Posts Tagged women

Breast cancer referrals – still too slow

The Islington Gazette has picked up the figures I reported about the delays Islington women face in getting referrals after breast cancer screening.

As the Gazette says:

LESS than 40 per cent of Islington women suspected of having breast cancer are seen by a specialist within two weeks, it is claimed.

Bridget Fox, Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Islington South and Finsbury, has called on the Government to ensure Islington women are screened and seen quicker when at risk from breast cancer. Ms Fox said: “Two weeks’ delay for a woman with late-diagnosed breast cancer could mean the difference between life and death.”

So many families have been affected by the scourge of breast cancer. My own mother-in-law died before our wedding because her cancer was diagnosed late. Prompt diagnosis not only saves lives, it makes treatment less invasive – and expensive – too.

I hope (probably a forlorn one…) that one of the Government’s new year resolutions will be to spend less time talking about targets and more time helpng the local NHS to meet them.

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A Women’s Agenda in a time of sleaze and recession

I’ve received the following message worth sharing:

A Women’s Agenda in a time of sleaze and recession – June 2009

Just over a year ago we ran a quick survey to find out your thoughts on voting in the local and Mayoral elections of May 2008. A year later some of us have the opportunity to cast our votes in local elections as well as in the European elections. So we thought we would re-run the survey to see how, if at all, your political concerns and priorities have changed.

And because in the past 12 months little has changed in relation to funding women’s core services such as rape crisis we want to ask that question again as well – see http://womensgrid.freecharity.org.uk/?p=2309.

However in the intervening 12 months we have all had to face the reality of the recession, banking practices creating a crisis in our financial systems and more recently revelations of sleaze in our Parliamentary system.

So we thought we would ask some additional questions on how any of these have impacted on you personally and on your voting intentions and faith in politics as practiced in the UK.

We realise that not everyone will be having local elections but either way please do add your opinions to help us create a picture of women’s political priorities across the country.

The survey will stay open until 10pm on Tuesday 2nd June and we hope to get the results published the following evening, ie Wednesday 3rd June.

You can complete the survey online at

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/140114/survey-for-european-and-local-elections-june-2009

If you have any problems with this online survey because of accessibility issues we can send you a version as a word document. Please contact us – post@womeninlondon.org.uk – thanks!

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Catching up

The last couple of weeks have been so busy that I’ve barely had time to blog.

Which is a pity because there’s so much to write about…

– helping launch the One Hour Bus Ticket campaign
– chairing consultation event on women’s policy with Lynne Featherstone MP
– protesting against the permanent closure of the Wharfdale Road entrance to KX station
– meeting Tubelines to discuss tube services in the borough
– celebrating Mary Wollestonecraft’s 250th birthday
– taking part in Question Time at City & Islington College
– helping launch the Lib Dem Euro election campaign
– helped stick & stuff thousands of leaflets
– joined in commemorations for Dadabhai Naoroji

Last night, I attended Islington’s Annual Council meeting to see Anna Berent elected Mayor and Terry Stacy elected Leader.

It’s been a time of transition; as well as the new Leader of Islington Council, Graham Kings the vicar of St Mary Islington and Michelle Thomas the head teacher of St Andrew’s school are both moving on. So lots of appointment panels in prospect…

I’ve also managed to lose – and now replace – my phone. So even if I should have your number, I may no longer: please text me (my number’s unchanged).

Oh and we’re canvassing 7 days a week for the Euros! So a busy time. I’ll try and write it all up soon.

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Duffy and Fanthorpe

Another first for women as Carole Ann Duffy becomes the first female Poet Laureate – and the first gay woman one at that.

And a sad one as U A Fanthorpe – who could have beaten Duffy to it back in 1999 – has died. There are obituaries in the Times and Telegraph. Fanthorpe was known for her Christmas poems, including this favourite of mine.

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North London Fawcett Group latest

The minutes of the North London Fawcett Group’s March meeting are now up on the group’s website.

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My lunch date with Michelle Obama

If you’d asked me what I planned to do yesterday, lunch with Michelle Obama wouldn’t have been on the menu…

I was working from home, and my only plans for lunch hour were to do a bit of tidying up. Then about noon I got a phone call from a friend, followed by a couple of frantic texts: Michelle Obama was coming to visit EGA, the outstanding girls’ secondary where I used to be a governor.

Outstanding, but not privileged. The millionaire’s row of Richmond Crescent (home to MPs Emily Thornberry and Margaret Hodge and former home of the Blairs) may only be a stone’s throw away. But they don’t send their daughters to EGA. More fool them! It’s a fantastic school, and I can’t think of a better place for Michelle Obama to come and inspire young women – and be inspired by them.

Official guests (including Council leader James Kempton) were invited for 1.30pm. Lucy Watt & I agreed to meet up in our lunch hour and join the fans outside, along with other friends working locally.

