Women 5050 is a cross party campaign group and we are incredibly proud of the formidable women politicians we have on our steering group; Kezia Dugdale, Alison Johnstone and Christina McKelvie. Read why they are involved and why women’s fair representation means so much to them.

Kezia Dudgdale, MSP, Scottish Labour:@zx_235@zy_235

The case for having more women in the Scottish Parliament and in Scotland’s councils is simply – they make up over half of society, of course they should make up half of the decision makers in Scotland. Today we have women with the ambition, the talent and the passion to be leaders but are held back because leadership is not something we tell young women to pursue, because of the attitudes that women who attempt to be leaders have to face, because of an inaccessible politics that doesn’t look like them or speak to them.

I have witnessed phenomenal women campaigning on issues at the grassroots level, lobbying on behalf of others, speaking on stage and winning arguments, and yet when I ask them about being a leader, they dismiss the very idea often responding with “I don’t think that’s for me” or “it’s a boys club”. We can and must change this. Scotland’s political landscape is in a deficit without these women – opening the doors to their talent and experience is what the Women 5050 campaign is all about.

Progress has been made, in 1999 after calls for a 50/50 parliament from campaigners before us, the Scottish Parliament formed with 40% women MSPs, yet today we have 35%. Progress is not just slow, it seems it is going backwards. Our councils are worse, with only 24% of over 1200 Councillors across Scotland being women – we have far to go, and now is the time to take action and legislate for change. Quotas are a fair and progressive way to implement a level playing field for Scotland women.

I’m proud of the progress Scottish Labour has made. We were the first party to introduce all women shortlists over 20 years ago and today, we have the highest number of women MSPs, but I want my party, every party and the whole of Scotland to go further for equality.

Alison Johnstone, MSP, Scottish Greens:
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Support for Women 5050 has grown in recent months and I’m sure it will continue to do so.  Political engagement in Scotland bloomed during the referendum and that heightened level of involvement has continued.

Many women, young and old, become engaged during that campaign, found their voices and contributed on both sides of the debate.  It’s essential that they are encouraged to continue.

There is more discussion now about the need for fair gender representation in politics, but there are still those who are convinced that our representatives are all there on merit.  Globally, almost 90% of parliamentarians are men.  This tells me that action is required to provide a truly level playing field.

After all, I’ve attended meetings packed with women campaigning to keep local nurseries or hospitals open.  With less cash, less access to private transport and more likely to have had their much needed benefits cut, women understand the impact of these decisions.

But there are too few women able to influence the debate in our Council Chambers and in the Scottish Parliament.

It’s time now to make sure that far more women are involved in making and voting for these decisions.

My Party, the Scottish Greens, insists that 50% of winnable seats have women candidates.  So it can be done.  Women aren’t a minority, but the under-represented majority.

Please get involved and support Women5050.  Your support will make a difference.

Christina McKelvie, MSP, SNP: christina-mckelvie

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has taken a significant head-on decision in making her Cabinet 50:50 and I applaud that wholeheartedly. During the Referendum campaign, all of us out on stalls, street stands and chapping the doors found there was a real groundswell of women who were determined to be heard.

That campaign changed Scotland’s political landscape. Most of those women who campaigned then have since joined the SNP because they know that our national party is doing all it can to shift to a better and more balanced position. That applies not only in politics but across companies and onto the boards of both private and public sector organisations.

In South Lanarkshire, the SNP has six women as elected politicians now: Linda Fabiani, myself and Aileen Campbell as MSPs, plus Angela Crawley, Lisa Cameron and Margaret Ferrier as MPs. That’s some contingent! There is no doubt we have the ability; what we need now is the legislation to build on that.

It is women who bear the brunt of Westminster’s welfare cuts and I constantly strive to draw more attention to that reality. The public school boys in London have little or no comprehension of the realities of the Bedroom Tax, cuts in disability allowances and the impact of benefit sanctions.

Successful businesswomen have a far harder time of it than the men alongside, as research repeatedly reveals. Sexual discrimination may be slightly more subtle these days but it certainly hasn’t gone away

All of us – including the men of course – need to encourage women to push themselves and to work hard so that they can fulfill their talents and abilities.

