Engaging (even) more women in civic participation and political dialogue
Tasked with giving some thought as to how Women for Independence can reach out to more diverse groups and individuals, Selma Rahman, Kirsten Izatt, Mireille Pouget and Victoria Heaney of the National Commitee have pulled together the following advice and resources for local groups.
That second referendum is coming, have no doubt. But if pro indy parties need to wait for the starting gun to be fired, Women For Independence doesn’t!
Those meetings, assemblies, discussion groups, the grass roots movement that so nearly succeeded in Sept 2014, all need to regain that earlier momentum. And what a great part WFI played in that! But now, we need to take our vision of an indy Scotland, and dialogue across the wide spectrum of women in Scotland, sharing our belief that a different Scotland is possible.
In the coming months then, how can our autonomous WFI groups throughout Scotland reach out and engage even more women in civic participation and political dialogue?
I think then we have to be bold and look around and ask ourselves honestly: just how far have we succeeded in reflecting the women of Scotland? Yes, WFI has been successful. But what else can we do? How can we begin to debate and engage with the ‘no’s, maybes, undecideds,’ : those we either never spoke to earlier or had fleeting conversations with?
Diversity is by its very nature …diverse. And we know just how diverse Scotland is! Take a peek at our neighbours, at the school gates, in the doctors’ receptions, on public transport.
We know age is no barrier to participation: look at Leah Higgins and her successful organising of anti-Trump demonstrations outside the USA Embassy earlier this year. Didn’t we all applaud when we heard that Pensioners for Independence has revitalised and re-emerged?
We now know, post Brexit, that there is understandably, great anxiety among many European nationals who see Scotland as their home but are threatened by the future as envisaged by rUK Govt and their plans, or lack of. And there are the indigenous ‘minorities’ born here thanks to their parents, grandparents and even great grandparents who came in the early 20th century, and occasionally even earlier. But if they say…’you can’t please all of the people, all of the time’, equally, you can’t meet all of the people, all of the time’.
So when we are planning to meet and importantly, win over and draw in more women, is there anything further we can do, individually and within our groups? Yes, probably, there is.
It’s understandable that resources are tight, perhaps even non-existent in particular geographical areas. Not every group fund-raises sufficiently to be able to hire, far less hire ‘accessible’ venues, so where do we meet? How ‘accessible’ are our meeting places? Yes, the wheel chair, the ramp and the lifts . Just how creative can we be when finding venues whilst acknowledging, that most of the time, we’d want them locally and importantly, free?
Many of us have been unable to go to something, somewhere because of the start – finish times and transport. OK, everything isn’t always adjacent to a bus stop or the train station (and don’t get me started on rural transport!) but can we think of different ways of being more ‘accommodating’? Car-pooling, local halls, church halls, community centres, cafes, the snug in a pub? No, truly, there is at least one indey book group that meets ‘no charge’ in a snug. Admittedly, pubs have their limitations, even the private snug, and we know that many women never enter a pub for countless reasons.
Also, there have been instances where we’ve been turned away from a public library on the council dictate that libraries are ‘non-political spaces’, but if we don’t ask, there and elsewhere, we won’t get. What of the notion of an at-home group? I’d hate to admit how many Tupperware parties I’ve been to in my life time! But I don’t think I’ve ever been invited in for a, chat and a cuppa leading to politics, and planning for the future. Perhaps from such simple, front room discussions we might see small acorns growing into big trees. There are countless examples of small groups that moved on to ‘bigger and better’. It’s not always size that matters: it’s the interaction, the exchange of ideas and the progression!
But hold on, it’s not just about the venue, time and place, is it?
The Scotland we want to be in the future with regards our socio-economic well-being and international positioning is obviously at odds with Westminster.
Translate that into everyday bread and butter issues for women and their families, their dependents, friends, communities and their ties, here and abroad. Translate that into how we are determined to see an indy Scotland not a ‘UK mark2’, but a Scotland with priorities that are appropriate and pay regard to us as women and all that we encompass. That is surely our narrative, the one we have to push.
And really, is it enough to put out information, a notice, a leaflet, a poster along the lines of….’come and meet us’, ‘come join us’? Have we been successful so far with that approach, no matter how genuinely meant?
Yes, we’re back to resources: this occasion, us and our time. But if we don’t make the effort to reach out and bring other women into thinking and discussing independence, who will? Can we not make the first move, approach groups that exist in their own meeting places, at times that suit them, and ‘accommodate’ them?
Perhaps we should be asking if one maybe two of us could go along and meet with them. It takes a brave soul to walk through the door for the first time, not knowing, not having been before. Perhaps, if we make the first move and relate our vision it might be easier for them and their groups to accept the follow up invitations we send; inviting them to come and meet up with other like-minded women. Maybe not. But if we have been once, shown willing, shared our hopes for the future, we can always try again as part of our campaigning once the referendum date has been set.
It’s a challenge, but when did we say achieving independence would be challenge free? We’re not pretending we have all the answers, but two points.
We’ve added some national contact points below for other organisations. If you don’t know of local groups and local points of contact, these national, umbrella bodies should be able to help.
And in turn we know there are success stories out there already; you have contacts and you are widening your groups. Why not use the WFI web site to share what you’ve done, what’s worked, what didn’t. Ask questions, seek answers!
So as we continue to see our nation disregarded and thrown some ‘scraps’, a Commission here or there, now and then, some glib phrases and empty promises, when will we say enough is enough? Pretty soon I imagine, so time to reach out
The list below is not definitive; we’re looking to you to add to it!
BEMIS is the national Ethnic Minorities led umbrella body supporting the development of the Ethnic Minorities Voluntary Sector in Scotland and the communities that this sector represents.
CEMVO Scotland’s vision is a secure and sustainable base for Scotland’s ethnic minority voluntary sector and its communities.
Amina, MWRC aims to promote the welfare of Muslim women and counter any disadvantage they may face.
MECOPP: Supporting Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Carers |
Youth Scotland is the network of Youth Groups in Scotland. Youth Scotland aims to enable young people throughout Scotland to maximise their full potential.
Capability Scotland campaigns with, and provides education, employment and care services for disabled children and adults across Scotland.
LGBT Youth Scotland is the largest youth and community-based organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Scotland.
The Scottish Transgender Alliance works to improve gender identity and gender reassignment equality, rights and inclusion in Scotland.
Migrant Voice is a migrant-led organisation working to strengthen the voice, participation and representation of migrants in the media in order to encourage a more balanced, well-informed and inclusive debate on migration in Britain.
ORGANISATIONS OF MINORITY GROUPS SUPPORTING INDEPENDENCE
English Scots for Yes
This group was founded in May 2014 by people from England who have made Scotland their home, and want Scotland to become an independent country.
Africans for Indy
AFIS was formed in 2013 as an online meeting space for African and Caribbean people who supported Scotland's Independence.
Scots Asians for Yes
[Archive] Scots Asians For Yes is a grass root campaign made of members from the Asian sub-continent, from cross parties and no party, with one aim in common, working towards an independent country.
Christians for Independence
Christians for Independence is a group of Christians who support Scottish Independence. We are both cross-party and cross-denominational.
FACEBOOK PAGES OF MINORITY GROUPS SUPPORING INDEPENDENCE
Scottish Pensioners for Independence
Italian Scots for Independence
Polish community for Independence
Disabled Scots for Yes
An organisation for the many Scots who oppose Westminster attack on the disabled. A Yes vote to ensure the rights of the disabled.
Disabled People for Yes
For people with disabilities and their supporters who recognise the advantages of Scottish independence.
Out For Independence
LGBTI membership group of the SNP. Campaigning for a fair, equal and independent Scotland. We are affiliated to, although independent of, the SNP.
Carers for Independence
We are a group of Carers. We are Mothers, Daughters, Fathers, Sons, Brothers, Sisters and Friends. One thing that unites us is that we care for someone. We believe that our lives and that of those we care for will be vastly improved with Scottish Independence.
EU Citizens for an Independent Scotland
This page is for EU Citizens of all nationalities who have made Scotland their home and support independence for Scotland
Young Team for Independence
This page is run by young people from left-wing parties in Scotland that are in favour of Scottish Independence from the UK.
New Scots for Independence
Scots by choice, we believe that the best course for the future of our adopted country is as a free and independent state.
Celtic Nations for Independence
Seniors for Yes
Senior citizens supporting the campaign for a Yes vote in Scotland's independence referendum
French for Yes
French nationals and French speakers voting Yes in the Scottish independence referendum.