Lions Clubs seek female members after breaking 'men-only' tradition

Chris HillTwo all-male Norfolk clubs have broken with a generation of tradition by opening their doors to women for the first time in their histories.Members of the fundraising Lions Clubs in Dereham and Fakenham have both voted to accept ladies in a bid to revive their numbers and boost their charitable efforts.Chris Hill

Two all-male Norfolk clubs have broken with a generation of tradition by opening their doors to women for the first time in their histories.

Members of the fundraising Lions Clubs in Dereham and Fakenham have both voted to accept ladies in a bid to revive their numbers and boost their charitable efforts.

The Fakenham branch voted by seven to four to make the change during its meeting July.

And they were followed earlier this month by Dereham, where alterations to a 36-year-old constitution were agreed by a resounding vote of 15 in favour, with two abstentions.


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Dereham Lions' president Rick Milford said the vote was an exact reversal of one taken six years ago on the same issue.

But, with some of the clubs members in their 80s and 90s, he said the forward-thinking move was crucial to bring new blood into the organisation and maintain its work in the community.

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Mr Milford, 72, said: 'Some of the older members had reservations, but they have had a change of heart because the club would die without this change - and we don't want that because we have such a good system for helping people.

'There are no younger members coming through so, if we can get some ladies to join, maybe their husbands will come along as well.

'I think in the old days people joined up and it was blokes going to the club and getting away from their wives to do their own thing. But it is not like that now. We even have a lady patron in the Countess of Wessex, so we really didn't have much option but to change.

'We've already got four ladies hoping to join - they will have different fundraising ideas and hopefully they will pep us up a bit.'

Since the Dereham Lions club was first charted on November 18, 1973 it has raised more than �283,721 in support of local causes and international programs such as WaterAid and SightSavers.

Most Lions Clubs throughout the country now accept female members, and there is also a sister network of Lioness Clubs which women can join.

Derek Greenwood, district governor for Lions Clubs throughout East Anglia, said: 'I was really pleased to hear these clubs have taken this move forward. I have got a cabinet of 53 members and I have elected six ladies onto it to do senior jobs and they all do it extremely well.'

Fakenham Lions secretary Patrick Whitmore said his club's decision, albeit by a closer margin, was equally vital.

'You always get a bit of resistance in any club, but we didn't have anyone resign over it,' he said. 'When you are not inviting women to join, you are taking away 50pc of the population. I also think we will be more likely to get couples join. When you get younger people, the social side of the clubs picks up and so does the fundraising.'

Anyone interested in joining Fakenham Lions should contact Patrick Whitmore on 01263 711872. For Dereham Lions, contact 0845 833 7363 or helpline@derehamlions.org.uk.

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