Events

Women’s Mental Health Awareness Week Talk – 13th May – 19:00 – 21:00

CAMBRIDGE
BLUEBELLES WI
Present…

Women’s Mental Health Awareness Week Talk


  13th May 2015 – 19:00 to 21:00.
St. Andrew’s Church, 43 St Andrew’s Street 

SPECIAL GUEST SPEAKER! 

Medical Director from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Chess Denman, who will deliver an engaging talk on Common Mental Health Issues in Women – Treatment and Prevention, followed by a Q&A.

In tandem with the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness week, this event is free of charge and is open to women only. Cambridge Blue Belles WI will be running a tea and cake stall as a group fundraiser. Tickets are issued on a first come, first serve basis.
A wealth of information will be available on the night concerning local charities who specialise in providing mental health support to women in Cambridgeshire.
We look forward to welcoming you to help further understanding of women with mental health issues and in turn, eliminate social stigma.

 

Blue Belle Plucking Up Courage to Beat Bird Phobia!

We are absolutely OVERJOYED with pride that this month’s WI Life magazine features the story of our fabulous member, Kelly, and her ongoing battle with bird phobia.  
After courageously setting up a blog, Cam Bird Bites, Kelly was approached by a TV Production to appear in Sky 1’s Fright Club! After weeks of grueling exposure therapy, Kelly came out on top – and we can’t wait to see her premiere on the small screen! Watch your local listings for full updates – and we will of course give you the scoop once we’ve got word, too!
Kelly – we applaud you in your strength and efforts, too – keep up the fabulous work!

Menstruation Crusades & Feminism in Fashion – Women’s Day, Our Way!

The Blue Belles came together this month to celebrate International Women’s Day by putting our voices behind our very own menstration crusades and by welcoming model, Rebecca Pearson, to tell us all about being a feminist in an industry that relies so heavily on looks!

Wintercomfort are a charity based in Cambridge that support those in the community whom are homeless or about to face being homeless.

With everything from offering educational classes to gaining practical experience through their social enterprise, through a talk from our friend Sarah, who works at the charity we learned that 16% of those using Wintercomfort’s services are women. That got us Belles thinking. What must it be like for those 16% when it comes to be their time of the month? They can’t afford to simply purchase supplies and support themselves through what can be a tricky few days every calendar month.

Sarah from Wintercomfort explaining how difficult your monthly cycle can be to manage when you are homeless
After hearing all about the women that Sarah has personally encountered who have truly had a heartbreaking and humiliating challenge when having to deal with their periods whilst being homeless, we made a vow to the local homeless women of Cambridge. We would collect sanitary products at every month to donate to Wintercomfort and the Foodbank. We also made a commitment to homeless women of Britain. We would being our own Menstration Crusades helping those on little to no income to gain access to sanitary products on a monthly basis as needed. Watch this space for developments on our campaign and how YOU can get involved!
We ventured next onto the topic of something that is VERY close to many members hearts – Mooncups! Did you know that one single Mooncup can last you up to 60 years, versus using up to 22 disposable sanitary products each time you have your period!? There really are a list of reasons why Mooncups make more sense as a solution to handling your monthly! 
Check out the video below to learn more about the wonder that is, the Mooncup!

Last and certainly not least, we had model, blogger, activist and all in all force of nature, Rebecca Pearson, come to tell us all about what it is like being a feminist in an industry that tends to take more heed on your dress size than your views on the gender gap in Parliament.

Rebecca Pearson talking all about feminism in modeling – whilst Belles knit away in silent respect!

Rebecca’s talk was entirely honest, incredibly engaging and overall, very educational. From telling we Belles about her first experience with feminism and how going to University and meeting open minded people helped to shape her to the confident, happy and altogether more engaged individual that Rebecca is now. Rebecca’s talk was a no hold’s barred account of what being a feminist in the modeling industry is truly like with cold hard facts on encountering people with eating disorders through to the desire for so many photographers to airbrush their work. In fact, Rebecca herself has been so severely suffered the wand of Photoshop that she has come away with copies of magazines baring a face that she didn’t even recognise! Yikes!

Rebecca’s mind was opened to the WI thanks to the Belles – she’s looking to join her local branch!

