Banbury Constituency Labour Party

Women’s Forum

Women’s Group Update.   March 2017

The Women’s Group met in 2016 at venues in Banbury and Bicester, alternating to try to enable more members to participate.   Speakers included Sue Tanner on how the cuts have hit women’s lives and Maria Huff who reported on her 3 months stay in Palestine.  Sylvia Howells attended the Women’s Conference as delegate, with Fiona Gow as a visitor.  We conducted a survey of the Polish Community and analysed the responses. The group contributed to the Party’s ‘remain’ campaign during the referendum and many women were busy as candidates and helping with leaflet delivery in the local elections throughout the Cherwell District.

We have enjoyed many lively political discussions over the past 6 years.  However, most of those who have attended meetings are also now active at Branch and CLP level.  A good example of this is that in the May County Council elections 8 of our 12 candidates are women.   One of the group’s aims was to encourage the participation of women – we seem to have succeeded!

A survey was carried out in December to find out if there is a need to continue with a separate group for women members, and it was decided to wind it up.  A new group can be established at any time if members want this.  When the CLP agreed to close the Women’s Group members also agreed that the remaining £72 funds will be invested in ‘Lend with Care’.

‘Lend with Care’:  In 2013 the Women’s Group invested £30 through ‘Lend with Care’ in women’s business projects in Africa and other developing countries.  There is now invested a total of £26.61 (currency exchange losses of £3.39).  There are 2 loans still in operation.  In all we lent £180 to 11 Women’s Groups over the 3 years as loans were repaid and the money reinvested – not bad for an initial loan of £30!  Valerie Richards has offered to continue managing our account with Lend with Care, and we look forward to getting reports of how our investment is being used to help even more small traders and others to establish or develop their business and become self- sufficient.


“Resistance through Existence – Living on the West bank”

Maria Huff gave members of the Women’s Group and North Oxfordshire Villages Branch an eye-witness account of life in the West Bank and Israel, based on her recent 3 month stay from May to July this year as an “Accompanier” for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel.

Maria drew a vivid picture, with colour photos, of the dangers and hardships facing Palestinian farmers living in the south Hebron region of the Israeli occupied territory of the West Bank. She demonstrated the vast difference in living standards between the Palestinians, who live in tents or caves, drawing their water from wells and herding goats and sheep on the dry, grassy hills, and the Jewish people living in modern, well-serviced ‘settlements’ nearby. The settlers enjoy full civic rights, but the Palestinians live under military law, enforced by the Israeli army.

Regular harassment and destruction of crops and buildings makes the life of the farmers very difficult, and the purpose of Maria’s visit was to monitor events and to try to give some protection by her presence. Only 2% of complaints made by the Palestinians to the Israeli authorities result in action. She emphasised that Israeli organisations also try to protect human rights, ease tensions and enforce the Palestinians’ historic right to farm the land.


A message about Susiya from the residents to the Israeli government [Photo: EAPPI/Liz]

Maria used maps to illustrate the political divisions and showed how 60% of the West Bank is now occupied by Jewish settlers, who were encouraged to move into the area following the Six Day War of 1967. She said that the settlements were illegal under the Geneva Convention.

Members had many questions for Maria, who remains optimistic that a political solution can be reached at some time in the future.  Meanwhile, she said the Palestinians will continue to show Resistance through Existence’.

Supporting literature is available to anyone interested to learn more about the EAPPI programme.


You can sign up for more information at

Results of survey in Banbury’s Polish community

A Survey of Polish Community was conducted in 2016 by the Banbury & Bicester Labour Party Women’s Group to try to find out how Polish residents are experiencing local services.

Child care and education were rated as satisfactory or good, but childcare provision is too expensive. Healthcare and housing received very negative comments – poor standards in private rented accommodation, long waiting times for GP appointments and even longer waits for hospital tests or admission.

The Banbury & Bicester Labour Party is committed to tackling the problems encountered, which are common to other sections of the community.

