Emma Ritch: Scotland’s fight for women’s equality is not over yet

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For this piece, we spoke to Emma Ritch, director of Engender – who tragically passed away last week.

His quotes are published here in their entirety, expressing hope for change, and are included in his brief.


It feels like everyone in Scotland knows each other. And while it is true that it is possible (or certainly was before Covid) to meet government ministers on a Scotrail train, or stroll through the Scottish Parliament on your lunch break, this perception may lead to further alienation. marginalized communities.

A large-scale ‘old boys club’ can occur when people who speak different languages, who live outside the central belt, or who may rightly be suspicious of the state, are left out of vital conversations. . So while it is arguably easier for women’s rights defenders to reach out to key decision makers in Scotland than in other countries, we must see a fundamental shift in the way power is exercised. and the decisions made.

The feeling that we have already won the argument is one of the biggest challenges facing women’s equality advocates. From maternity legislation to equal representation of women in politics, people think the job is done.

READ MORE: Tributes to leading Scottish feminist Emma Ritch after her sudden death

This is illustrated by the results of this year’s Holyrood election, hailed as a “parliament of diversity” despite the fact that there are only two women of color. It makes a difference for feminist women to occupy positions of power, but scratching the surface of Scotland reveals male overrepresentation in our chambers of power, with ingrained influence on the politics and legislation that shape our lives.

Power relations color all of our interactions. From ‘special relationships’ between nations, to ‘positive partnerships’ between government and local authorities in Scotland, to a local organization working with a national institution, we know these are not equal collaborations. Scotland, like the rest of the UK, has a history of sexism, white supremacy and other forms of inequality, which are still present in our structures and culture today, and must be challenged.

Movements towards greater localized democracy, such as citizens’ assemblies and participatory budgeting could have enormous potential to challenge these structures, but they must be done in a spirit of equality or risk simply advancing the interests of those who already hold the most power in society.

READ MORE: Gender pay gap in Scotland exposed as women board members paid half a million less

We still have a long way to go before businesses, political parties and other institutions recognize that diversity is important not only for itself, but because it leads to better practices. Even with the legislation in place, we can see a tendency for diversity on boards to be undermined by gender segregation in the types of tasks undertaken, or women being excluded from major sub-groups. and decision-making committees.

That said, advocates for women’s equality need to be optimistic. Complacency is one of the main obstacles, but we know there is a huge appetite for doing things differently among Scottish women. Change takes time, but movements like Me Too, Black Lives Matter and Say her Name are shaking the pillars that support our unequal society.



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