Tue 8 Mar, 2016

On International Women's Day 2016, Alison Johnstone, MSP Candidate for Lothian, shares her thoughts on why if we want to achieve gender equality we have to take action.

Increasing international awareness of violence against women and recognition that this vile behaviour occurs against a background of continued marked inequality and lack of opportunity for women is now widely acknowledged. On International Women’s Day 2016, the welcome focus is on a Planet that’s 50:50 by 2030.  To achieve Gender Equality, not only do we have to #pledgeforparity we have to take action and demand change individually and as a Society. Even when it’s less threatening to campaign for and rally around other rights.  

It’s hard to believe that we’re still calling for this change in 2016, while according to recent reports; we’re almost 100 years away from achieving equal status between women and men.   It’s hard to believe, because women aren’t in a minority, although for the first time in history there are more men than women in the world, with marked discrepancies in countries where female infanticide is arguably widespread.  Researchers have reported “highly developed countries tend to have more women in their population.”

Women’s control of their own fertility and education of girls is key to a gender equal Society.

Women’s control of their own fertility and education of girls is key to a gender equal Society.  As Greens we have worked to ensure that we can be proud of our own internal gender equality mechanisms, and while we have ensured that half of all seats we regard as winnable are contested by a female candidate we acknowledge that this is only the first important step on the road to a truly representative Party roster, and a truly representative Parliament.

I am proud to have co-founded, with Keiza Dugdale MSP, the Women 50:50 campaign for a gender equal Scottish Parliament and am pleased that this campaign has received support across most (if not all) political parties and from many prominent organisations and individuals.     

I believe that gender inequality in the media is responsible for the attitudes that pervade Society, and that it is key to transforming the culture to one of equality. Portrayal of women in the media has a profoundly negative impact on gender equality. In 2013, men held 95% of editorial positions and 100% of political editorial roles in the UK’s daily newspapers. This is reflected in widespread stereotyping of women in the print and broadcast media, and lack of gender balance on screen, though this at least results in an outcry in these post referendum times.  

I am pleased and proud that our 2016-election manifesto contains a commitment to push for the creation of a Scottish ‘Women in Media’ watchdog to monitor and challenge the underrepresentation, gender stereotyping and sexualisation of women and girls.   

My own daily search of the sports pages frequently results in disappointment, and you’d be forgiven for thinking women don’t take part in sport in the UK.

This is long overdue, when you consider that, of the top grossing 250 films of 2014, only 11% were written by women.  My own daily search of the sports pages frequently results in disappointment, and you’d be forgiven for thinking women don’t take part in sport in the UK.  Despite the fact that we have world-class athletes on our own Scottish doorstep.  We must raise civil awareness and challenge discrimination and sexism wherever it exists.  Call it out.  If we deny half of the world’s population the means to thrive, to realise their potential, we lose talent we simply can’t afford to squander.

We know that, in Scotland alone, if the number of women in business equaled their male counterparts, we’d have another 108,000 businesses and the cash to match.Of course, to enable women to contribute fully, we need to provide the best childcare for those who require it, and a care system that doesn’t assume women can continue to deliver care on a voluntary basis.    

At the outset International Women’s Day was called International Working Women’s Day.  I believe that was a more appropriate name for this celebration and call to action.

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