News from MAR Regional Meeting 10th December 2016

Helen Murdoch, Organiser for Cardiff 2017 Conference.
SIGBI Federation President, Ann Hodgson’s first Soroptimist club was SI Kenilworth so her heart is in the Midlands and she would like Midland Arden to participate. Malta was a superb conference and they would like to emulate the good things learned from there. Helen told us that they had been charged “to shake things up” so there may be a different feel to conference. There will still be the opportunities to meet new people and exchange good ideas. The theme will be “Step up, lead the way.” It is all about getting everybody involved. Conference website is already up and running and you can book hotels through it. The Conference will take place in the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. It is a phenomenal venue with lots of eating places around the Bay. Helen is looking to Midland Arden for Stewards. The new name for stewards will be “smile makers”. This job will be to support the Chief Steward to provide a safe, caring environment to ensure enjoyment and well-being of all candidates. There are a variety of jobs available. If you would like to be involved, email conference secretary stating any preferences.

Rose Hutchinson – Forgotten 10 Campaign for Handicap International:
Today is December 10th – Human Rights Day. We were asked to do 10 things in the run up to December 10 so we will have to do all 10 all today:
1) Learn 10 facts: which included: In 2015, 43,000 people were killed or injured by explosive weapons. 92% of those people were civilians. There has been a 45% increase in the number of people injured since 2011. In Syria 53% people injured by explosive weapons. 15% needed amputations. In 2014 children accounted for 39% of civilian casualties. Handicap International has been in existence for 34 years, worked in 59 countries and has carried out 341 projects. They were joint winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. They clear landmines and unexploded bombs. They also provide artificial limbs and rehabilitation to amputees
2) Go to SI Solihull’s stand and learn 10 more facts
3) Build a pyramid of shoes. This is a powerful symbol of loss of life and limb. The shoes will be taken to Clarks who will distribute the footwear to Nepal and Africa as well as other countries
4) Sign the petition: These will be sent to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson asking to stop the use of explosive weapons in civilian areas.
5) Information in the post box: for 10 clubs
6) Goals: One of our goals is to encourage conflict resolution and to promote peace. This is also one of the UNs sustainable goals. Goal number 10 is to reduce inequality.
7) Collect 10ps or multiples of 10 in today’s collection. (this came to £67.85)
8) Put it on Twitter – what you are doing today
9) Put in on Facebook
10) Complete the Programme Focus Report Form – SI Solihull to do this as Region can’t.

Soroptimist Growth Plan Pilot: Jane Flint Bridgwater, Sue Beech and Gail Teague: reporting back on Midland Arden clubs’ involvement. Results of the pilot were:

1. Sharing of experience and learning across pilot clubs
2. Partnership working (Coventry at Leamington Peace Festival, Stourbridge at Membership Month Partnership Event with MS Hospice) since 2015 EMCC
3. Materials Development (Garstang poster adapted for free by Stourbridge)
4. Single Page Plan (SPP) developed in Club (Stourbridge shared; Bromsgrove extended plan), Orbit disliked, regular monitoring a challenge, 2017 MARCOMMS in SPP
5. Welcome MAR good examples e.g. Stratford advert
6. ‘Slow Burn’ applicable: older membership, changing practice, 3 year plan model
7. Use ‘Soroptimists’/ Federation/ HQ, NOT SIGBI!
8. Free PR through Voluntary Organisation Awards (Coventry)
9. Testimonials from Beneficiary Organisations (Coventry)
10. IT – welcoming, flexible website design
11. Planning for the future – sustainable development planning incorporating recruitment longer term (roll out by some means)
SIGBI wanted to have 2 full days on the pilot scheme. This was not well received. Clubs can invite reps to come and talk about the pilot scheme. Jane Flint Bridgewater will circulate information about the scheme.

