Month: March 2015

Why we need more women in our Parliament

This is a guest blog by Ellie Hutchinson, feminist, blogger and prevention worker at Scottish Women’s Aid.pic_150_ellie-photo
There are not enough women in Politics. Fact. There is not enough diversity in Politics. Fact.
When you look around Parliament and most the people there are white dudes called David*, you know you have a problem. Yes, David’s are important to this country, and yes they have a lot to offer, but proportionately, Dave’s are hugely over represented in Politics.
All of us deserve to be truly represented in the highest branches of power. This is one of the many perks of democracy- we get to have our voice represented by people who represent us. Of course, the issue of women’s representation in politics is a hugely complicated one-which women will speak for who? Not all women experience womanhood in the same way- so what happens if we just replace white middle class dudes with white middle class women? (spoiler: nothing good) Are more women in politics actually any better for women? (Thatcher klaxon) and finally-can’t one of the feminist Dave’s speak out for women?
Of course they can, and they do-there are lots of men in parliaments all over the world fighting the good fight for equality. But when women are better represented, areas that tend to more commonly impact on women are better addressed.** The recent cuts to public spending show just how crucial this is. When there are virtually no women round the decision making table, bad decisions are made. Women have been disproportionately impacted on by public spending cuts, and as a result women, and the children some of us care for, have hugely suffered***
When men are over represented, not only are bad decisions made, but the lack of women in politics stops more women entering politics- to steal an amazing quote “you can’t be what you can’t see”. And when women do enter the political realm, they’re met with a) homophobia b) sexism c) all of the above. Let’s be honest, the boorish, aggressive, Oxbridge jobs for the boys atmosphere of traditional politics seems pretty gross. All that guffawing. Yuck.
Both of these issues- women’s under-representation and the sexism experienced by women in Politics are absolutely intertwined. In our misogynist culture, women aren’t meant to have power. We’re not meant to be intelligent. We’re certainly not meant to have opinions. Pipe down, love. The menz are speaking.
The cultural norms that perpetuate this attitude-to be seen and not heard-are the exact same ones that underpin all forms sexism. It might seem a bit of a leap, but if you’re not seen as equal, then why should you be paid the same, treated the same, represented the same? Why should your claims of violence and abuse be taken seriously? If your voice isn’t important then why should you be involved in decisions about your body, about your health, about your economy? Women are not just under represented in Politics, we’re under represented in every single facet of life, culture and society. The only place we’re over represented is in low paid jobs and  stats about sexual violence.
There’s a global consensus that violence against women is both a cause and a consequence of inequality, so tackling over representation of men in all areas of our cultural, social and political life is vital to women’s health, wellbeing and livelihoods. The UN puts it perfectly when it saysGender inequality and discrimination are root causes of violence against women, influenced by… historical and structural power imbalances”****. Take a walk down politically memory lane and our history is dominated by Daves. They’ve been in charge of the country For. Ever. I’ve nothing against Daves per se, but dudes- move over. You’re perpetuating a historical and structural power imbalance and that’s not cool. Not cool at all.
 
 
*or Nick or Edward or John. (you get the point)
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Why I’m a Supporter

This blog is written by Nighet Nasim Riaz, a Phd Researchers and Associate lecturer at the University of West of Scotland and SNP activist. nighet-nasim-riaz

Politics has changed dramatically over the independence referendum period with many women becoming more visible and vocal on both sides of the debate. I am very proud of the precedent that we as women have set towards a different type of dialogue involving listening and talking, respectful and dignified discussions, rather than the loud and boisterous interactions I had become accustomed to from our male counterparts.

The 50:50 initiative is a progressive social movement where many of us as women can relate to, to enable our voices to be heard on an equal platform in Scottish politics. With a change in leadership for both the SNP and Scottish Government,the First Minister very quickly moved towards gender equality in the Cabinet, and actively encouraging this model across the party hierarchy. Nicola Sturgeon is a role model for many women, young, old across Scotland. We can relate to her, and we admire the qualities of a strong woman who inspires us to stand up for ourselves, be seen and be heard.

As the main facilitator of a grass roots campaign Scots Asians for Yes, I was struck by the very small number of women from minority ethnic backgrounds who were vocal in the debate around their futures and the futures of their communities, society at large and Scotland. The active ethnic minority women I met through my journey inspired and encouraged me and others to value ourselves for our important and very unique contribution to the political spectrum, during this period. Other grass root campaigns such as Women for Independence and the Radical Independence Campaign were instrumental in empowering many women from different backgrounds with the knowledge, skills and confidence to represent themselves and others.

The last couple of years haven’t been a bed of roses, and I have met my fair share of misogynists and very unpleasant individuals indeed, but on the whole, it’s been a positive and liberating experience where the majority of the people I have met have been supportive, encouraging me to challenge myself in what was sometimes a hostile environment. What has surprised me most has that the most negativity I have faced has been from ethnic minority men, who have repeatedly told me that my place was in the kitchen and asking if I didn’t have ironing to do…..  Developing skills of survival (forming a ‘thicker skin’), negotiating ‘spaces’, and overcoming my shyness to standing up for myself and others have been invaluable.

Reflecting back, my political journey has been crucial to me recognising my strengths and weaknesses, moving from seeing myself as a quiet individual to leading campaigns and encouraging both ethnic minorities and women to stand in elections, which helped me confront one of my biggest fears of never seeing myself as good enough.  We must challenge ourselves, continuously questioning our place in society, not just for ourselves but for everyone to create the kind of society we want to live in. Until we have full equality, positive action is a mechanism which must be utilised to get fair representation not just in politics, but other institutions and arenas. Let’s start with gender, but also remember those who are side lined due to their race, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. Their voices matter too.

We support One in Five

A true democracy is inclusive and fair.

A true democracy reflects the society it is meant to represent.

That is why Women 5050 is proud to support the One in Five campaign for the political participation of people with disabilities. The campaign is pushing forward a democracy we can all be proud of; one where all people of Scotland, no matter their ability or disability are able to participate fully, especially in grassroots politics. This is the same ethos of the Women 5050 campaign.

How often have we been to meetings in inaccessible rooms? How often do we consider access in planning political work? How often do we truly engage and empower those with disabilities to be equal partners in our work? The answers to these question, is in reality “not often enough” – The one in five campaign aims to change that with the charter below:

We call on all political parties and organisations to sign up to the ONE IN FIVE Charter:

  1. All members are asked about individual needs which are actioned to ensure inclusion
  2. Meetings are held in accessible venues
  3. Material is available in a variety of formats
  4. Organisational tasks and responsibilities are clearly defined yet remain flexible enough to empower individual member ability
  5. Your organisation aims to increase the awareness and understanding of issues affecting disabled people and strives to include and empower all members

As a commitment to this, Women 5050 will be putting in extra effort to be as accessible as possible, and we welcome feedback and support to make that happen.

You can sign up here; http://www.oneinfive.scot/ – please do and tweet your support: @oneinfivescot