women

Lothian Women: Make your voices heard

On Thursday night I attended an event organised by women from Midlothian North and Musselburgh Labour Party at the Brunton Hall, Musselburgh.

The event was called ‘Lothian Women:Make your voices heard’ this was an event which was open to Labour Party members, non-members, men and women and candidates from all parties.

Speakers included representatives from Engender and Fair Funding For Our Kids.

The first speaker was Alys Mumford from Engender.

Alys started by talking about what Engender stood for.

Engender are Scotland’s feminist organisation and exist to highlight gender inequality, they have published a Gender Matters Manifesto :Twenty for 2016 for the forthcoming Scottish Parliament elections.

Alys highlighted some of the key issues in the ‘Twenty for 2016’ manifesto:-

  • Bring forward a Gender Equality Bill;
  • Commit to gender balancing mechanisms at all levels of politics;
  • Implement a gendered economic development strategy;
  • Establish a national equality and wellbeing index;
  • Increase the strategic influence of the Equality Budget Statement.

Jenny Gorevan from Fair Funding For Our Kids was next up to tell us about their campaign.

Jenny said that though the Scottish Government policy is to provide 600 hours of free childcare  for 3-5 year olds the reality is that this is not being delivered.

Though the current system is in Jenny’s words ‘ridiculously complicated’, Jenny took the meeting through the main issues and raised some of the main problems with the current system:-

  • Most councils not offering the flexible hours that working families need;
  • Not enough funded places at private partnership nurseries;
  • Parents being asked to move children to a different nursery to chase their entitlement, only to find there are no other funded places available to them;
  • Council nurseries not having enough places, especially for 3 year olds.

After a few questions and a quick break for tea and coffee the meeting broke up into 3 groups to discuss the issues raised with the aim of coming up with 3 priorities to inform themes and campaigns for future meetings.

The group I was in came up with the following:-

  • Childcare – including rates of pay for those working in the childcare sector;
  • Violence against Women – what can be done to tackle violence against women, especially on social media;
  • Political Representation – improvement may have been made in regard to the Scottish Parliament, but what can be done when it comes to local government. Out of 6 councillors in Musselburgh none are women and only one party stood a female candidate at the last council elections in Musselburgh.

All in all I thought this was an excellent event, not just because Midlothian North and Musselburgh Labour Party hosted it, but because it did seem to engage people from across the political spectrum, Jacqui Bell (Lib/Dem candidate), Michelle Ballantyne (Conservative candidate) and Colin Beattie (SNP candidate) were in attendance along with people not part of any political party but who just came along to be part of the conversation.

Hopefully, this is an initiative that will be repeated.

Meantime, I would just like to finish by thanking Judith Dunn, Angela Gillan, Susan Harkins, Danielle Rowley, Katherine Sangster and Maureen Talac,  for all  of their hard work and organisation in putting this event together.