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Why I am a supporter – Kelly Parry

SNP member and activist, Kelly Parry, tells us why she supports the campaign: 2aad2c7

Across all parties, voters mark their ballots based on who they believe will make the country, and on a wider scale the world, a better place. Something I think we can all agree on, across all party lines, is that making the country a better place involves the equality and liberation of women. I believe one hugely important way to ensure women reach their political potential is implementing 50% representation in our parliaments, public boards and councils.

Earlier this year, we had an opportunity to increase the representation of women in the UK parliament – and to an extent, we did it. Women now hold 29% of the seats in Westminster’s House of Commons and that is a huge improvement from the 23% we held before the election. This is the biggest increase in women MP’s since 1997 which is fantastic. For all we can celebrate this election as a win for women, which it arguably was, it’s important to note what needs to improve and how supporting a 50:50 gender balanced parliament can help us achieve this.

29% of women still means 71% are men; that still means women are hugely underrepresented in the House of Commons and creating the laws that affect women. In May, A Fair Deal for Women found that women are disproportionately, negatively affected by cuts to social services and provisions. The group, made up by 11 women’s rights charities, found that benefit cuts are more likely to affect poorer women, particularly through to the freezing of child benefits and tax credits. The World Economic Forum’s gender gap index listed the UK at 26, a fall of 8 places. This slip suggests a need to ensure women are kept at the forefront of political decision making and by introducing a 50% gender quota, we can ensure women are protected by the state rather than harmed by it.

Having more women decision makers is a priority, as is having more LGB women, women of colour, disabled women and trans women making decisions that affect them. Ensuring political spaces are no longer reserved for white, straight men is crucial for advancing the experiences of all traditionally social minority groups. And we need to reform our parliaments to do this, I have watched and lobbied for parliaments to be more inclusive for all my adult life, for them to be more accessible and less about macho posturing and shouty men – it’s sadly not changed much in my lifetime and we are kidding ourselves if we think it will without a different approach. We have been having the same conversations for too long about women’s inclusion in politics and if we keep waiting for behaviours and traditions to change by themselves I fear we will sadly still be having the same conversation for many years, and decades to come. The behaviours inside of parliaments remain largely unchanged and despite there being an increase of women they still have to negotiate the rows of pale-stale-males and fight for their place and their voices to be heard long after they have been elected.

As a working class woman active in politics, I know I am the lucky one. I believe by implementing a 50:50 gender quota, we can shatter the glass ceiling and ensure the most disadvantaged women have a say in the politics of Scotland and the UK.

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)

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

FIRST MINISTER BACKS WOMEN 5050

PRESS RELEASE

First minister gives her full support to Women 5050’s campaign for quotas.


Women 5050 is delighted to have the full support of the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, for their campaign for 50% quotas on public boards, in councils and in the Scottish parliament by 2020.

In a letter to Women 5050, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote:

“I truly believe there should be no limit to ambition on what anyone can achieve. If you are good enough and if you work hard enough, the sky is the limit. I am happy to work with all organisations and individuals who share this aspiration and I am therefore pleased to give my support to the Women 5050 campaign.”

The campaign has already gained cross party support from MSPs and has had cross party backing from the very start with Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour Party MSP, Christina McKelvie, SNP MSP and Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green Party MSP on the steering group.

Talat Yaqoob, Chair of Women 5050 said; “To have the support of the First Minister’s shows that the issue of gender equality is being taken seriously and that the need for fair representation is being recognised. Currently only 36% of women are MSPs and a shocking 24% of Councillors are women. The number of women MSPs has decreased in every election of the Scottish Parliament and at the currently rate it would take another 80 years for us to reach 50/50. Women should not be waiting for equality, they deserve it now and quotas are the fair way to make that happen. The campaign is looking forward to working with Nicola Sturgeon to make this a reality”.

Lily Greenan, Women 5050 steering group member and CEO of Scottish Women’s Aid said; “Women suffer inequalities in the home, in the workplace, in the boardroom and even in our parliament. It’s time this changed and I am pleased to see that the First Minister agrees with the Women 5050 campaign. We need a culture change and an attitudinal change in how women are viewed at every level of our society, having more women leading Scotland is a way to set that change in motion. It is long overdue that our parliament and our council chambers reflect the society they are meant to represent”.