But alas, Rebecca is determind to unify those who she works with to speak up about what they feel comfortable with and to act as a mentor for new models coming into the business. She’s started writing a fabulous blog, ModelTypeFace, that has been so successful it has already won her video related work as a part of a campaign to save honeybees!

By the end of the meeting, we Belles had even managed to convince Rebecca to join the WI – and guess what? She’s going to! Hooray the sisterhood triumphs with more inspiring women!

Khidmat Sisters – Sisterhood for Cambridgeshire’s Muslim Community

The Khidmat sisters are a local musilm women’s collective that came together to provide support for isolated and vulnerable women in their Cambridgeshire. 
Whether that be acting as an open ear, helping to care for someone unable to communicate due to cultural barriers or to organise social events (crochet club included!), the Khidmat sisters introduced themselves to their cause last year and we are always inspired by their incredible passion and energy for border free inclusion.
Khidmat Sisters came to visit us last year to tell us all about their fabulous work in the local community!

The Dawn Project

Run out of the Cambridge Women’s Resource Centre, the Dawn Project provides support for women who were once a part of the criminal justice system. 

Users of their services gain essential emotional support and fellowship amongst their group, too, to help with their journey back into become productive members of the local community. 

We are committed to stand shoulder to shoulder with Dawn Project service users and were delighted when their founder, Anna, came to meet us all in January – we have plans in the future to work with them again. 

More information on what these inspirational women do for our community here and here
Dawn Project – providing support for vulnerable women in the community 

Rowan Trust – Helping People to Express Themselves & Gain Experience for the Better!

One of our long time members, Abigail, works at one of the most fantastic charities in Cambridgeshire, Rowan Trust.
Rowan is a ‘Cambridge based charity and arts centre that brings artists and learning-disabled people together in the production of fine artwork and crafts; while providing opportunities for self-expression and creative exploration.’
Abi recently hosted a station at our members Do & Dabble night in which we crafted broaches and badges from ceramics and it was plain to see why she is such an asset to Rowan – her understanding, kindness and eagerness to teach others was something that struck a chord with all us Belles and we are certain, reaches Rowan’s service users too.
We couldn’t be more proud!
Visit the Rowan’s website for full details on all of the great work that they do in the local community and the impact it has on the lives of those who use their services.

Crusades in Menstration and Giving an F in Fashion! Tonight, tonight!

Hear ye, hear ye! To celebrate International Women’s day, the Belles will meet to learn and discuss matters close to our hearts and learn all about new things to bring into our campaigning fold, too!
First things first, our crusades in menstruation!
Your period comes when you are not expecting it; you need to clean yourself up and get sorted out. Even if you are out and about you can buy supplies, new pants too if necessary. But what if you don’t have the resources to do that? What if you can’t afford a single tampon? What do you do next? The realities of dealing with a basic bodily function when you are homeless or on a low income hit home for a group of us when one Blue Belle drew our attention to this powerful article. 

It struck a chord with many in Cambridge and around the country at the same time. The wonderful Cambridge Hub started their Essentials Dignity fundraising campaign to raise funds for the purchase of essential feminine hygiene and personal care products to be split between Jimmy’s Cambridge and Wintercomfort. These fantastic organisations operate on tight budgets: often they can only give out one or two tampons at a time. Homeless women make up 16% of the people who have been using Wintercomfort’s services in the past 6 months. A day centre in Cambridge, they provide frontline support for homeless people in the city: food, showers, clean clothes as well as education and support to move on with their lives. The provision of bathroom facilities and sanitary products is essential to ensure the health and dignity of homeless women. Without this basic support we can’t expect people to take on the challenge of escaping the spiral of homelessness.


Keeping on the theme of periods and respectfully helping yourself when its that time of the month, we’ll also be discussing the use of fantastic alternatives to disposable sanitary products including the use of the phenomenal Mooncup.
The Mooncup – easy to use, less waste and healthier for you, too!

Following that raft of fabulous information, the celebrations continue with a captivating talk from the gorgeous model, Rebeeca Pearson, in all things feminism in fashion. Rebecca has been the face of H&M and Marks and Spencers in her time – check out a brief Q&A below to get a flavour of what we can expect!

Rebecca will talk all about feminism on and off the catwalk!
Modelling! Tell us about how you got into it? 

