WI Resolutions with the greatest impact so far:
Written and collated by Ruth T, Member of Cam City WI
The WI passed a Resolution calling for ‘equal pay for equal work’ in 1943 and was represented for many years on the Equal Pay Campaign Committee. Alongside other women’s organisations, WI members kept up momentum for decades, lobbying the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1950's and then campaigning for equal pay in professions such as teaching. By 1970 the NFWI was backing Employment Secretary, Barbara Castle’s Equal Pay Bill, which was finally passed that same year. It is now illegal to pay men more than women for work of equal value.
When the Metropolitan Police’s Women’s Patrols were disbanded in 1922 the WI passed a resolution calling for their reinstatement. Over the next 26 years WI members joined a vigorous campaign to increase the number of women police, lobbying the Home Office and winning the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The results paid off during WWII, when more women were brought into the police force including a number who were given full policing powers. By 1944, 335 policewomen were employed across the country, half of them in the Metropolitan Police Service. Women now make up more than 25 per cent of the overall police force.
Prevention of Venereal Disease
A resolution was passed at the 1922 AGM urging more public health education to prevent Venereal Disease.
The NFWI was one of the first organisations to talk about AIDS and used its unrivaled network of local organisations to educate the public and get people talking about the issue. WI members were involved in a government awareness raising campaign, and took up the BBC’s challenge to ‘Face up to Aids’ by organising public meetings.
In the early 1990's, the NFWI joined with CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Traidcraft and the World Development Movement to become a founding member of the Fair trade Foundation. Today, the Fair trade certification mark is on over 4,500 products in a market worth over £1.7 billion, which includes the UK’s top-selling fruit, the banana. As a result, over 1.4 million farmers and workers have been supported in improving their lives and their communities.
Care not Custody
In June 2008, the NFWI passed a resolution calling for an end to the inappropriate detention of people with mental health problems, after the son of a Norfolk WI member tragically took his own life while in custody. In partnership with the Prison Reform Trust, the Care not Custody campaign aimed to bring an end to the use of prison as a ‘default option’ for people with mental health needs or learning disabilities. It has succeeded in securing government backing, and a total of £75 million for schemes to ensure that people with mental health problems that come into contact with the criminal justice system get the treatment and support they need.
Keep Britain Tidy
A resolution in 1954 to ‘inaugurate a campaign to preserve the countryside against desecration by litter’ led to the formation of the Keep Britain Tidy group, which was run by Lady Brunner of the NFWI Board (Chairman from 1951-1956) for 19 years and which is still going strong today. The 1958 Litter Act was attributed largely to Keep Britain Tidy, and MPs thanked the WI for the role it played in transforming litter policy.
Breast Cancer Screening
In 1975 the WI started informing members about the importance of breast examination and lobbying the government to set up screening clinics, which eventually resulted in the introduction of the national screening programme in 1988. Today, breast cancer screening saves around 1,300 lives every year.
Family Planning Services
In 1972 local authorities were permitted to provide family planning services but did not have an obligation to do so, prompting the WI to pass a resolution calling for mandatory services and launch into action, mobilising county federations behind the issue. Under the NHS Re-organisation Act of 1973, family planning services were enshrined in law and by 1974, were a normal part of the free NHS. The WI undertook extensive campaigning during the course of the parliamentary debates, helping to establish the case for free contraception, irrespective of age or marital status.
The SOS for Honey Bees
This campaign was launched after a resolution calling for increased funding for research into honey bee health was passed in 2009. Concerned that the outlook for bees remained bleak, despite funding for research and improved awareness of pollinator declines, the NFWI later joined with Friends of the Earth to campaign for more national leadership; the National Pollinator Strategy was launched in November 2014.