Out thanks are due to all those who took the time to answer our survey.


A Campaign against Human Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation

Bonnie Nicholls told the November 2015 meeting of the Banbury & Bicester Women’s group about her work with WE ARE ONE, a campaigning group of school students founded by Bonnie and youth worker, Shannon McNally.  Bonnie and Shannon developed a 3-hour curriculum about Human Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation which they have already taught to 200 Year 9 students in Banbury Schools. 

A Positive Response

The response from the schools and the students has been very positive, and 60 of the students who took this course volunteered to be part of the WE ARE ONE campaign, to spread the work about these issues and to engage in social activism.

A New Curriculum

 The curriculum was developed from ‘821’, an international campaign against slavery, trafficking, and sexual exploitation.  Bonnie and Sharon tailored it to fit local issues, including references to Child Sexual Exploitation cases in Oxford and Banbury, and slavery in Banbury.  They discuss the economics of slavery and the way our over-sexualised culture encourages some people to think of young girls as sex objects, by analysing lyrics of some popular songs where violence against women is bragged about.  Students are encouraged to think about what they can do to combat these evils, and to work out their own methods of campaigning. As a result they have made videos, designed flyers, posters and T shirts, and created social media sites.

A Multicultural and Voluntary Project

The project has been supported by a small grant from the Faith Forum, and they are based at the Peoples’ Church. Bonnie stressed that it is a multi-faith endeavour, and Bonnie and Shannon are not paid for their work.  The Women’s Group discussed the difficulty of funding for a cause which is so transparently valuable and important.

‘Walk for Freedom’

WE ARE ONE are planning a silent ‘Walk for Freedom’ through Banbury, to be held next June 2016.


“Lend With Care” – progress report.

How  £30 has become worth £120

Three years ago the Labour Women’s group decided to invest just £30 through ‘Lend With Care’ in women’s business projects in Africa and other developing countries (see the report below).

Our small donation has now been

  • used as a loan for 7  projects,
  • has created 3 new jobs,
  • helped an amazing 111 entrepreneurs and
  • assisted 451 families!

£91.99 has been repaid and will go on being invested again and again in more projects to help more small businesses start-up or develop.  This is a truly wonderful way of helping women to become independent and raise their standard of living.

Anyone can give to “Lend With Care” – just go to their website for details.

Come and Join Us!

Women members have agreed to change the meeting day to the LAST Wednesday of the month. We will also alternate meetings between Banbury and Bicester in future so that it is easier for members to get to at least some of the meetings.  We offer car share if you are stuck for transport, so let us know.

Our speaker on 30 September will be Councillor Steve Kilsby who has served as a Cherwell District Councillor and is presently the Leader of the Labour Group on Banbury Town Council.  Steve will talk about the role and work of the Councillor.

Members and Supporters are always welcome; we have very informal meetings and usually invite a local speaker to inform us about community projects and stimulate discussion and inform our campaigns.

We hope you will join us soon.

Anne Davis (Women’s Co-ordinator)   July 2015

For more information contact the CLP Women’s Coordinator, Anne Davis, email:  telephone: 01295 810813.

Check the venue in the Meetings & Events Calendar as it may change from month to month.

All women members are invited to meetings, but you are welcome to join us at our meetings and events if you are not  a Labour Party member but share our aims.

The Women’s Group Aims:

  • To forge links and support communities and community projects in the Banbury Constituency.  To this end, we invite speakers to our monthly meetings to tell us how we and others can contribute more to the life of the area, in particular by helping those in need.
  • To ensure that women play a full part in the Labour Party and join in CLP and Branch activities.
  • To increase women’s participation in politics by encouraging non-member to join our group and organising events relevant to women’s concerns and interests.

Dear Members and Friends,

I want to thank Diane Johnson for all her work as our Women’s Co-ordinator and, now that I have been elected to do this task, I hope I can build on her success in leading our group of active women.  We have certainly enjoyed many interesting political and social activities during the past 5 years.  If you are a new member, you can see here below  some of the great things we have done. I would also like to thank all the women members who worked to achieve our success locally in the recent elections – we had a swing to Labour here!