Pat Martin – Meru Garden Project:
Pat explained the project for the benefit of new members present. This project was first introduced by SI Canterbury and was taken up by Federation as our 4-year project, ending in March 2019. The initial target was to raise £10,000 to train the first group of 30 women in sustainable food gardening methods. This will allow the women to feed their families and to sell surplus. The intention is to take on another group of 30 women when the first have been trained. Our partners are Child.Org and CIFORD (Community Initiatives for Rural Development). They have recently started a breakfast club which encourages girls to attend school as they are not hungry.
The target of £10,000 has been achieved. Pat thinks a lot more has been raised so she asks us to tell her what we have done for this project, how much we have raised – and sent in (do not wait, send it in immediately) and she will monitor this through SIGBI.

We are urged to continue to bring knitted blankets for the Hamlin Fistula Charity as these are still greatly needed. Mobile phones and jewellery is being collected by SI Kenilworth. We are also still collecting bras – SI Kidderminster doing this.

Main Speaker: Jayne Senior , MBE., talks about “The Journey”

Jayne was the child sexual exploitation “whistle-blower” in Rotherham and she told us what happened. She said that we are missing something about child sexual exploitation and the question is why. She has never had an answer as to why nothing was done.
She started work in a coffee bar as a youth worker. There it was possible to identify girls at risk and something needed to be done. From 1999-2011 she worked in the Risky Business Project, working with girls who were said to be prostitutes but they were being exploited, for example the 14 year old girl with a 28 year old boyfriend. The girls thought they were in a caring relationship. Nobody seemed to question whether this was right. The team was non-judgmental and build up relationships with the girls so that they had confidence to tell them what was happening. During this time, they worked with 1400 children (probably nearer 1800-2000) who were supported by a dedicated team of staff. They had a different approach and if the girls didn’t come to them, the staff found them. Over time, they built up information: nicknames, car registration numbers and details which could be used to identify the perpetrators. In 2002 there was a Home Office Pilot and a family law solicitor identified a group of three/four brothers who were targeting a high number of young people to traffic and abuse. The paperwork was stolen. The researcher had kept quite a lot of information and this was used last year to send these brothers to prison. These girls had waited 14 years for justice. The reason why nothing happened was that there had been consent but the girls hadn’t realised they were being groomed. Jayne thought that children “fibbed” but didn’t lie about really important things like being threatened to be doused in petrol and set alight and gang raped. Why did nobody believe them? It was said they were prostitutes, a life-style choice or they were lying.
In 2011, for the first time, something happened. They closed down the Risky Business Project! It became a Social Care Model instead but the problem with this was that it didn’t identify children at risk but had to wait until abuse happened.
Jayne moved to Swinton Lock Activity Centre where she works with young people and survivors of sexual exploitation. There was a case of a 13-year-old girl referred to statutory services. 42 contacts were made for early intervention. Nothing happened.
Jayne met Andrew Norfolk, a Times journalist. He said he could not publish the facts she had given him as nobody would believe it. She drip-fed him evidence and information and kept her identity secret. An investigation was launched – into her – not into what had happened. Times lawyers said they would represent her if she was arrested. Press wrote about the damage the whistle blower had done and not the damage caused to the children.
In 2014 she reluctantly met with Alexis Jay who was connected with Rotherham Council. Jayne now regrets not sharing more with her as she obviously believed her. Jayne told her about the petrol threat. The report came out in 2014 and caused a media frenzy around the exoneration of the Risky Business Project.
Then there was a Home Affairs Select Committee: She printed off significant evidence as she decided she could no longer keep this secret and handed the information over to Keith Vaz. Another media storm.
Louise Casey was appointed in 2014: A damning report was written and all powers were removed from Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. She met with David Cameron. In 2016 she decided to write a book “Broken and Betrayed”. In it she explores the difficult area of grooming and explodes the myth that these children are the result of bad parenting. One parent had rung the police 200 times and when he rescued his daughter himself, he was arrested and now has a criminal conviction.
Childline couldn’t understand why the children hadn’t contacted them. It was because, at 13, they thought they were adults, not children so Childline didn’t apply to them.
There is an App called “Is it Ok?” which deals with questions about drugs, radicalisation, grooming. Trained people can give advice.
Two years on from Rotherham children are still not being given relationship education in schools.
One Child is one Child too many.

Jayne received a standing ovation