Young Woman’s Achievement Award

by Alison Fraser, Winner of the SWC Young Woman’s Achievement Award

At the STUC’s Youth Conference in June, this year, I was lucky enough to receive the Scottish Women’s Convention’s Young Woman’s Achievement Award.

This award was launched at the STUC Youth Conference 2012 by Agnes Tolmie. It was introduced so that young women’s achievements could be recognised by others – as well as themselves – with the winner receiving an all expenses paid experience relevant to them e.g. a trip to the European Parliament.

I won the award for my contributions and advancements to young women. Before winning I never thought of everything I’d done as achievements. I saw them as what had to be done to get the voice of young women heard not only by policy makers, but society itself. Many people today do not listen to young people or value what they say. However, I made sure people listened to me and took on board my concerns.

The biggest achievement I have to date was speaking in the Debating Chamber of the Scottish Parliament in front of 380 women as part of the SWC’s International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations in 2008. And through winning this award I am no longer shy and embarrassed to tell people of that amazing opportunity (I was 13 year old at the time).  I am also very honoured to be asked back to speak at IWD 14.

It’s hard to put into words what this award means to me. I have gained a lot more confidence in myself and have started looking at different things I am doing as achievements.  For example, I have self funded, during the past two years, to attend Commission on the Status of Women Conference in New York City with the SWC. I have attended the UK Ambassadors reception, made contact with women from many different backgrounds all around the world and this year I had someone recognise me from the work I have done with the SWC. Even now I’m writing all this it doesn’t seem real, it doesn’t feel like I have actually had all these amazing experiences. So through winning this award I have even surprised myself with things that I have done in 6 years.

I still volunteer as much as possible with the SWC trying to fit in around University and part-time work!  Although I can’t do as much as I used to do, I still love the satisfaction I get when I have helped out at an event, at a stall or by going to an event on behalf of the SWC.  I feel that I have contributed just a little bit more to the women’s movement and that I am getting the voice of young women recognised.

I would most definitely encourage you to nominate any young women you know for this award. Whether it is a one off achievement or it is an ongoing- this award can show them that what they’re doing is appreciated.

* If you know of a young woman (under the age of 25) who you believe would benefit from being nominated for this award, please click here for the application form. The closing date for this year’s nominations is 31st March 2014.

Why vote Yes?

Gail Lythgoe, Executive Assistant at Yes Scotland

A Yes vote is a vote for taking control of our own future. That’s what we want for our own lives – to stand on our own two feet, to make our own decisions and to achieve our full potential.  Why should it be any different for Scotland?  Another 200 countries are independent, so why aren’t we?

There is no doubt that Scotland is a wealthy country.  Even the Prime Minister has agreed that Scotland could be another successful independent country.

Yet one in four of our children are growing up in poverty, too many young people are finding it hard to find jobs, and too many jobs are low paid.  It’s so hard to make ends meet that people are now reduced to looking to foodbanks for help.  The UK is one of the most unequal countries in the developed world, and the gap between the richest and poorest just gets bigger.  As part of the UK, this generation of young people will be the first for decades to be less well off than our parents.

Given how wealthy Scotland is, this is not acceptable. None of this needs to happen.

I’ve grown up with the Scottish Parliament making decisions on issues like health and education. The value of taking our own decisions has been plain to see. In Scotland, we have chosen to make free higher education a right for all, basing access to our world-class universities and colleges on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay. We’ve increased childcare provision and established a principle of early intervention to help guide and nurture the lives of children.

With the powers Scotland already has, remarkable things have been achieved.

There is so much more we could do if we had the full powers of independence.

We could take steps to increase good job opportunities, increase the minimum wage, reverse unfair cuts to benefits and improve rights to childcare and parental rights.

Instead, we are stuck with unfair and unwelcome policies from the UK Government, which are particularly harmful for young people and for women.  For example, welfare cuts are hitting women hardest in the pocket. The Westminster government is making life harder for women through cuts to important public services, and by weakening employment rights, such as the right to claim for unfair dismissal.  With prices and bills rocketing and wages declining, we are all being hit hard financially.  Studies show that this is especially true for young people.

A Yes vote means that we will be the first generation in Scotland to truly determine our own futures. It’s a hugely exciting opportunity – I’m voting Yes to live in a Scotland of progress and possibility.

For young people in Scotland, that has to be the right choice for our future – that’s got to be an opportunity worth saying Yes to.

