Month: November 2015

Proudly Intersectional

Talat Yaqoob is Chair and Co-Founder of Women 5050:

I awoke one morning this week and immediately went to Twitter to see download (3)what was happening and who was chatting to Women 5050. Most of the time I see exchanges between our page and tweeters supporting one another or asking for more information. But this morning I saw exchanges which misrepresent the campaign, which try and pin one under-represented group against one another and it really got me down.

What’s worse is that the following day, the campaign twitter was asked why it was so angry, indeed I got sent an email asking why I felt it was ok to be part of such an angry and aggressive campaign.

Hillary Clinton said recently, “I’m not shouting, it’s just that when women talk, some people think we are shouting”. This is exactly what the campaign was experiencing.

Let me make something very clear. I am angry and the campaign is angry too. I make no apologies for it. In fact, I am proud of it.

Damn right the campaign is angry. We’re angry that for generations women have been treated as less than across every arena in our society. We’re angry that people think the right to the vote what where the movement ended. We’re angry that despite making up the majority of the population, we are a minority in decision making.

Why is an angry woman such a problem to you? That’s not our problem, that’s very much your problem and I would encourage you to reflect on that.

But here is what moves my anger to upset, what moves my anger to sadness. The idea that women are one dimensional and the misrepresentation that this campaign is silencing other equalities groups.

We support our parliament being more diverse. We should all be angry that it isn’t. Our parliament needs people with disabilities in it, our parliament needs LGBT people in it, our parliament needs more BME representation. Of course it does.

We support every under-represented group having the representation they are entitled to – if we didn’t we would be hypocrites.

But what we are often told is “I can’t support Women 5050 because it is not fair to other equality groups”. This is an inaccurate and fundamentally problematic statement. Because it assumes that women are one dimensional. The campaign has been sent messages that it is only for white, middle class woman. At this point, I tend to simply tweet the person a selfie.

We are asked why we don’t stand up for under-representation of race for example – my response to that is simply this – what makes you think we don’t? We are run by a group of women from a diverse range of backgrounds and our supporters are even more diverse. I co-founded the campaign; an Asian Muslim woman, with Pakistani origin, who is first generation immigrant in Scotland.

Women make up 51% of the population. But we aren’t just women.

We are Black and Minority Ethnic

We are disabled

We are LGBTI (the T proudly including those who identify as women)

We are different ages

We are of different socio economic background

We are the most diverse population in the whole of society. 50% of us in parliament will not all look the same, and you do us a disservice when you think so.

I will however give way on one issue. That we are focusing on women and that not all individuals identify into such a binary concept of gender. For those who do not identify as women or as men, this campaign may seem exclusionary and for that I apologise. As an equalities campaigner, I know that there is a spectrum within gender which should be vocalised and respected. Women 5050 absolutely respects this.

This campaign is about self-defining women who are under-represented, we make that clear. Self defining women make up 51% of the population, but we support organisations and campaigns that fight for the rights of non-binary or intersex identifying individuals. We are not exclusionary and our doors are open to all supporters. But yes, this campaign is about that 51%.

We support the One in Five campaign, we support the campaign putting the “T into feminist” and organisations which are fighting for fair representation of discriminated and under-represented groups who are BME, disabled, LGBTI – you have our support.

We have also actively discussed these issues. At our conference we ensured a diverse range of speakers graced our stage. We had a workshop focusing on intersectionality and the under-representation of all groups. Repeatedly the sentence was said; “we will not have a true democracy without parity for all”.

But the argument that you can’t support Women 5050 because it is only about women just doesn’t stand up. Would you not support violence against women initiatives for the same reason? Would you not support maternity rights for the same reason?

Women 5050 does not attempt to be the answer for everyone, it is an answer for women’s representation.

In the same way as Women 5050 supports multiple calls for equality, you too can support us along with all calls for equality.

We can work together and we will win together. 


Majority of MSP’s Back Women 5050

Majority of MSPs now support Women 5050

13th November 2015 – Noon

For the first time in the history of fighting for fair representation of women in Scotland a majority of MSPs support legislated candidate quotas.

After a surge in signs ups after the Women 5050 conference yesterday, now 68 MSPs (53% of current MSPs) support quotas for women.

Speaking at the Women 5050 conference, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, called Women 5050 “one of the most significant campaigns in Scotland”

The conference also heard from Scottish Labour Leader, Kezia Dugdale MSP and Scottish Green Party, Alison Johnstone MSP who both co-launched the campaign last year.

The campaign has been lobbying for the ability to legislate for quotas to be devolved in the Scotland Bill and will now will be turning their attention to the House of Lords and lobbying for support ahead of the next stage of debate.

Talat Yaqoob, Co-Founder and Chair of Women 5050 said:

“To have the official backing of the majority of the Scottish Parliament is a huge boost to the campaign. We can now be sure, that once we have the ability to legislate for quotas, there will be real action taken. We will be lobbying hard to have this ability devolved to Scotland. In the first debate in the House of Commons, the amendment supporting us fell by 120 votes, in the second debate only by 45 votes, at this third debate we will change minds and we will work tirelessly to win.”


Slides and Handouts from our Conference

Our conference, Who Runs The World, on the 12th of November 2015, was a phenomenal success.

With over 130 participants, 23 speakers including the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, academics, journalists and politicians from across the political spectrum.