We are all delighted to see the number of new members who have joined the Labour Party this year – more than 100 people have joined our CLP – 53 of them are women!  This huge increase in membership offers our women’s group the chance to really do some new things, so – please come and join us and help us make a new programme for the coming year.  (Don’t forget you can bring your non-member friends!)

Anne  (July 2015)

Banbury Food Bank – a lifeline for families in crisis

Mr David Stapleton described the origin and aims of the Banbury Food Bank, which works in partnership with the Trussell Trust to collect, store and distribute non-perishable foods to those in need.  Started by members of the People’s Church in 2011 as part of the ‘Brighter Futures’ programme, it developed from the Church’s existing debt counselling service.

“The Community helping the Community”

“The community helping the community” is the founding principal of the Tressell Trust, therefore the food bank relies on individual donors who may contribute at the occasional supermarket collection points or donate directly at the church.  Fourteen local schools recently contributed a ton of food from their harvest festivals, and businesses often hold collections at Christmas time.  The Tesco supermarket has a permanent box for donations.

30,000kg of food collected!

The food bank has grown each year, and has now collected 30,000kg and distributed 26,00kg of food to needy families.  This scale of the operation requires a warehouse for sorting foods by date, storing and weighing it all before it is to  collection and distribution at the Grimsbury Centre, Hardwick Centre, the People’s Church and East St Children’s Centre.  One food bank is now open from 10 am until noon every Tuesday – Friday.  Care agencies issue vouchers and food cannot be given to those without a voucher.  Basic foods must sometimes be bought –sponge puddings, long life milk and fruit juice are much in demand.

4,000 families in crisis have received help

Members were concerned to learn that nearly 200 people needed to use the food bank in September, and that in total 4,000 families (2,400 adults and 1,600 children) have been supported – usually because they were in debt, on low income or their state benefit payment was late arriving.  10% of the people are homeless.  Approximately 60% come once, 20% may come twice, and if people come more than 3 times (9%) follow-up work is done to help them through their crises.

What an indictment of our Government that so many people need to use this service in 2014.  


Miracles Do Happen!

Polly Preedy told members how her recovery from severe a stroke 30 years ago had been a miracle for her and how she then became a Christian.  Polly believes that she was called by God to her work of giving food and support to homeless people in Banbury, a task to which she  dedicated herself every night for the past 26 years.   Polly works by herself, but enjoys the support of many churches and individuals who donate food and vouchers to help her sustain her amazing work – at present she is befriending about 16 ex-prisoners, drug addicts and other homeless people in Banbury every evening, whatever the weather.

Thank you, Polly, you are astonishing and an example to us all.

Labour Women Join ‘Lend With Care’ is an initiative from Care International UK in association with the Co-operative.  Set up by one of the world’s leading aid and development organisations, enables families to find their own route out of poverty. It allows those who join to have a direct impact on the lives of individuals from many countries.

Banbury Labour Women donated just £30 in 2013 and this money has already helped 3 groups of women to get their business going.  Because the money is immediately reinvested when loans are repaid, lots of groups can be helped – even on this small scale it makes a difference!

Chiyanjana Group in Zambia set up a thriving market stall

They have repaid their loan.
Lend with care_01





Milore Group in Malawi are now successful greengrocers

Their loan is nearly repaid.

Lend with Care_02





Chaphuka Group in Malawi have opened a restaurant

They are repaying the loan.

Lend with Care_03





Food for Charities

Valerie Richards informed members of the Labour Women’s group about this new organisation in Banbury.  It aims to recycle fresh food from supermarkets which would otherwise go to waste.  The project is seeking charitable status, but they are  getting ready to function by recruiting volunteer helpers.

Please go to our Community Corner page for more details.

