Tuesday, 25 March 2014

10 Things SHWI learnt about Cuban women

For March, SHWI gave its members a taste of Cuba and in the spirit of the theme also revolutionized its meeting format. Armed with delicious mojitos and limeade coolers from Blousey’s Bar we kicked off the meeting and sat down for ‘other business lite’, the new streamline version of our monthly updates. The draw for the coveted Denman bursaries was also announced, and five lucky ladies won £200 towards a Denman course of their choosing!

After a short coffee break/topping up of cocktails it was on to the main event: an insight into the lives of Cuban women entitled ‘Ten Things You Might Like To Know About Cuban Women'. I must admit, until now I knew very little about Cuba. If I had to list 10 things I knew at the beginning of the night, it would have ended after cigars and flip-flops. And then I’d have had to cross off flip-flops because it transpired Havana is actually the capital, not Havaiana. 

As it turns out Cuba is full of surprises, both good and bad. Patricia Daniel from the Sheffield Cuba Solidarity Campaign first introduced us to the history of Cuba and the events leading to the revolution. Surprisingly women played a significant role in the revolution itself and in the running of revolutionary Cuba alongside Fidel Castro. During this time the women’s platoon was established, and they also became organised nationally in a federation that dwarfs the WI, boasting a membership comprising 85% of all women over the age of 14 in Cuba. They hold equal proportions of positions in public sector jobs and have a life expectancy inline with women born in the UK. Along with supportive legislation and free healthcare, this all helps to rank Cuba 15th in the world on the gender equality index (which is above the UK!). 

Ladies from the Sheffield Cuba Solidarity Campaign
Just as I was considering a bit of swift emigration, we were hit with the cloud beneath the silver lining. Due to the embargo placed upon Cuba by the US half a century ago Cuba has struggled to build an economy, an effort that was further hampered after the dissolution of the USSR, who previously supported Cuba. They have very limited medical supplies and food is hard to come by. To try and boost the deflated economy the government decided to increase tourism to the island. This created an imbalance in the socialist society Castro forged, and has fuelled resurgence of the prostitution industry around tourist hotspots. No matter your opinion on the sex industry, where there are prostitutes there are pimps and in a society that condemns and stigmatizes sex workers this invariably leads to the abuse of women.

By the end of the talk people were bursting with questions, and the topic seemed to spark intense debate, always a sign of an interesting presentation. It was a great introduction to the complicated and contradictory world of revolutionary Cuba. Not to mention the tasty world of Blousey’s cocktails.

To learn more about Cuba’s struggle or get involved with the Sheffield Solidarity Campaign, contact them at cscsheffield@btinternet.com.

Emily Strong
SHWI member

Saturday, 22 March 2014

We chose the YWHP as our charity for 2014

At our February meeting we chose the Young Women’s Housing Project (YWHP) as our charity to support in 2014.

The YWHP is a project for young women aged 16 to 25 who have been affected by sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or sexual/domestic violence. It was nominated as a charity for Seven Hills WI to support by member Kat Rex-Jones and won the member vote held at a recent meeting.

The Sheffield-based charity provides safe places to live and specialist support to help young women to overcome the effects of abuse. It is one of the only specialist projects in the UK offering outreach support and supported accommodation to young women survivors of sexual abuse. 

Seven Hills WI member Kat Rex-Jones said: "I nominated the YWHP having worked closely with the Chair of the charity which gave me a real chance to find out more about what they do and how much pressure they are under to continue to fund their service.

“Specialist housing support is a very important and valued service and I am really proud that the women of SHWI will be supporting this cause over the coming year."

Katie Ryan from the YWHP added: “We are absolutely delighted to be chosen as the Seven Hills WI cause for 2014. This is a great opportunity to raise awareness and increase the profile of the YWHP, as well as receiving much needed funds to continue this essential work with vulnerable girls and young women.”