To find out more about what we could achieve with a Yes vote, please visit www.yesscotland.net or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

*The SWC are holding a conference on The Referendum on the 25th January 2014. We will have speakers from the Yes and Better Together campaigns. If you would like come along please email info@scottishwomensconvention.org*

Why are we Better Together?

Carys Hughes, Activist from Women Together

Next year people in Scotland will make the biggest political decision of our lives; whether to remain a part of the UK or go it alone. The referendum gives us the opportunity to look at our priorities and decide how we can best address the things that matter to us.

As a young woman, I want to use this opportunity to bring a whole range of issues to the forefront of current political debate, from tackling the gender pay gap to rooting out the scourge of domestic violence, as well as looking at how we can take action to ensure young girls around the world can access the education they are entitled to.

Concern about the impact that separation from the rest of the UK would have on our daily lives is truly universal, but it is vital that women’s voices are heard when it comes to the economic debate. The economy is fundamental to women’s lives; tough economic times hit us the hardest, and negatively impacts on the fight for gender equality. Reading the leaked Government Cabinet paper raised concerns about what it would mean for me to be a young woman in an independent Scotland. The paper outlined plans for cuts to public sector jobs, pensions and welfare spending, yet it is women that are more likely to work in the public sector and in part-time jobs – often the first to be cut. Women pensioners are more likely to be in poverty and as parents and carers, women are more likely to be in receipt of welfare support.

On a more personal level, I’m in my final year of University and I don’t want there to be any barriers to finding a good job when I graduate. I know I’m not alone when I say that I don’t want to jeopardise the opportunities we have as part of a bigger UK.  The size, strength and stability of the UK economy meant the UK Government was able to intervene during the global financial crisis and save banks from collapsing. This protected the savings and mortgages of thousands of Scots, saved thousands of Scottish jobs and averted economic meltdown. The advantages of that bigger UK economy are clear – we have the ability to pool and share risk and reward in order to avoid and weather the worst of economic storms.

I firmly believe that right now Scotland has the best of both worlds; we have our strong Scottish Parliament, with a strong track record of female representation and focussing on the issues affecting women.  But we also have the strength and security that comes from being part of the wider UK.

That is why this year I helped to launch Women Together.  Our grassroots network of women will hold events in towns and cities across the country, to listen to women’s views, creating a space to look at how we can achieve our priorities as well as get involved in our campaign for Scotland in the UK.

*The SWC are holding a conference on The Referendum on the 25th January 2014. We will have speakers from the Yes and Better Together campaigns. If you would like come along please email info@scottishwomensconvention.org*

Being a woman in the Police, Melanie’s story

by Melanie Dawson, Police Scotland, Scottish Women’s Development Forum

I have been in the Police for 6 years. I started my career in sunny Leith where I was a response officer for 3 years. I then worked in the community team (SNT) for just over a year.  Following this, I went onto Command Support to see a different side of policing and I was there for 18 months.  I am now at Portobello Community Team and really enjoying it.  I joined this team at 26 and I’m now 30 years old.

Why I applied is a mixture of a lot of different reasons, both my parents were in the Police so in a way it seemed a natural choice.  I studied Sport at university and wanted to do a job I could be active in and have a different challenge every day.  The application process for me wasn’t easy. Failing once at the maths test and having to wait a year before I could apply again – it was tough.  But I took advantage of the time and went back to get 99% in the test I had originally failed.

Getting into the police was one of the best moments of my life, it was a lot of hard work to achieve it and get through the college.  I remember my first shift at Leith as being very exciting and like nothing I had ever experienced before.  I think up until this point I had a much romanticized view of what being a police officer was.  I absolutely love my job but nothing can prepare you for the culture shock.

I love that I get time to see things through from start to finish and get to see the impact of the work I do. When you are a response officer the frequency of jobs you are expected to go to is very high and its often hard to see the positive impact you have had on people’s lives.   I really enjoy the team cohesion I get working within the police. There is no other job like it for feeling part of a larger family.  There are so many personalities which is a good thing, and it doesn’t matter how different we are when we need to work together and get the job done and stay safe.

 

A false sense of perfection?

poster event brite

This is an event organised by the Young Women’s Network. This has been set up to discuss and explore the sexualisation of young women. Pressure to conform, the media, social media and commercialism all contribute to the increased burdens faced by young women today.  Many have spoken about the difficulties in challenging stereotypical images, TV and magazine reports as well as peer pressure.

