What do you get when you bring together 22 women from disparate backgrounds? You get the potential for power and a united purpose that comes from real lived experience.
You create a group of women who are willing to speak for those who do not have opportunities to present their needs themselves to those who can action the changes required to make improvements in their lives. The aim of the project is to tell Scottish Government about the views of women and girls and about their lived life experience in 21st century Scotland.
Earlier this year I was privileged to be asked to join these women and collectively we are now the Empowering Women Panel. We have been tasked to report back to the Scottish Government via the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG). Our current task is to explore then report on the impact the current cost-of-living crisis is having on the lives of women and girls in Scotland.
The project is being facilitated by the Sleeping Giants Team and funded by the Scottish Government.
The Sleeping Giants Team take responsibility for all the administrative aspects of the project, arranging face-to-face and on-line meetings and training sessions. The on-line platform called Basecamp is used to communicate, record and store all Panel activities.
Our first face-to-face meeting was held in Edinburgh where we also met the NACWG members. This was a really successful meeting and the atmosphere of power and determination to work together to attain our stated purpose was palpable within the room. At this meeting we set out the parameters of how the Panel would function, ensuring they were aligned with the work being done by the NACWG.
We put together our Panel Group Agreement
We agreed to the following statements:
This was a very productive meeting and laid the groundwork for what was to come.
The second face-to-face meeting was in Glasgow and it was at this meeting that the Panel really came together and as positive entity.
We created sub-groups according to our individual skill sets and preferences and decided that our first main piece of work would be initiating Peer Research in relation how women and girls are being affected by the cost-of-living crisis. The bulk of this work would be carried forward by the Research and Evaluation sub-group, formulating questions, establishing means of recording feedback from interviews and storing responses.
The other sub-groups – concerned with Events and Planning, and Reporting and Comms - started using Zoom meetings to complete various tasks.
I believe we have made the Empowering Women Panel to be a safe and inclusive space for all and we will make sure that everyone feels respected, values and heard. No-one’s experience or voice is more important than anyone else’s and we can learn a lot from listening and supporting each other.
Intersectional inequalities have disproportionately affected women and girls lives, like, forever!
With public/community services closing, up and down the country, nothing good or positive seems to be happening. protests from members of the public, including myself, feel like our concerns have fallen on deaf ears?
Leisure / community centres in West Lothian where I live, closed despite local campaigning. We were told money was allocated but the local council and the Scottish government blamed each other for the money disappearing?
Now, West Lothian public transport hangs in the balance! People’s livelihoods hang in the balance, and people are being plunged into increased poverty; women and girls being, again, disproportionately affected.
Where is this going to end? There’s nowhere to go now, and even if you wanted to go somewhere how do you get there when public transports being cut, you can’t afford a car or taxis, or childcare, and there’s no police presence about or that you can trust! Your personal safety is continually at stake. Women and girls’ safety must be prioritised! But it’s not!
What would you say to women and girls to give them some hope for the future and to let them know that they matter? Because there are women out there who have and are giving up! They say it’s pointless voting for any party because things will never change for them as ‘it’s still a man’s world’ were women aren’t valued or respected and the gap between rich and poor is growing at a horrific and scandalous rate.
We live in increasingly unstable and dangerous times. I speak to women all the time and working on the Panel has piqued my interest in getting the views of girls and young women about issues affecting them.
In a nutshell - and again, no surprise but still alarming - they don’t feel they matter, and they don’t feel safe! Online harassment/threats of physical/sexual violence, on a day to day basis by boys/men 24/7. They can’t get away from it.
Toxic masculinity is pandemic!! Worse than a deadly virus. As well as help and support for women, it is important than men and boys have role models and accessible information about gender equality and how they can contribute positively. Obviously toxic masculinity takes its toll on women and girls' mental/emotional/physical/spiritual health but it affects men and boys, too.
If women had equal representation in governments globally, do you think the world would be a more equal, peaceful place? Do you agree that ‘the system’ has to be got rid off? That there has to be a seismic shift of power and money? If so, how can we unite here, there and everywhere, across our country and indeed the world, to achieve this? DOWN WITH PATRIARCHY!!