If you were there and were scribbling notes, or you didn’t get a chance to join us and want the low down, below are slides from some of our workshops and key notes.

Professor Drude Dahelrup from Stockholm University and the Global Quotas Project –


Talat Yaqoob, Chair and co-founder giving the background to the campaign – Talat – welcome

Meryl Kenny, The Tech behind Quotas and busting myths – Meryl Kenny – Why Quotas work and Quota Myths

Pam Duncan – One in Five Campaign One-in-Five_Community-event_Oct-2015

Katie Ghosh – Women and New Politics, Electoral Reform Society – Women and New Politics ERS

We will update this as we get more information through.

“I can, and I will”: The Importance of Representation

Nadine Aisha Jassat is a writer and feminist activist who works with young people to tackle gender based violence:

I was speaking to a group of young people recently about sexism in the media, and I raised with them the issue of racism, also. To help the young people in my class empathise and understand why the lack of representation of people of colour in the media is a problem, I explained about my own experience growing up mixed race and Muslim. I asked them how it might feel to a young person to see narrow stereotypical portrayals of their community in the media, portrayals which focus on parts of them exaggerated and distorted with the media’s own agenda. If we are portrayed it’s not because we’re human beings, it’s because of the categories we belong to – if we appear in Hollywood films, then what’s interesting about us and our contribution to the plot is our race, or our sexuality, rather than it being just another part of us with the focus instead on our engagement in the plot. The young people were very receptive, but the most heartwarming response was a young man who as soon as I started talking about Islamaphobia had his hand up in the air like a beacon. “Hey! Hey! I’m Muslim too!!” When I greeted him salaams, his face lit up with delight. That’s what representation does to the misrepresented – it’s a mix of joy, and excitement, and a feeling of finally. Finally, there’s someone who may have a tiny bit of insight into what things are like for me. Finally, there’s someone who may understand some of the references I make to things going on in my life. Finally, there’s someone who understands what it’s like to be in this minority, too. Finally there’s someone who may not tell me that I’m overreacting or just being too sensitive. Finally, it’s not just me.

I walked away from that meeting on a high. Not just because being a BME woman talking about feminism, rape culture, and islamophobia to a group of young minds fulfilled my weekly quota of Britain First nightmares, but because I saw what it meant to that young man. Later that night, I found myself in his place, when Nadiya won the Great British Bake off. Here was a Muslim woman, on my TV screen, being celebrated for her skills. I nearly wept, and it was all I could do to not shout at the screen ‘GWAAN SISTER!’ as I’m sure many across the country were. It wasn’t just me – Nadiya’s journey and hilarious facial expressions drew warmth from most people, and even Mary Berry teared up a bit. I don’t think we got emotional for the same reasons, though.  For me, when Nadiya won, it wasn’t just her winning. It was her saying a massive screw you to all the systems, all the microaggressions, and all the many things which seek to hold Muslim and BME women back. It was literally Nadiya VS the girls at primary school who laughed at how dark the hair on my arms was. It was Nadiya slamming the people at secondary school who asked if my dad was going to force me to get married, and did he have an AK47 btw. It was Nadiya putting two fingers up to the countless people who on a monthly, if not weekly, basis ask where I’m from, who tell me I don’t look ‘Scottish’, who feel they have a right to approach me as strangers in the street to determine how I happened to be here when I may in fact not be white. It was Nadiya rolling her eyes at me when a close friend told me in consoling tones that I could pass for white.  It was Nadiya having my back everytime I told people my name was Nadine, and they look one look at me and called me Nadia. In the unlikely event that Nadiya ever reads this, I’d want her to know what that meant to me. I’d also ask her if I can come round to this dinner her and Tamal are having, because that would be pretty cool too.

When Nadiya first appeared on bake off, within hours of the first episode airing that I already saw an article whose author believed that Nadiya’s place was an act born out of the BBCs alleged politically correct agenda, rather than her own talents. So when Nadiya said she can, and she will, she was sending a message not just to herself, not just to other women watching, but to her critics too. In a world which seeks to deny your existence, which seeks to marginalise and box you in, which seeks to make you hate parts of yourself, what more powerful statement to say that you believe in you.

So why write about this for Women 50:50? Because representation matters. When you’re constantly getting boxed in to narrow corners, you need other people who have lived that experience to help you smash yourself out.  You need to see other women flourishing, other women who are standing up and saying if I can, you can too. I know many have argued that it should be ‘the best man (the irony..) for the job’. But we have to ask: who sets what is considered as best? To quote Audre Lorde, the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. We need to discover different ways of working, recognise different skills and experiences, rather than only valuing the knowledge, education and positions which have been traditionally prioritised in a system which has privileged those who are rich, white, male, heterosexual and able bodied. It’s Nadiya making fondant out of marshmallows, and drawing on her experience as a mother with a budget to do so. The judges were sceptical, they hadn’t thought of it before, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a showstopper. And for those who are elected, I want them to remember that feminism is about seeking liberation for all women, not just seeking liberation for ourselves, and neglecting to consider the impact our choices have on other women who do not share our privileges, who do not have those choices. The path we walk can make it easier for other women to walk that path too. It can also help box them in. There’s where sisterhood comes from – it’s not just about acting for me, it’s about acting for us. And when it comes to the government that decides the laws, the budgets, the reforms, I want more to see more sisters influencing those decisions. Simple as.