The WI has a long history of campaigning and getting things done, in order to do this it has a democratic process whereby issues are raised at the grass-roots of the organisation and fed through to become the subject of our national campaigns.
The National WI website (http://www.thewi.org.uk/campaigns/resolutions-and-mandates) has lots of information about resolutions and mandates but here is a summary;
Each year every WI is invited to submit a resolution, this must be with regard to a nationwide issue that people really care about, it needs to be as relevant in a years time as it is when it is raised and it needs to be in line with the constitution of the WI http://www.thewi.org.uk/__documents/key-document-downloads/constitution_and_rules_for_womens_institutes.pdf
The National Federation provide the Committee of your WI with Resolution Submission Forms and together, members along with the support of the committee (and our WI Advisors) will pull together a submission and submit it to our Avon Federation who will check it against the constitution and against previous submissions to identify any duplication with previous resolutions.
These submissions will be collated into a 'long-list' upon receipt by the National Federation, they will review them again to identify if there has been any duplication in that years submissions and, once content that they are all unique, will create a short list to be reviewed by the Solicitor (to ensure that the resolution is legally viable).
When approved by the Solicitor the short list will be distributed to members via WI Life Magazine which gives all members the opportunity to vote for the resolution that they feel is most important. The National Federation will then collate the results of this vote and the resolution(s) with the overall majority will be carried forward for consideration at the AGM.
Your involvement doesn't end there. Before the AGM we will need to discuss this resolution at our meeting (ours is to be discussed at the meeting in May) and vote on whether we agree with the resolution. As a group, we will feed this back to our Delegate (who is this year from Congresbury WI) and she will take our views into consideration and will take them forward to the AGM where a vote will be cast on our behalf and, if accepted the resolution will become 'mandate' and the subject of WI campaigning in the years ahead.
The lovely ladies at Malago WI have created a potted history on campaigning; http://malagowi.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/wi-campaigning-potted-history-and.html and this gives you a proper timeline and an idea of what is involved.
This Years Resolution
This years resolution is all about the recruitment of more midwives and again you can read all about the 2012 AGM Resolution on the National Website; http://www.thewi.org.uk/__documents/public-affairs/resolutions/agm.pdf The resolution has also been the subject of articles in WI Life and members of the committee attended a briefing meeting to understand more about the resolution and why it should be supported.
The Conservatives promised 3000 more midwives before the election (even though the Royal College of Midwives recommended that an additional 4700 were needed) and to date only 620 new midwives have been employed since the election.
There are various statistics that support the need for more midwives but in simple terms - more babies are being born (from 530,339 in 2000/1 to 668,195 in 2012/11) and jobs for midwives are actually being subject to cutbacks whilst fewer midwives are being replaced as they retire or leave the profession. Additionally there are new pressures on the time of midwives such as;
- An increase in the number women having babies who are older, diabetic or disabled means that a labour can be less straightforward and there is a need for greater monitoring and involvement by midwives. This is also the case for teenage pregnancies and where a mother is drug dependent.
- More diverse society means that sometimes translators are required as part of the delivery process and this adds to the time it takes to support a women through labour
- Changing society means that there is less opportunity to rely on family for support and often new mums without any close family (or family close-by) will need additional, post natal support.
The benefits of more midwives would be a reduction in readmission, reduction in the rate of cesarean sections, shortened labour, reduced rate of forceps rate and happier mothers and families (which brings huge rewards long term)
So the case for more midwives is pretty straightforward. There is a counter argument about the amount of the money available and the work of the WI (if the resolution becomes a mandate) is to lobby the Government for greater investment in this area and a commitment to their pre-election pledge. (if you're feeling particularly keen on being heard you can also sign the Royal College of Midwives e-petition too; http://www.rcm.org.uk/college/campaigns-events/protect-maternity-services/ )
We'll be discussing this resolution in more detail at our May meeting but this should give you a flavour of what's to come.