Three generations of women have escaped having to fight for the right to vote so they are beholden to use it whenever the need arises. The WI is always in the forefront of sensible campaigns on behalf of the family and women’s welfare and are no longer bound by strict conventions on what is acceptable to be discussed in order to gain results. This week there is a question in Parliament about the practice of surgical mesh implants (Sling the Mesh) so why do some people think we cannot discuss FGM?
Every year once the short list for resolutions is released, it surprises me how many articles appear either in the national press or on the media on these very topics. This can be a good thing or not---are these ideas going to be old hat before the WI comes to discuss them in June or are they useful preparatory work as a build-up? Last year’s mandates are doing well. Lots of articles about plastic litter and measures to combat loneliness. The latter crosses over into the 2018 homelessness and modern slavery issues. The problems of self-image and the media and the selfie culture which is on the short list is appearing more often and also open talk about mental illness.
The sort of press interest we don’t need is people carping about the cost of the annual subscription and suggesting that the WI is closing branches. Is £41 for 11 meetings and for having the backup of a national organisation to look after our interests expensive? We are attracting younger members nationally although not locally. If we want younger members we really need evening WIs and operate where there are a lot of young women living and working. Reading the WI Life it seems to be the thirty year olds who are coming in perhaps to learn crafts but more likely to combat loneliness beyond work. Can we attract the older lonely too to get a good mix, since the sheltered accommodation these days is being built in the larger towns?
Our WI craft group has met twice since Christmas. We are turning our attention to making soft toy animals for the Annual Council Meeting competition. (This ties in with the resolutions about domestic abuse as the toys are to be given to women’s refuges). The book group has been reading The Girl on the Train which led to a lot of discussion about mental and physical abuse in the home. Because of a break over Christmas we had also read The Essex Serpent which was set in late Victorian times when women were beginning to question whether they had to obey convention and stay in the home rather than be educated and take an informed interest in the emergence of science and medicine.
So I’m back where I came in. We must not let the Suffragettes down by taking for granted all that they have won for us and remember that the early WI members were actively lending their support to their struggles. We can and should use their legacy to keep improving the lot of our families and others who find themselves suffering from injustice wherever they are.