Discussing FGM with the Hawa Trust (plus amazing vulval inspired cupcakes)

ebedc0_c37f31dce8d24c83b0cc45d0de2b6cf4_mv2.pngThis month we welcomed Hawa Sessay, founder and executive director of Hawa Trust, and a qualified social worker, who spoke to us about her own personal experience of Female Genital Mutilation, and how she has used this to help others.

We learned more about how FGM is a dangerous practice with devastating lifelong physical, psychological and emotional effects on the women and girls who are subjected to it. FGM violates the human rights of women and girls, and is child abuse.

Hawa also talked to us about the work of Hawa Trust, a grass-roots local organisation working in Hackney among African and other ethnic minority communities. They work to support communities to tackle FGM, engage with them to change attitudes, provide information for young women and girls, and provide referrals to other organisations and statutory services. They also address issues relating to HIV and AIDS, and domestic violence.

FB_IMG_1526905118748.jpgWe also celebrated the beauty of all women with vulval inspired cupcakes made by committee member Rachel!

We have an action-packed month ahead of us in June, so check out our events page for details of the Well Street Common Festival, our usual meeting (about Suffrage in the East End) and our return to the Trowbridge Centre for a second Tea Dance with the Senior Citizens of Hackney Wick.


The HWW AGM – a fiercely contested Presidential election and the long-awaited return of Lady Maths…

This month’s meeting was a game of two halves, first up our Annual General Meeting, followed by a swift exodus to the pub for a superb feminist quiz, hosted by our Secretary Sophie.

We whizzed through our agenda covering our finances and the committee’s annual report, and then formed the committee for 2018.  Founding member (and ex-President) and Treasurer Grace and long-standing Vice-President Niki stood down from the committee, and we were joined by two new volunteers in the shape of Mani and Siobhan.  Lucinda has taken on the reins as Treasurer from Grace and is excited to get her Excel spreadsheet for the accounts started! As always there was big thanks to the committee old and new for all their help in running our WI!

We then moved on to the hotly contested Presidential election, where, despite a number of people being nominated, only Chloe chose to stand.  With agreement from all Chloe will be the President for another year.  The current committee now consists of:

Chloe (President), Sophie (Secretary), Lucinda (Treasurer), Lauren, Elaine, Lora, Rachel, Siobhan and Mani.

We quickly wrapped up the rest of our admin business, and moved on to one of Hackneysophie.jpg Wick’s fine beer-selling establishments for what we can only describe as The Foremost Feminist Quiz.  Super hard questions on a range of topics including women’s history, politics, music, intersectionality followed, plus the return of Lady Maths (basically a load of maths questions which rely heavily on you both being able to do sums and also know the age of Dolly Parton, number of members of the Sugababes etc).  A swift count of points followed, plus prizes for both winning and losing teams.

Quiz Sheets

Swedish cabbage massage, a lot of vinegar and a whole lot of cleaning up!

Before the pickling began…

This month our multi-talented secretary Sophie (WI admin skills and pickling – what a combination!) led us in a session on the ancient art of pickling and fermentation.  Who knew that the Chinese invented sauerkraut years before the people of Eastern Europe claimed it as their own?  Originally used as a way to preserve vegetables grown in summer before the barren winter months in pre-refrigeration days, fermenting is definitely having a resurgence!

As well as being really good for your digestive health (all that natural bacteria formed in the fermentation process is great for your belly), pickling and fermenting is also really fun and easy.  We all went home with a jar of red cabbage saurkraut and some cauliflower pickle after just an hour (although the sauerkraut is at the time of writing still in the fermentation stage…)  Here are some recipes to get you started if you missed out or loved it so much you want another go!

Red Cabbage Sauerkraut

  • 1/2 red cabbage
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 apple
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp juniper berries
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds

You will need sterilised jars, for instruction on how to do this check out this BBC link

Slice the cabbage into ribbons 5mm wide.  Put in a bowl with the salt.  Then get your hands in the bowl and massage the hell out of it!  Definitely think sports or swedish rather than a nice relaxing massage…  It wants to be looking nice and shiny and be good and squished.  Leave for about an hour to sweat out its juices.

Fill your jar about half way with the cabbage.  Grate in the apple and add the chilli, juniper and caraway seeds.  If there is any liquid from the cabbage chuck that in too.

With a muddler, rolling pin or anything else with a flat end, squash everything about until you have enough liquid to cover the cabbage.

Put something on top of the cabbage to weigh it down (we used plastic bags filled with water).  Make sure that the sides of the jar are free of any stray bits of veg (or these will go manky in contact with the air).  Cover the top with a muslin square or clean tea towel.  Leave without the lid on in a warm place for 2-3 weeks.  Fermentation should start in 10-15 days.  After this you can taste it until it gets to the flavour you want.   Then chuck the lid on and pop it in the fridge.

Vegetable Pickles

finish pickles
The finished product!
  • 1 1/2 cups white or cider vinegar (we used cider)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 allspice berries
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • Salt
  • Vegetables (we used cauliflower and chillis)

We slightly cheated and used a pickling spice mix instead of the bits listed above!  We also added some turmeric for the lovely yellow colour.

You will need more sterilised jars as above.

Chop up your vegetables and pop them in your jar.  Stick all the rest of the ingredients in a pan over a gentle heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Pour over your veg (making sure it is covered) and pop the lid on securely.  Leave to cool before sticking in the fridge for at least a week.  Et voila!


How getting more women into bike maintenance could help SMASH THE PATRIARCHY!

LBK bike

We were delighted to be joined by Jenni, the founder of the London Bike Kitchen this month to talk about what LBK does, and how more women should get into bike maintenance (apparently they are much better at it than men).  Much ranting about a lack of female role models in STEM fields may have ensued.  Plus maybe quite a lot of raving about Mary Anning, President Chloe’s favourite palaeontologist (sorry for all the dino chat guys!).