There will be speakers and workshops on the day.

The event will take place on Saturday 19th October in the Teacher Building, St Enoch Square Glasgow.

To come along to this event visit www.swcyoungwomen.eventbrite.com or call 0141 339 4797.

We need to put an end to zero hour contacts

by Elaine Dougall, Unite Scotland Regional Women and Equalities Officer 

zerohours

These type of contracts mean:

Zero hours

Zero holidays

Zero sick pay

The use of zero hour contracts in workplaces across the UK exploits workers rights and dignity. Zero hours contacts give employers the right to not pay you when you’re on holiday or sick. These contracts mean that workers have no guaranteed weekly hours or income, only being paid for the work they do. Therefore from week to week you don’t know the wage you are going to get.

A recent survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development highlighted that over 1 million workers are on these types of contracts. Moreover, the survey found that the majority of workers who are on zero hours contracts are 18 – 24 years old.

Young people still need to pay to live just like everyone else. The worry is, for many young women and men who are trying to earn enough just to live – what will they turn to get a living wage?

Zero hours contracts are beneficial for employers as it gives a high degree of flexibility. For example, during a busy period in a particular industry the employer can give you hours. But, when they are quiet they will let you go and have little regard for your bills, rent or life.

Unite are trying to eradicate these contracts. Unite has called on the Scottish Government to reform its public procurement agenda in order to tackle the rise of employment rights abuses across our economy. Unite have also set up a survey which you can fill in here.

The exploitation of workers needs to stop.

Healthy Relationships and Dating Abuse

by Ellie Hutchinson, Scottish Women’s Aid

Healthy Relationships and Dating Abuse

I’m the prevention worker at Scottish Women’s Aid, and this means I spend pretty much all my time thinking about violence against women. But I don’t just think about the causes, I think about solutions. The bottom line of all my work is everyone deserves to be safe and secure and have healthy relationships.

Healthy Relationships
So what is a healthy relationship?  A good starting point is to think about our relationships with our friends. What values do we look for in a friendship? Do we look for trust, humour, respect, empathy? Or do we look for possession, jealousy and control?

Most of us would look for the first list- but many of us might forget those values when we’re in romantic relationships. Thinking about why that might be leads us to explore how we learn about relationships- both romantic and non-romantic. Programmes or films that talk about friendships show people supporting each other in crisis, having fun and just generally hanging out.  Programmes or films that feature sexual relationships tend to show a very specific way of “doing” a relationship.

Unhealthy Relationships
Next time you see a film or a music video about sexual relationships think about- what do those people look like? What are they doing? What are the things they are valuing in each other? How are they talking about each other? To each other? Quite often it is possessiveness, jealousy, ownership or treating people as sexual objects. If a friend told you what to wear, who to see, how to talk, how to have sex (or not) it wouldn’t feel ok. And it’s not. And it’s not ok for a partner to do those things either. That’s why in one of our projects we asked young people to tell us what a healthy relationship means to them, why they “get it”. To find out more click here.

How to Speak Out
Most of us know what a healthy relationship looks like, but it can feel hard to get that when we’re faced with so many messages to the contrary. It’s also really hard for women and girls to speak out, because if we do so we might be labelled “uptight” or much worse. But dating and domestic abuse isn’t a woman’s issue, it’s a people one; and we need boys and men to help us and speak out too.

Speaking out can be tough, so here are some suggestions on how you might want to get involved:

  1. Challenge sexism in your friends. We run a bystander programme to help people think about how they might do this. Check it out http://togetherwecanstopit.org/get-savi-resources/
  2. If you see something that promotes unhealthy relationships and you’re online, share it  on twitter with the #notbuyingit hashtag, or forward on to @everyday sexism
  3. Think about the media you do read/watch/buy- what is it saying about relationships?
  4. Support folk when they tell you about unhealthy relationships. Find out more http://www.togetherwecanstopit.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2010/11/SWA-Supporting-Someone.pdf
  5. If you’re a man and want to speak out, check out the #notthatlad campaign from us, the NUS and White Ribbon Scotland. http://togetherwecanstopit.org/news/im-not-that-lad-creating-an-alternative-banter/
  6. Read up on the issue. Find out more about dating abuse http://www.scottishwomensaid.org.uk/advice-information/advice-information-young-people/dating-abuse

We believe that by doing one thing, we can stop domestic  and dating abuse.