Anita Higham OBE addresses Challenges Ahead for Health and Social Care in Oxfordshire

Anita Higham

Anita Higham

“There is now a great push among all political parties to bring health and social care together,” guest speaker, Anita Higham, Chair Oxfordshire North Locality Forum for Patient and Public Engagement in Health and Social Care told members of the Labour Women’s Group at their meeting on 24 September.

A diagram of the many and complex layers of ‘Commissioning Authorities’ (resulting from the reorganisation of the National Health Service by the Conservative Government) was used to illustrate the challenges associated with current attempts to merge the NHS with Social Care.

“The NHS and Social Services have entirely different funding structures and organisational cultures,” she explained.

Health and Wellbeing Boards.

The Health and Wellbeing Boards are responsible for preparing Strategic Commissioning Plans for Health and Social Care and have a statutory requirement to bring together representatives from primary care, clinical commissioning groups, social care and public health. Their working document is the ‘Strategic Commissioning Plan’. Healthwatch is also a member of the Board in each County and has a statutory duty to challenge the Board members if they do not adhere to the plan.

Can You Help Protect the Rights of Users?

An invitation to join Healthwatch Oxfordshire, the ‘consumer champion for health and social care in Oxfordshire’ was issued by Anita. The former head of Banbury School now puts her great energy and enthusiasm into her role as Chair of Oxfordshire North Locality Forum for Patients and Public Engagement in Health and Social Care. “Volunteers are needed to visit hospitals and ensure that service provision is up to standard,” she said.

A Crisis Looming in GP Services

Anita also spoke about “a crisis looming over a shortage of GPs”.   She expressed grave concern that retiring GPs are not able to attract young doctors into their practices. Among those doctors who do become GPs there is trend for them to leave practices in the UK in their mid-30s to emigrate (mainly to Canada, USA and Australia) where working conditions are more amenable.

“Since GP practices have become autonomous small private enterprises these factors have got worse, with an increasing demand to perform medically and a perceived heavier burden on doctors of non-medical responsibilities such as counselling and psychotherapeutic work”.

Oxfordshire County Council cuts again!

Oxfordshire County Council has established a ‘Health and Wellbeing Board’ to assess the health and social needs of each community, and has commissioned ‘Healthwatch Oxfordshire’ to protect the rights of users to these services. However, because the funding for Healthwatch was not ‘ring fenced’ by the government, the OCC has kept back one third of the funding allocated.



Palestinian Women Welcomed

Palestinian women

Seven Palestinian women were welcomed in Banbury on Sunday, 15 June 2014, by the Labour Party Women’s Group, who entertained them to lunch at Jane Orton’s home and took them to meet women from the local Muslim Community at the Sunrise Multicultural Project in the afternoon.

“Two of my sons have died, and a third has been held in prison in Israel for seven years,” Samira Brash told the lunch guests, “Muhamad had his leg amputated following a mine explosion, which also damaged his eyes.” Samira said that Muhammed was imprisoned when he tried to protect his brother who was shot by the Israeli army.   “He is blind in one eye and he needs urgent medical treatment to protect his remaining sight, but this is being denied him by the Israeli Government,“ she claimed.

The delegation, which is led by ReFaa Mustafa Abu Al Reesh, comes from the Al Amari refugee camp. The group is being hosted by the Oxford Palestine Solidarity Campaign and by the Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association, a charity which aims to raise awareness of humanitarian issues in Palestine and supports community education in Ramallah.  

An Appeal for Help

The delegates appealed for help in publicising the situation in Palestinian.  They said that their particular concern is that many of the prisoners being held in jails by Israel are not provided with proper medical attention.

