Friday, 29 January 2016

Cervical Cancer Screening

The WI first passed a resolution calling for a national screening programme to detect cervical cancer in 1964. The WI’s campaign successfully made the case for screening facilities, as well as raising awareness about the importance of cervical screening.

What do women need to know today?

This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (24 – 30th January). Every day in the UK eight women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three women will lose their lives to the disease [1]. Cervical cancer is largely preventable thanks to cervical screening and the HPV vaccination programme. The WI’s pioneering campaign called for better screening facilities, more public information and an effective recall system, which was first achieved in 1988. But in recent years take-up of cervical screening has declined year on year.

Research by cervical cancer charity Jo’s Trust has revealed that one in three 25 – 29 year old women in the UK do not attend their smear test when invited [2]. In England, cervical screening peaked at around 82% in the late 1990s but rates are now just above 78% [3]. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, screening rates are very similar. Worryingly cervical cancer is on the increase, with the Office for National Statistics data showing a 6% rise in cases between 2013 and 2012. Even more worrying is that the UK has one of the lowest survival rates for the disease out of the OECD countries [4]. This highlights the importance of cervical screening as the NHS cervical screening service saves around 5,000 lives a year in England [5].

In 2014 Jo’s Trust published a report which explored the financial impact of cervical cancer on the woman, the NHS and the state. It revealed that the average cost to the NHS per person diagnosed with stage 2 or later cervical cancer is £19,261, while for those at stage 1a, the cost to the NHS is around £1,379 per person. In addition, the combined financial burden of cancer-related costs, additional living arrangements and loss of income for women diagnosed with more advanced cancer is £1,102 a month. However, early detection reduced the financial impact on individuals and their families to just £360 a month [6].

These figures highlight the importance of early diagnosis, not only to increase the chance of recovering, but also to reduce the cost of cervical cancer to the NHS and some of the impacts on the individual woman and family.

The WI’s campaign made a huge impact in expanding access to screening and raising awareness of the issue, but it is clear there is still more to be done. The NFWI is calling on members to educate themselves and others about cervical cancer screenings and speak with friends, family and colleagues about the disease and whether they have had a screening recently. 

Friday, 15 January 2016

Why Women Will Save the Planet

Could women’s empowerment transform the chances of achieving environmental sustainability?
NFWI Vice Chair Marylyn Haines Evans, has added her voice to the ranks of environmental campaigners in a new book that seeks to show that the answer to this question is, emphatically, yes.

Part of Friends of the Earth’s Big Ideas Change the World project, the book – Why Women Will Save the Planet – is a collection of articles from women across the globe.  The book demonstrates that women’s empowerment is essential to securing a healthy and safe environment in which people and nature can thrive.

Marylyn’s article in the book explores ‘One hundred years of collective action for environmental change’ and draws on the WI’s history of collective action, of women coming together in order to exert the power and influence that they did not have as individuals. It highlights our environmental campaigns, from the 1927 resolution on polluted seas, to Keep Britain Tidy, through to SOS for Honeybees. 

The vision of the WI has always been a movement that could unlock the potential of all women and so create a strong, informed and active civil society. WI campaigns take a two-fold approach, while pressing for change from decision-makers, they also examine the role of individuals as change agents, leading the way in their own communities.

There is a great quote in a 1921 edition of the WI membership magazine Home and Country: 'if one person alone cannot make her wants heard it becomes much easier when there are numbers wanting the same kind of things.  That is why large numbers of women organised in bodies such as the National Federation of Women's Institutes can become a real power’.

At a time when the vote for women had not yet been won, the WI believed that if women learned how to conduct meetings, run committees and speak in public, they would be able to come together with other women and exert influence in public life.

With our roots in rural life, the WI has long been at the forefront of caring for the countryside and wildlife – and talking about land use, conservation and food production. As early as the 1920s and 1930s, our foremothers were working on environmental issues as diverse as marine pollution, crop diversity and food security, the preservation of ‘wide areas of special beauty,’ and the prevention of the rapid widespread destruction of wild flowers. 

More recently, a 2005 resolution on protecting natural resources inspired a nationwide action day that saw WIs return excess packaging to supermarkets. The WI Carbon Challenge, launched in 2008, saw 10,000 members signed up, pledging to reduce their carbon footprint by 20 per cent. The C02 savings achieved were equivalent to filling the Royal Albert Hall 108 times. 

Marylyn helped launch the book at a special event hosted by Friends of The Earth, where she led a discussion on Grassroots campaigning on gender and the environment. 

Why Women Will Save the Planet is available to buy now, get your copy here: 

To find out about the WI’s latest environmental campaigns, visit the NFWI website: