Listening Exercise 2 – What do Women Want from the Scottish Parliament?
1. The purpose – to hear the views of women who want to influence the manifestos and commitments of the parties contesting the Scottish Parliament elections in 2016
In all elections, women have to struggle for a space for their voices – particularly those excluded by class, race, sexuality, disability, gender identity or by other ways in which society oppresses them. We want to listen to women, especially those whose voices are harder to reach, describe their opinions and make sure that the political parties sit up and listen to them.
We know how much engagement was generated in the referendum and the 2015 general election – we want to build on that and ensure women have the influence that is warranted by being more than half the population.
2. The group – get a group of women you know together and listen!
All of us will have women in our lives we know whose political views we don’t know. Women in our family, at work, our friends, our neighbours. And we will know women who aren’t always included in everything. Ask them if they’d like to meet up one night/day or come over to your house. Make it informal, social, a laugh. It’s not a test, it’s a discussion. Keep it relaxed and encourage women to talk – especially the quiet ones.
3. The basics – what to think about
- Choose a group of women you know reasonably well and who also know (or know of) each other.
- Anything between 3 and 7 is ideal – any more and it might be too big to manage.
- Try to keep it to two hours maximum. If anyone needs to leave early, make sure they’ve had the chance to express their views.
- Serve refreshments according to the preferences of the group. You know who is coming.
4. Getting started – what to tell participants
You have to be upfront. You’ll no doubt want to maintain your relationships – so be clear why you’ve invited them along.
Tell them you’re doing it for WFI, who we are and what we’re trying to do. That we’re a women’s movement – by women, for women – and we’re interested in all women. You only want to hear their views, not argue with them or get into a debate about any particular issue. (this is a bit of a challenge for anyone who is involved in politics – but it is a very illuminating exercise. All men should have to do it!)
Tell them you will be feeding back their views to WFI but their names will never be used – unless they choose to be up front.
Explain that you are going to take notes and how you will do that – either recording or on paper. Make sure you have each woman’s permission.
How it will work is that you have a few questions to ask them. You’ll ask the first then see what they talk about – you might never need to ask the others!
The discussion will last as long as they want it to. They can wrap it up and talk about something else whenever they feel like it.
5. Your role – keeping a record, time and order.
This isn’t a statistical exercise – you don’t need a crash course in being John Curtice! The main value of this activity is to identify issues, themes and trends.
It’s also useful, if you can, to note the language women are using, attitudes to politics, the parliament, politicians etc.
Have everything ready that you need before you start: pens, paper etc. If you’re using equipment make sure it’s working and up and running.
Your role is to sit back and listen but you want to be an active listener. Which means watching the time. You have quite a number of areas you want to cover – so split your time roughly and keep an eye on it. Don’t stop a really interesting discussion but do gently move things along.
Also, watch out for one or two people dominating the chat! Try and find ways to include others and make sure everyone is getting a chance to have their say. And watch out for discussion degenerating into argument – we want everyone’s views. They’re all valid and we’re not trying to get an agreed line on everything at the end. You know who’s coming – watch out for everyone. It should be an enjoyable and empowering experience for everyone.
If alcohol is being served, maybe ca’ canny for the structured part of the gathering?
6. The questions
1. Do you intend to vote in the Scottish parliament elections in 2016?
2. If yes, why are you voting? If no, why not?
3. What is your understanding of the powers of the Scottish parliament? What do we mean by reserved and devolved powers?
4. What are the things that concern you and would influence whether you will vote and how you will vote?
Some prompts (if necessary – don’t direct the discussion, just help it along):
- Democracy. If democracy means being involved, participating and helping, how does our current democracy serve us? How do we get democracy to work for us?
- Land ownership and reform. What do What would you like to see happen?
- Introduce some discussion about refugees and immigration – you can be prepared with facts.
- What about health? Include wider questions than the health service – like prevention of illness; include mental health; ask about personal experiences.
- Education? How big a priority? Nursery through to higher education provision. Maybe tease out attitudes to universal provision, fees etc. And policy and provision around those with additional needs.
- Caring: children, adults, older people – everything. What should government do?
- Justice – especially concentrate on issues affecting women and children. You can explain what WFI has been doing.
- Planning – which might flow naturally from discussion on land reform anyway.
- Economy in general. No doubt some policies and provision will have been suggested from above – how should they be paid for? What do you think about austerity? Tax policy? Tease out attitudes to inequality and how to address it? Include local tax policy. Attitude to the council tax?
- Local issues – are there any key local issues that might impact upon how women are going to vote?
5. What kind of issues do you need more information about to help you make up your mind how to vote?
6. Where do you currently get most of your information from?
- newspapers, TV, social media, friends, colleagues, family etc.
- How do you think information should be provided?
When you’re finished, type up your notes and e-mail them to Info@womenforindependence.org. Hopefully women will find the exercise worthwhile in its own right, but we would like to know what the issues they identify are, so that we can ensure we are campaigning on the issues that matter to women in the run up to the Holyrood elections in 2016.