I got scouted outside Topshop in Oxford Circus – not a very interesting one I’m afraid, as most London-based models were found either there or The Clothes Show! After seeing myself as a very gawky teenager with braces, acne and a fondness for wearing my brother’s clothes whilst walking like Richard Ashcroft, it was quite a surprise! 

What is the state of feminism is modeling? Is there a lot of work to be done? 

Interestingly I’ve seen conversation around feminism grow hugely in the last 2 years. In fact, last year I was invited to a discussion chaired by Lorraine Candy of Elle magazine to discuss feminism.  Cosmo, Stylist, Elle – they often relate topics to feminism and ask their interviewees if they identify as feminist. 

Female models far outnumber male models and are generally paid more, and my experience of the industry is that I work with far more women and gay men than straight men, and those I work with hail from many different countries and backgrounds. There’s a real attitude of ‘if you want it, go for it, so we see a lot of new labels and magazines springing up all the time, so I would say that there’s quite an empowering feminist undercurrent to my industry. 
However, there’s always work to be done. Jourdann Dunn is fighting for black models to have more visibility on the catwalk and in magazines, so feminists should help in the fight for a more global representation of models to reflect globalisation and multiculturalism. 
Modelling can still be incredibly disempowering on all levels. Young girls can be taken advantage of for their vulnerability, garnering huge debts with agencies that they have no chance of paying off. They can be given little guidance or support, and encouraged do pose or wear clothes that they are not comfortable with because they are not confident enough to stand up for themselves. And, of course, there is the ever-present pressure on models to be thinner than is healthy, which is concentrated more in high fashion, catwalk and couture. `Some models are just very thin, and we should celebrate that women come in a range of sizes (I always felt very bullied for being naturally skinny when I was younger), but we do need to see more variety on the catwalks, helping promote a healthy body image both within my industry and to the women consuming the images. 

How has feminism in modeling changed since you began!? 

Yes, as I said before it is actually discussed whereas when I started, I wasn’t aware of it being part of the lexicon used at all. Models are taking control for themselves, as we see with The Model Alliance based in New York who campaign or the rights of models. 
Do you ever struggle with choosing which projects to work on because of your feminist mantra? 
Yes! But I also think that saying no to projects based on whether it seems to chime with my feminism can be tricky to. An example: I was booked for a lingerie shoot recently: my first ever! I worried ‘did this comply with my feminism? Was I dropping my principles to the side to get a job?’
I chose to do it, because I hate to say no to new experiences. I turned up saying ‘I don’t do see-through, I don’t do small knickers, I won’t do anything too sexy pose-wise.’
The label was owned by a woman, who balanced the business, the design and the PR and the web & advertising for her company, as well as being a mother to two young children and designed lingerie for women that she wanted to empower women. She totally respected that I didn’t want to wear what I wasn’t comfortable with. However, the second I put on the first outfit, I felt incredible, so empowered, and found myself feeling free of many of my own body insecurities. The pictures show me as a confident, powerful woman and i’m happy to have done the job and that other women will see those images. 
It just proves that feminism is about your own personal journey: question everything you do, but don’t limit yourself because Andrea Dworkin might tell you of about it. This wave of feminism is far more inclusive and not as judgemental as it has been in the past, but no less powerful for it. Actually, this inclusiveness has led to a greater sense of unity and purpose. 
Who are some of your icons that inspire you in all things feminism in modeling? 
Kate Bush. She’s so free, so delicate yet powerful (I’m using that word a lot!) and so creative, fearless. Coco Rocha is a supermodel who basically reinvented posing, and is never afraid to express herself, moving freely and dramatically, even making herself grotesque in images. As well as expressing her freedom through her posing, she campaigns for the rights of models and calls out clients, for example Elle Brazil who airbrushed her to look topless despite it being written into her contract that they wouldn’t do this. That’s brave – behaviour like that can tarnish a model’s reputation and damage their career. 
Name dropping aside, who has been the most fabulous and feminist photographer/project you’ve worked on? 
I went to Bangladesh with People Tree, a Fair Trade clothing label who campaign for worker’s rights across the supply chain. I am an ambassador for the brand, founded by Safia Minney MBE who is the most incredible feminist icon: CEO of a groundbreaking company and charity, as well as a wife and a mother. She is truly tireless, passionate and driven. 
She took me to the Fair Trade factory, The Swallows, in Thanapara. This was founded when all the men in the village were shot in the war, and the women were left hopeless and destitute, possessing no vocational skills. This handicrafts factory was started to give them these skills and livelihood. 
It is now independent and produces clothes for companies worldwide. There is healthcare, free childcare and even an organic garden: the women there are paid a fair wage and given support, and their children educated on site. As well as showing the important broader issues such as education and employment, it was heartening to see that my modelling & promoting of these clothes they made before my eyes had a tenable positive consequence enjoyed by them. When my job is often seen as vapid, pointless and even negative, that was very validating for me. 
Words of wisdom to any feminists considering taking modellng up?! 
Yes! Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and say what you’re not comfortable with: you will be respected. My blog, modeltypeface.com, offers tonnes of very real and heartfelt sisterly advice for anyone needing support. 


