It's nearly time for our AGM (if you haven't done so yet, you can get your tickets here) and all our members have been sent the full annual report, but we also wanted to give our supporters and interested people an overview of our year. This is an extract from the report to members.
Please note; you don't have to be a WFI member, or even supporter to come to our AGM. You don't even have to be a Yes voter. You just have to be a woman who wants to discuss how we make Scotland a better place.
Our Annual Report
This is an edited version of the Annual Report from the National Committee that has been sent to all members of Women for Independence.
National Committee Meetings
The National Committee has met eight times in the period.
The National Committee have provided leadership, direction and organisation on a range of campaigns, most of which were identified by members as key campaign priorities at the 2015 AGM. They have represented WFI at a range of external meetings and events.
National Council Meetings
We aim to move National Council around Scotland to enable women who might not be able to travel to national events to attend. In this period we have met five times, in East Kilbride, Alloa, Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and Galashiels
Other National Events
We held a very successful Women’s history event in Dundee in March 2016 “Shall We Not Speak For Ourselves”. Attendees heard from a range of fascinating speakers on aspects of Scottish women’s history, including guided walks and workshops. The event was highly praised by all who attended and made a modest profit.
Key Political Issues
The key political issues for WFI were identified at our AGM in 2015, then refined by National Council and the National Committee over the year. This list is not exhaustive, but covers all the main discussions that have taken place at our National Council events.
Listening Exercise; Following the success of our listening exercise in the run up to the 2014 Independence Referendum, we carried out a second exercise focused on what women want from the Scottish Parliament, holding sessions at National Council events and encouraging local WFI groups and individuals to hold their own exercises. The final write-up was posted on our website and was reported positively by the media.
Women and Justice Issues; Our work in helping to persuade the Scottish Government not to open a large women’s prison in Inverclyde was successful. We will continue to support the implementation of smaller units for women prisoners, closer to their families. We believe that for many women, prison sentences are not an appropriate or suitable response and that far fewer women should be in jail in Scotland. Jean Urquhart MSP hosted a round table event in the Scottish Parliament on these issues, and we met with the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Mathieson.
Justice Watch was developed to include more members in this work. Following several training sessions held around the country, women have been attending courts to observe how justice is ‘done’. We have published various blogs and updates on this. The Justice Watch campaign received good media attention at its launch and has been most active in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Angus, Moray and Stirling.
Media Watch; We have published a series of blogs on women’s representation – or lack of – in the Scottish media and have continued to campaign for greater gender balance on, for example, political panel discussions on television.
Named Person Legislation; Following information sessions and discussions at National Council and at meetings of National Committee, there was no consensus among WFI as to the Named Person Legislation. On controversial issues we have developed an approach of sharing information and opinions. We see no need for us to adopt national policy positions on matters which our members do not agree about.
Prostitution; This is an ongoing issue for debate and discussion among our members and WFI have taken no public stance on the various models currently being discussed in Scottish public life.
Women into Public Life; This has been an important theme for us during the period and we have published a series of blogs on it, as well as leading discussion among women at Council about the barriers to public life, how to overcome them, etc. We also practically support our members who do decide to ‘go for it’. As an organisation we support the Women 50:50 campaign (although we accept that not all our individual members do.)
Brexit/Europe; We hosted both ‘In’ and ‘Out’ speakers at our National Council in Aberdeen. However, in the light of the political realities we are now facing and our desire for Scottish independence, the current National Committee are recommending that the new committee considers adopting a pro-EU stance.
Food; Recognising that food is a highly political issue which impacts on health, communities, the economy and sex equality, we published a series of blogs looking at various aspects of food in Scotland. Following a fabulous presentation at our last National Council, the current Committee is recommending that the new Committee continues to take this forward.
Social Security Reform; We are very proud that one of our founding members, Jeane Freeman, is now the Minister in charge of designing a Scottish social security system for those 15% of social security powers that are to be devolved to the Scottish Government. We will, of course, continue to campaign for the Scottish Government to be in charge of 100% of Scotland’s social security. We hosted a session on the current Social Security consultation at CommonWeal’s ‘Ideas’ event in Glasgow.
Carers; Support for carers is a crucial issue for WFI especially because the burden of caring falls disproportionately on women. This was one of the key threads that came out of our Listening Exercise, and an area where our members want the Scottish Government to act.
Human Rights; In the light of Brexit and the approach of the current UK Conservative Government, human rights are emerging as key issue for us in the next year. We hosted an initial workshop at our National Council in Galashiels.
Land Reform & Community Empowerment; WFI have supported the #OurLand campaign and hosted various discussions at national and local events on this issue. We envisage that this will continue to be an important issue for WFI
Back to School Banks; Many of our members have been involved in developing and setting up the network of Back to School Banks across Scotland which help to provide school uniforms to children in poverty in Scotland. These organisations are completely independent of WFI, but we are proud supporters of their work and were happy to host a workshop about them at our National Council in Alloa.
Access to Free Sanitary Protection in Maternity Units; We carried out a national survey and found availability differed across Scotland. We have consulted with health and other professionals on possible medical and social issues that can arise when new mothers do not have proper protection. We spoke to the Cabinet Secretary for Health prior to the Scottish Parliament election in May and are currently working with MSPs and others to achieve equal and free access for all women.
Fracking & UGE; We have hosted various blogs and sessions at national and local events on this key issue. We envisage that we will continue to work with other groups to campaign against any prospect of fracking or UGE in Scotland.
Other issues where we have similarly hosted blogs and discussions as well as working with other groups include TTIP and Refugees.
Independence; Our support for Scottish independence is one of our foundational principles. We have discussed this at many national and local meetings, in particular since the new political landscape created by Brexit. We aim to maintain organisational readiness for any second independence referendum.
At our first AGM in 2015 we affiliated over 50 local WFI groups. We are very aware that many of these groups did not become active, and our expectation is that the numbers to be affiliated this year will be considerably down.
Some local groups have been very active, hosting regular meetings and events. Others have come together for just one or two events or meetings across the year. Some are just a Facebook page.
This is one of the strengths of WFI. We do not want to become an organisation where women have to commit to huge amounts of administration or organising to take part. We want to maintain our networks, so that we can be ready to activate them easily in the event of a second independence referendum, but WFI should never be an additional burden for women.
Local Group Events
Over the period of this report, around 300 WFI local events and meetings have been recorded nationally. The huge diversity in the nature of these events is astonishing. As well as meetings and get-togethers, there have been social events with entertainment, film showings, guest speakers, picnics, social media training, family breakfasts and public stalls.