WAVE working group on gender neutrality visits Scottish Women’s Aide to learn about best practices

Last week, the WAVE gender neutrality working group was hosted by Scottish Women’s Aid in Edinburgh for their first study visit. The gender neutrality working group is working with the topic of protecting women’s specialist services from gender neutral policy and practice. Scotland’s approach to tackling violence against women and the benefits of a gendered approach to policy-making has been noted as a best practice example by the working group. Scottish Women’s Aid organized 2 days of events which assisted the gender neutrality working group in planning the WAVE handbook, to be published in August 2020.

The first day was spent in Glasgow at a mini-conference organised by Scottish Women’s Aid. Shirley Ann Sommerville, Cabinet Secretary for Equalities, kicked off the meeting by emphasising the gendered way in which every law that is passed should be considered. Every law should, from the very beginning, be analysed to make the lawmakers consider how women will be affected by it. She finished her speech by giving the advice: “Be open and accessible but never give up on your beliefs, whether the government likes it or not.” The executive director of Engender, Emma Ritch, stressed the importance of women’s rights advocacy across borders. She explained the dynamics of the feminist organisations cooperating with the government to achieve the radical changes that are needed to make Scotland a better place to live for women. “When women’s organisations collaborate with governments, that’s when the most radical policies come out.” The conference was closed by Scottish feminist historian, Lesley Orr, who gave the participants a quick overview of the women’s movement in Scotland, where she concentrated on how women’s organisations collaborated with political activists. This has led to many feminist activists being able to find jobs in the Scottish Parliament, which was established in 1999.

The second day of the study visit began at the Scottish Women’s Aid headquarters in Edinburgh, where the working group was able to meet with Gender Equal Media Scotland (GEMS), which is transforming Scotland’s media through feminist research, journalism and campaigning. Representatives from Rape Crisis Scotland and Zero Tolerance, as well as Karen Boyle, the founder of GEMS, deliberated about the situation of media in Scotland and how the organisation engages with journalists. GEMS is also developing a MOOG course on gender and media, launching in January 2020!

The afternoon was spent at the University of Edinburgh where the working group was able to connect with academics who shared their experiences in partnering with feminist organisations to strengthen and support calls for gendered policy in Scotland. Professor John Devaney, Head of Social Work at the University of Edinburgh, illustrated the importance of alliances across academia and civil society organisations. Dr Claire Houghton, Gender and Violence Fellow, demonstrated how alliances between women’s and children’s organisations created a synergy where both organisations benefited. Meanwhile, Professor Sharon Cowan, Professor of Feminist and Queer Legal Studies at University of Edinburgh, talked to the working group about the Scottish Feminist Judgements Project, which reimagines processes and outcomes of key cases through a feminist lens.

On the last day of the visit, Scottish Women’s Aid made their meeting room available to the working group, where the group was able to spend some time planning the upcoming handbook on protecting women’s specialist services from gender neutral policy and practice.

WAVE would like to thank the kind and hardworking women of Scottish Women’s Aid for the excellent organization of the study visit on gender neutrality. The gender neutrality working group has benefitted greatly from this visit!

Written by Lina Piskernik, WAVE Gender Neutrality Working Group Coordinator

For further inquiries about the gender neutrality working group, please contact her at: lina.piskernik@wave-network.org