Daisy Change WI – Establishing a Pioneering Place for Inspiring Women in Recovery

Following on from an inspirational talk by Ruth Bond, OBE, who as former NFWI Chairman had been instrumental in the setting up of the prison based WI (as a result of the WI’s Care Not Custody Campaign, our President, Joanne, took the idea of replicating the model for the pioneering prison WI to the Chairman of the Mental Health Trust where she was working. As a woman who very openly lives with an enduring mental health issue, Joanne understands first hand the positive impact that the WI can have on any woman’s recovery journey.

The result? The founding of the country’s first WI to meet on the grounds of a Mental Health Trust that has a membership which is compiled of both service user and women from other WIs/in the community. Daisy Change WI held their first meeting at the Chitra Sethia in July 2014 and its members have described it as a phenomenon that is growing from strength to strength! Daisy Change welcome visitors from all surrounding WIs in hopes that when its members leave services they seek out their local WI and feel the connection that they have made with Daisy Change and the WI in its entirety!

Visit Daisy Change’s blog here and go along to a meeting to experience history in the making!

Daisy Change WI – Inspiring Women!

We Host @Womenofthewi

A fabulous and exciting week for us as we take on the hosting of the @Womenofthewi Twitter feed!

The genius brainchild of Spa Sweethearts WI President, Becky Warburton, each week a new WI takes the reigns and shows the world their fabulous sisterhood – and this week, its our turn! Expect stories fit to showcase the Blue Belles in their diverse beauty and a live feed from our meeting on Wednesday too, which celebrates International Women’s Day with a talk from Wintercomfort to tell us all about the Essentials Dignity fundraising campaign which is raising funds for sanitary products to homeless women and an interactive session with models Rebecca Pearson and Namalee Bolle on Feminism in Fashion!

@womenofthewi a twitter stream of inspiring women!



Dig for Denman & Educate a Blue Belle, One Veg at a Time!

Two years ago when the Blue Belles came to be, we were absolutely astonished to learn that we had our own college, Denman. Eager to educate ourselves and with the wealth of FABULOUS courses available, we planted an idea that blossomed into something that is both empowering and keeps us well fed – the Dig for Denman campaign. We would grow crops to sell at our general meetings – and ALL proceeds would become a Denman bursary.

We set about having our very own allotment (and only waited a total of two weeks for one to become available locally, when the usual waiting time in Cambridgeshire is years!), got together the growing experience of our families and friends (with a comprehensive seed spreadsheet compliments of our very own Secretary, Laura P), and got growing! We managed to adopt a shed from the Freecycle network, too! Our first year saw us yield sweet peas, rhubarb, parsnips, broad & runners, leeks, courgettes and above all, hours of time spent together in the sunshine digging for a great cause. We were also gifted a grant from NFWI that helped us to be compost, water butts and many a great gardening tool.

 

Photo by the very talented Dennis Stern

The best bit in all of this?! We’ve now raised enough funds for one of our Belles to go off to Denman on a  weekend residential course and hope to up our game this year by being able to provide two bursaries!

WI Life have recently featured our story amongst their pages – and we are absolutely THRILLED with the feedback we’ve had from other WIs – and hopes to inspire, too! Scroll through to previous posts here on the blog to get the full story!