Kate Higgins, Women 5050 steering group member and Women for Independence steering group member said; “Not one party has 50% women candidates for the general election, illustrating the need for positive action to be taken by them all to achieve gender equality in our politicians. I’m delighted that Nicola Sturgeon has signed up to the campaign. She has made this a personal political mission and wants to smash the glass ceiling in all areas of public life. We have the chance to change how Scotland does politics and show that we are serious about gender equality; we must take it.”

Eileen Dinning, Women 5050 steering group member and STUC Women’s Committee, said:

“This is an important and welcome endorsement for our campaign. Trade union women in Scotland began the campaign for gender quality in public life in the early 1990’s and it’s clear we still have a long way to go. The backing of a senior women politician who has the authority to help bring about change through public appointments and other measures is a very positive move.”

…ENDS.

Notes to Editor:

  1.       Details of the campaign can be found here; www.women5050.org
  2.      For more information contact 07795575446 or scottishwomen5050@gmail.com
  3.     The full letter from the First Minister is available on request

Sister Solidarity for Fair Representation

carolynCarolyn Leckie writes about her support for the campaign and why the Women for Independence movement support Women 5050

Many of us in Women for Independence have struggled for 50/50 representation for years. But, as a young, grassroots, organic movement that has inspired thousands of women to get involved in politics for the first time – it was important to ensure the widest possible democratic discussion before endorsing this latest Scottish Women 50:50 campaign. But we are glad to announce that we do. Women’s voices became incredibly influential in the referendum campaign – but that should just be normal politics. After all, we are more than half of the population.

The second part of our name is Independence for Women. So, it wasn’t a surprise that we decided to support 50/50. And I’m not alone in being a supporter of 50/50 for as long as I can remember. But what seems like obvious common sense to me can be a hugely divisive issue. When I and others in the Scottish Socialist Party proposed it – nearly 15 years ago – we had no idea how difficult it would be. There’s nothing like a positive anti discrimination measure to flush out vested interests and, in a substantial minority, downright hostility. The SSP did introduce a democratic 50/50 mechanism – but resentment lingered and had an impact on the character of the SSP for years to come. Sexism is one major reason why I am no longer involved in party politics – despite 50/50.

Our experience demonstrated the limitations of 50/50 – the most energetic resistance to it is borne of ingrained sexism and misogyny. And that culture is a harder, more long term thing to address. But that is all the more reason to implement 50/50. These questions are best brought out in the open and where people, and men in particular, really want to understand structural sexism and privilege, it can be a hugely educational process.

50/50 isn’t a panacea in the struggle for women’s equality. Whilst very welcome, the appointment of a 50/50 cabinet by the Scottish Government is unlikely to mean that gender equality will trickle down any more than wealth trickles down. But it’s action at the top. Where power is. It demonstrates that male domination is not the natural order of things. And with political will, women can become participants and influencers in the world – representative of our number. It signposts a direction of travel. It sends a message to those who complacently assert that the ‘cream rises to the top’. My pal, Rosie Kane, famously quipped in the SSP 50/50 conference debate that, “It’s fine to say the cream rises to the top, but that’s no use if the cream can’t break out of the fridge!”

Unfortunately, too often these issues arise in the immediate context of candidate selection for impending elections. This is when incumbency, vested interests, strategic goals of party leaders etc. are likely to impinge on a genuinely open discussion. 50/50 needs to go in hand with democracy. It’s no use trying to parachute preferred women into seats when it becomes apparent that so called ‘merit’ and existing processes deliver a group of the usual male, pale and stale candidates. The Trades Unions have done better at developing democratic mechanisms like reserved places etc. which are in place before particular individuals are thought to be ‘in the frame’ and before selection and election takes place.

The democratic revival sparked by the referendum, and the rising of the women, should mean there is no hiding place for parties if they revert to business as usual. It became glaringly obvious during it that Scotland, literally, has thousands of talented, capable women – any one of whom would make excellent elected representatives. It will be a sad sight, if, after the 2015 Westminster election, the busload of MPs, of whichever party, that end up in Westminster, looks the same as every other busload that has gone down since time immemorial.

So, Women for Independence is pleased to support Scottish Women 50:50. We regret such campaigns continue to be necessary. Let’s hope the political parties – leaders, activists and members – listen. Women’s equality should, surely, in 2015, be boring mainstream.

The message from Women for Independence is: women aren’t just for referenda.