Jenni talked to us about the London Bike Kitchen, an open DIY bike workshop where you can learn how to fix your bike!  She is super passionate about people learning how to fix their bikes rather than just charging people to fix them.  I have a feeling a few of us may be heading over there to do a class or two on bike maintenance soon…

Jenni shared with us her top tops on starting up a new enterprise (this seems to have been a bit of a theme of our meetings so far this year!)

  • Make mistakes – you will learn from them!LBK logo
  • Talk to everyone – you never know what people might know that could be incredibly useful to you…
  • Learn how to say no
  • Know your weaknesses
  • Capitalise on motivation.  You may not always feel super excited to get on with something, so do it whilst you’ve got the enthusiasm!

If you want to find our more they are on all the social media channels @LDNBikeKitchen, or LBK.org.uk.

And finally, why aren’t there more female bike mechanics if they are better than men?

  • We need more positive role models
  • There needs to be more opportunities for girls and women to get into these kinds of fields
  • And finally (although how to do this remains a bit of a mystery) we need to SMASH THE PATRIARCHY!
And finally a picture of Mary Anning. Just because…

Hackney Wicked Women get Strong+Bendy!

Home screen
The Strong+Bendy studio on a lovely sunny day (not a grey evening in January!)

We kicked off 2018 with an energetic start, as we welcomed Rhian Cowburn, founder of Hackney Wick’s very own boutique fitness studio, Strong + Bendy.  Rhian told us about the concept behind Strong+Bendy, gave us her top tips for starting your own business (but which also apply generally to being successful whatever you do), and gave us a short taster session of one of the most popular classes on the studio timetable, Pop Pilates (which is basically high energy pilates to music).

Strong+Bendy opened in June 2017, offering a range of classes (yoga, pilates, HIIT, kettlebell training, bootcamps, core conditioning).  Rhian also offers personal training sessions in the studio.  Whilst some classes are led by Rhian, she also has a small army of fabulous instructors (including her identical twin sister – very confusing sometimes) who take some of the classes, so there is always something different to do.  For more information, check out her website


Rhian’s Top Tips for starting a successful business and keeping it that way

1. Set a vision 
Identify the things you’re willing to compromise on and the things you’re not. In the long run I want Strong + Bendy to be a luxury studio. At the moment I’m having to compromise on facilities (changing rooms etc) but what I won’t compromise on is quality of instructors
2. Battle sexism
On my PT course men were referring to the easier exercises as ‘girl exercises’. I couldn’t let that go without having the lecturer call it out and agree to not tolerate it being said on the course again in the future
3. Be Brave
It will be financially tough and at times you will give yourself excuses  as to why it would be OK to give up…. but stay focused on why you started in the first place!
4. Don’t pay too much attention to other people
Thoroughly research the companies you admire and want to be like. Then try not to worry too much what other people are doing. There will always be companies doing similar to you, just concentrate on what you want to do well and try not to be distracted.
5. Be kind
For some people sticking to fitness is a constant battle of wills. Just turning up to a class is often a real achievement (especially on dark winter nights!). If you can be kind to every person that comes, it’s the small things that will make a big difference when you’re hoping to build a lasting community of people who support your business
We weren’t quite as good at Pop Pilates as Rhian (here showing us how it is meant to look) but we had a fantastic time nevertheless!

Hackney Wicked Women featured in the Telegraph


Happy 2018 to all our inspiring, brave and incredible women.

In case you missed it, check out Catherine Hufton’s piece from the Telegraph from last month, where our Secretary and food enthusiast Sophie talks about Hackney Wicked Women’s recent speakers and local community events.


Fancy joining us this month?

Come along to our next meeting at Hub 67 on 10 January where Rhian, founder of Strong and Bendy Fitness Studio will tell us about her journey, and take us through a short taster class.

Details on our Facebook events page

Meet the Committee – Sophie the Super-Secretary

Since we last posted on here, we’ve had a few changes on the Wicked Women committee, so new people to help plan awesome meetings for our lovely members, and undertake various admin duties that the WI Federation ask of us!  After our long-standing secretary Charlie stood down earlier on in the year in order to focus more on producing her adorable new future WI guest (even though he’s a boy – men can come to meetings too!), baby Charlie, Sophie volunteered to take the reins (and Charlie’s massive ringbinder of paperwork).  Here we get the lowdown on what the WI and life as a woman in East London means to her…
What do you do in the committee?
I’m the secretary, which means I am drowned in post from the Federation but more interestingly I help promote and publicise the WI.
Why did you want to join a WI?
I’d moved into the area with my boyfriend and wanted to meet some local people. Hackney Wicked Women looked like a group of interesting, cool women so I thought I could bring down the average a bit!
What’s your fave moment with Hackney Wick WI so far?
Marbling was probably my favourite activity. Not to say I was any good at it but very fun nonetheless and my friend got an excellent birthday card out of it.
Outside of WI, what do you get up to?
I love food so if I’m not eating I’m planning meals, going to restaurants or making some new absurd pickle or bread.
Favourite tipple?
Most things with gin. Or just gin. Different types of gin.
Did I mention gin?
Your favourite thing about being a woman?
I love having the flexibility to do pretty much anything I want without judgement, men don’t really get to wear a skirt without a little side eye – I could wear dungarees one day and a silk frock the next. For me it’s the opportunity for constant reinvention.
Your least favourite thing about being a woman?
Societal expectations
What would you like to see for women in Hackney Wick/the WI the future?
To keep its own unique vibe that makes it different from anywhere else in the U.K. or London.
Favourite places in and around Hackney Wick?
Capish’s sandwiches are hard to beat