To support the campaign to raise awareness of the plight of Palestinians like Muhamad Brash, please go to and come to hear the women tell their stories on

Monday 16th June 2014

at St Michael at Northgate, Cornmarket Street, OX1 3EY


Tuesday 17th June 2014

at Court Room, Oxford Town Hall, St Aldates, OX1

Manjit Kaur, guest speaker at Women’s Forum, tells of Sikhs illegally imprisoned and tortured in India

Diane Johnson, Manjit Kaur, Surinder Dhesi and a SOPW representative

Diane Johnson, Manjit Kaur, Surinder Dhesi and a SOPW representative

On Nov 27th 2013 the CLP Women’s Forum received a powerful presentation from the Sikh Organisation for Prisoner Welfare (SOPW). Manjit Kaur explained the plight of hundreds of Sikhs in India, imprisoned often for years without legal representation or hope of release. Their struggle and that of their families is acute and SOPW seeks to offer support directly to those families and prisoners. For more information follow the link







Amnestea_PartyAt least 30 people came to Liz and John’s, on 11 August 2013,  bringing home made cakes, and savoury delights such as samosas and pakora, and raised the princely sum of £230 for Amnesty’s work with women in Afghanistan.


Women’s Group Gets News from Afghanistan

Sarah Wragg, daughter of Banbury Town Branch Chair Tony Wragg, brought to the Labour Women’s Group in July some news of her remarkable work in Afghanistan as an education adviser for Save the Children.  Afghanistan_01


Improving education for women: Living in Kabul and working to develop the training of women to be teachers, Sarah described the huge improvement in the number of children receiving at least primary education and the success of the programme with which she works:



Children in school


Women Teachers


1    million





7.4 million




(Figures from Afghanistan Ministry of Education, 2013)  Photorelease:AFG_000055


Opposition to girl’s education However, in 2012 only 5.8% of adult women reached secondary or higher education compared with 34% of men (UNDP, 2012).  Sadly, there is still opposition to the education of girls and women, schools are often targeted. This means that, in most areas, schools must have high protective walls to keep children safe. Afghanistan_05


  Safety First In addition to supporting formal government schools, Save the Children International in Afghanistan also establish ‘Community Based Education Classes’.  This is done with the support of the local people, who recommend a member of the community to be the teacher and provide physical space for the class. Community Based Education classes most often take place in a private home as these are usually walled compounds where children will be safe and are less likely to be targeted for political reasons. Keep up the good work, Sarah, and good luck!

News – May 2013 The group is currently focusing on violence against women on a personal, national and international level. At the June meeting there will be a speaker from Oxfordshire County Council domestic violence team. In July there will be a speaker from the National Association of Probation Officers There is no meeting in August but there will be a Garden Party on Sunday 11 August, from 3.00-5.00pm funds raised will go to support the work of Amnesty International with women in Afghanistan. Donations of cakes etc will be welcome. More details nearer the time. In support of Val Norman’s wish for donations to go to Katherine House Hospice, hospice raffle tickets will be on sale at the June meeting. If you would like to buy a ticket but are not able to get to the meeting, please contact Diane (email above). News – Feb/March 2013 2013 got off to a good start for the CLP Women’s Group. At our February meeting we were able to express our thanks to Annie Higgs who has resigned from the role of Women’s Officer and to wish her well in her plans. In February we welcomed Assia Bibi and Kimberley Hopkinson, who told us about their work at the Sunrise Project. The Project offers support to anyone in the community with its focus being mainly with women and children from the Pakistani community in Banbury. The evening generated much interest and discussion about the challenges for minority groups and for services providing support for them. It led us to consider how we could reach out to groups who may have little knowledge about how our political system works and to do so in a way that encourages more interest in voting. It is something we plan to pursue and any ideas will be welcome. The Women’s Group aims to keep abreast of the impact of the government’s policies on women and to share details of national and local campaigns. Health, education and welfare reforms are high on the list but there are plenty of other issues to debate and we encourage members to bring their particular areas of interest, experience, frustration and passion to the meetings. Meetings are open to non-members The Labour Party has a proud tradition of representing women’s views and ensuring that they are woven into the fabric of Labour party policy. With the Conservative Coalition’s cuts and the consequent economic malaise having a disproportionately high impact on women, this focus has never been more important.

Diane Johnson

Diane Johnson