Each year, we choose a different local charity to raise funds for and in previous years has supported Haven House, the Sheffield Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Service, Survivors of Depression in Transition and the Parents’ Association of Children with Tumours and Leukaemia (PACT). Funds are raised through raffles at meetings and events such as the Sheffield Food Festival. Last year also saw us create our own calendar to raise money for PACT.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Guest list spaces now available on Eventbrite

Due to popular demand of guest list spaces for our monthly meetings, we'll be trialling a new system from April. Instead of emailing shwiguestlist@live.co.uk every month, you'll now be able to reserve your space using Eventbrite and you'll receive confirmation of your ticket straightaway. There will still be 15 spaces available and payment of £4 per ticket will be payable upon arrival at the meeting. 

This new change is to make the booking process clearer for visitors and save committee time every month. We've decided to cap the number of tickets reserved per person at 2 to ensure more people get a chance to come along and experience a Seven Hills WI meeting. 

Tickets will be available to reserve on Eventbrite from 12:00am the morning after the previous meeting e.g. April's guestlist will open on 21 March and May's guestlist will open on 18 April.

We understand that on occasion guests may reserve a place but then be unable to attend. If this happens, please email us as soon as possible so we can open the space up to other guests. If you do not let us know in advance and then do not attend, regrettably we will not be able to allocate you a place for the next meeting. This is to help prevent people signing up and reserving a place but then not coming to the meeting, which isn't fair on others. 

If you have any comments on the process or questions about coming along as a guest, email Kirsty at shwiguestlist@live.co.uk

Friday, 7 March 2014

SHWI in Waitrose Magazine

Lindsay, Kim and Vicky at last year's food festival stall

We're so excited to be on page 73 of Waitrose Kitchen magazine this month. In an article about the resurgence of the Women's Institute, our President Lindsay, Secretary Kim and Treasurer Vicky steal the limelight in this full page photo taken by Laura Bainbridge, photographer extraordinaire. The article also features other WIs such as London's Shoreditch Sisters and Buns & Roses from Leeds. 

Pick up a copy in any Waitrose supermarket for £1.20 or free with a myWaitrose card. 

SHWI do beer tasting

February brought with it Valentine’s day and a lot of SHWI beer love as the long-awaited beer tasting meeting came around. Members had been asking for a beer tasting night for a couple of years so when my former colleague Sean Clarke, a former College teacher, set up a craft beer shop in the new Moor Market I knew we’d found our man!
Di and Lindsay enjoy their bottles with Beer Central's Sean Clarke
Sean’s shop, Beer Central, stocks all manner of local, national and international beers, real ales and ciders, and he, along with colleague Tommy, brought along four of these for us to try at our meeting.
From Bradfield Farmer’s Blonde to Saltaire Triple Chocoholic stout, Timmerman’s fruit beer to Maisel’s Weisse, we mostly enjoyed them all, although I felt let down by the chocolate stout which tasted nothing at all like chocolate! Afterwards, to check we’d been listening (the teacher in him coming out there!) Sean gave us a quiz on the beers we’d tried and some other beer trivia…plus a cheeky question on Tommy’s age - we all guessed too low, much to Tommy’ delight! There was tension as the quiz went to two tie-breakers before the ultimate winners bagged a bottle of Farmer’s Blonde each, which incidentally we also voted as the favourite beer of SHWI.
Saltaire's Chocolate stout had mixed reviews from our members
SHWI has within its ranks some proper beer fans, we even have a beer ticker on the committee, but I’m not a big beer fan myself - give me a cocktail over a beer anyday - so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the evening. Sean is a great speaker who I’d recommend to other groups in the area and I even bought a couple of bottles of Timmermans to take home…maybe Beer Central will make a beer lover of me yet!
Members enjoy tasting the beers
We also voted for our 2014 charity at this meeting. Many worthwhile charities were put forward by members but the winner was the Young Women’s Housing Project, as nominated by Kat.
It was great to see so many new members getting involved at the February meeting, remember you get from the WI what you put into it so we always love to see enthusiastic people enjoying meeting new people and doing new things.
See you at March’s meeting for a talk on Cuban women and cocktails from Blousey’s Bar. 

President, Seven Hills WI