Village WI (right) painted and decoupaged rocks with inspiring messages and left them around their local areas for others to find. 


Photo: Kay Knott, High Littleton and Hallatrow WI

Members of High Littleton and Hallatrow WI created 72 kindness envelopes to pop in the letterbox of neighbours. The envelopes were made from adult colouring book pages and each contained a wrapped Rose's chocolate.

Photo: Annie O’Neill, Redlands WI

Redlands WI visited the residents of Lakeside Care Home in Reading to share 7 homemade cakes. Members spoke to the residents about their families and their experiences of WW2. Members of Baldock and Clothall WI also visited residents of their local care home for a chat and cake.

Photo: Catherine Blaxhall, Oxfordshire Federation

Photo: Hilary Harris, Binbrook & District WI (right)

Members of Elmstead WI (left), Binbrook & District WI (right) and Neath Abbey WI (not pictured) organised afternoon tea or a coffee morning to support people in their local community.

These are just a few of the ways that members took part. We also heard how Mitton WI donated items to a local food bank and Pegswood with Bothal WI served soup, tea and coffee to local residents.

To find out more about our Link Together campaign and other ways to get involved, please visit: https://www.thewi.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/233830/Link-Together-Campaign-Actio n-Pack-Final.pdf.