It was gloriously warm and sunny as we joined an excited group outside the school entrance near Chapel Market. Twenty girls from each year group, plus the school choir, were inside with the VIPs. The rest had the day off, but so many had stayed on to get a glimpse of MO.

There were journalists mingling with the crowds, including correspondents from the Mail and the Mirror (only a pool media team were allowed inside). They were interviewing some of the girls about Michelle as a role model. (As the Mail later reported, she wowed the girls inside too).
More and more photographers materialised, stacked up on ladders opposite the school. Rita Chakrabati arrived with a camera crew.

The police produced barriers and penned us in, but the spirit was friendly, not confrontational. I chatted to my neighbours in the crowd: a black woman lawyer, and an award-winning graphic designer: very Islington! By this stage no-one was coming in or out. The postman came along with a bag of mail and was politely rebuffed. One of the Labour councillors tried flashing a Town Hall badge to some friendly jeering from the EGA girls. It would take more than that to get inside this event….

We waited and waited. Then suddenly more police materialised, and there came the convoy along Barnsbury Road, motor bikes with blue lights, half a dozen limos, and in the middle the big black Obama-mobile: probably the first and last time you’ll get Islington progressives cheering an SUV. A glimpse of blue, a smile, a wave, and she had swept past into the school.

And minutes later I was hurrying back to work, a sandwich at my keyboard, taking a bit of Obama sunshine with me.

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Fawcett March meeting

We had the March meeting of the North London Fawcett Group last night.

I arrived in a rush from a day working in Chesham, looking for the venue, a community centre in Ossulton Street NW1. On the way from Euston, I passed two sites that reflect Fawcett’s interests; the former home of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson women’s hospital – and ‘Secrets’, a lap-dancing club. Not my destination.

Nor, it turned out, was the first community centre on Ossulton Street. The Somers Town community centre was hosting a pensioners’ choir, which looked fun, but not what I was after. Back across the street, and there was our meeting in the Ossulton estate hall. Intriguingly it had a pile of skipping ropes in one corner, but we resisted temptation.

We’re lobbying the Mayor of London to fulfil his pledge to provide more Rape Crisis Centres for London. And we also talked about marking the 250th birthday of Mary Woolstonecraft (aka Mary the mother of feminism) who is buried in nearby St Pancras churchyard.

Details will be on the group’s website in due course.

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Thank you for sharing

NHS cervical cancer screening is one of those rights I’m keen women should have, less keen to exercise myself.

But when my latest reminder arrived, I phoned within minutes and had my checkup within the week. Why? Well partly because of Jade Goody. Her openness about her terminal illness showed better than any public health campaign that cervical cancer is real and can kill if you don’t get checked regularly.

Choosing to share information about your health can help others: but sharing people’s health information without their permission can do the opposite. A new report from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust has found that women are not seeking help for post-natal depression from their GPs, because they are afraid the information will be shared with social services and they will be labelled bad mothers.

Talking of labelling, I’m now apparently a terrorist suspect because as a non-meat eater, I order vegetarian meals when I fly. (Vegetarian not vegan: I had one particularly grim airline breakfast of a rice cracker and some nauseating soya milk, while Richard tucked into egg, bacon and yoghurt next to me). Doubly-suspicious if you are born abroad, which makes Joanna Lumley public enemy number 1.

If you agree with me that this is barmy, there’s a Facebook group you can join here.

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Harrogate day 2: crime, women and song. And histopathology.

The final debate of the day was on criminal justice and prisons.

Islington members Greg Foxsmith and Sarah Ludford were among the speakers. Islington has the unusual distinction of two prisons, although as far as we know there are no plans to float Titans on the Regent’s canal.

Then on to the NUT fringe on education and the recession. One of the (few) silver linings in the financial crisis might be that ambitious graduates now stay in research and development or move into teaching rather than heading for the City. We debated the merits of funding ‘leisure courses’ (something Labour ministers sneer at). One delegate pointed out that the UK is facing an acute shortage of histopathologists. No, I’m not sure either, but make your career plans now.

Then it was off to dinner with Women Liberal Democrats (appropriately for the weekend of International Women’s Day). There are a number of unwritten conference rules, one of which is that at some point you end up in Pizza Express, as we did, and indeed some of the group had already eaten there the night before. No wonder the waiter was so cheery.

There was a great range of women there, from MPs and veteran candidates, to first-time delegates. Jo Swinson MP was, as ever, inspiring: with more MPs like her, we could challenge the findings that young women have no role models in politics.

We discussed some of the issues in the women’s policy paper that’s now out for consultation, rehashed the faith schools debate, and swapped time- and stress-management tips. Mine is singing (it reduces my stress, not sure about the effect on those around me). But on this occasion I skipped the traditional Glee club for an early night. Sleep, after all, is the best and rarest treat of all.

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North London Fawcett Group website…

… is now live.

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