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.

How women leaders shaped policy for women

Anni Donaldson is a, journalist, blogger, violence against women researcher and oral historian. Anni won the award for Best Article in the first Write to End VAW Awards in 2013. 

 The Women 5050 campaign stands full-square on the shoulders of the women who pushed the equality agenda in the lead up to Scottish devolution and beyond. To everyone’s frustration, while the gender power gap seems to quiver at times on the verge of contraction, it still seems to have settled below the bar. However to keep spirits up, it might be worth reflecting that after over fifteen years of devolution we can look back to a real and fine example of how one corner of the gender power gap closed and achieved lasting change. The campaign for the elimination of violence against women, rebooted during the resurgence of feminist activism during the 1970s has been a long haul. However, looking back on the time since those dim and distant disco days, I think it is safe to say that through consistent activism and nifty political manoeuvring, women successfully breached Scotland’s dominant power structures to bring about substantial changes in attitudes and responses to issues which had previously been largely hidden from public view.

The run up to devolution saw an explosion in women’s leadership across all spheres of civic and public life. As the political landscape changed, the opportunity for bringing women’s equality to the centre of the policy agenda was grasped after the long Thatcher years. Organisations like 5050 (Women 5050’s foremother), the Women’s Joint Action Forum, Scottish Women’s Consultative Forum, Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and many others brought together trades unionists, civil servants, local government councillors and officials, public services and feminists to focus on VAW. The 1999 elections have been described as a gender coup that transformed Scottish politics. Women thus created a critical mass during the dying years of the old century to extract, in 2000, a clear commitment from the new Scottish Government to tackle VAW women’s inequality and to end discrimination and social exclusion. Women from all sides of the political spectrum and none, grabbed the issue with all hands and jumped into the political and policy space opening up. Since then, they have determinedly set about addressing what has always been the key social issue affecting Scottish women down the centuries and which has defied all efforts made towards its elimination.

They were up against it. Scotland’s deeply patriarchal society initially manned the barricades but gradually women built creative alliances, gathered shed loads of empirical evidence, challenged attitudes and made sure the Government put its money where its mouth was. The momentum continues and to date what was formerly considered a women’s issue is now recognised as everyone’s issue. Violence against women affects every Scottish citizen and some big beasts have joined the activists – the justice system, politicians, local authorities, front-line workers, academics – the only way is forward. Closing the gender power gap in tackling violence against women is working. It was a long time coming, there is a long way to go but there is no going back.  


The next stage

The Women 5050 campaign has gone from strength to strength over the last year. With our conference coming up and already selling out, we have amassed a huge amount of interest across Scotland.

But between the excitement, there is also some hard lobbying that needs to happen. We need to make sure the ability to implement quotas is devolved in the Scotland Bill. Without this, our campaign will take longer and fair representation for women will be an even tougher fight.

On the 10th of September 2015, we sent an email to all Scottish MPs. We asked them to support our campaign and submit amendments to the next reading of the Scotland Bill to include the devolution of quotas.

Since then, Ian Murray MP has submitted the following amendment:


Clause 32, page 34, line 13, at end insert “including the imposition of minimum quotas for women and other persons with protected characteristics across all levels of public and political representation in Scotland.”

Member’s explanatory statement This Amendment is intended to make explicit that, among the exceptions to reserved matters on equal opportunities, the power is being devolved to the Scottish Parliament to set gender quotas.

We have now written to all MPs to ask them to support this amendment or to submit complimentary amendments to support this. We hope that in the same spirit as Women 5050, they work in a cross party way to make fair representation a reality.

The debate will be taking place within the next couple of weeks and over this time, we need to push our MPs to vote in favour and encourage others to do the same.

You can find out who your MP is here and you can visit our website for inspiration on what to like. Remember to ask them to support amendment 26 in the Scotland Bill at the report stage.

We have had positive responses from David Mundell MP who suggested in a letter to the Scottish Parliament Devolution Committee that quotas would be fully devolved, but it is only a win when it is clearly in the Scotland Bill. A letter of warm words and expectations is not enough.

Will you help us win?

We won’t turn back the clock

A special blog from Jersusalem Barnabas from Shakti Women’s Aid:


A lot has changed since 19th century yet not significantly in terms of women’s voice and concerns being heard.  Also in terms of recognition of women’s talents and skills ambitions and contributions.

While democracy (we are told), was ‘born in Europe’ (Greece), Women in Europe find themselves underrepresented in democratic platforms.

Despite the fact women have been eligible to vote for almost hundred years, since 1918, UK had only one female prime minster and the USA had none. Women’s number in UK parliament is increasing at every election nevertheless, only 191 women were elected as member of parliaments and this is the highest it has reached. It wasn’t even until the 1997 election, the number went to three digits; until 1992, there were only 60 women in parliament.  Within the judiciary system, UK has only 21 percent of judges while Romania has 72 percent.

Not having any constitutional and legislative balance in our parliamentary and judiciary system is responsible for the lack of women in higher political and public domain.

If we see the European parliament, women’s representation has gone up from 16 percent in 1979, when there were only 9 member of states, to 37% in 2014 with 28 member of states. In comparison though, women hold 50 percent of African Union Parliamentary seats.   Rwanda is said to have the world highest ratio of women in political domain 64 percent, followed by Bolivia, Cuba and the Seychelles. South Africa has 40 percent, Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda 35 percent women in parliament whereas, in UK is 25 percent and United States 18 to 20 percent.

This shows that there is no correlation between democracy and economic prosperity.   Even then, there is no visible reflection of those women who are from black and ethnic minority in UK Parliament. Women from minority ethnic community are underrepresented in all political parties in the UK.

It would bring a radical result to have more women in parliamentary, judiciary and other public institutions by using a quota system and positive action to tackle gender inequality.

That is why many African countries that have just emerged out of violence and war managed to have more women representation in such a short period because they use a quota system. For example, out of the five judges in the international Criminal Court (ICC) for Africa, four of them are female judges.

While in UK, Lord Sumpton, Supreme Court justice, said the reason why UK doesn’t have more female judges is because ‘women are unwilling to tolerate long hours and poor working conditions’. He also thinks gender balance will destroy the judiciary system.  This is the kind of thinking women have to put up with while they are the one trapped in poor condition, long working hours and low paid jobs.

Women in Australia, North America and Europe are economically better off and are educated but there is no reflection of that education in political platforms. There is no constitutional or legislative mandate to break the patriarchal and male centred democratic setup to enable women to have a political or judiciary representation in public domain.

While the world moved in technological and industrial advancement. The thinking of women’s and racial equality are far behind from catching up with that advancement. It is about time something radical is done. The world has to come to terms that women are not going to turn backwards to centuries gone of being considered less than. Enough is enough!