International Women’s Day Debate – 7th March 2017
March 8 is an important date for women around the world each year, whether in the first or third world, or in developed or developing countries, or rich or poor countries. It is a day on which we remind ourselves of the struggle to achieve equality that so many women have fought and died for over the decades and centuries. It is also a stark reminder of how far we have still to go. No matter the issue—equal pay, employment opportunities, gender-based violence or respect and recognition for achievements and roles in society—women are still fighting for equality and parity.
That is why we must be bold for change: the hashtag #BeBoldForChange is the defining theme of international women’s day in 2017. To be bold, women must be seen and heard, we must act on our beliefs and promises, and we must lead. Improving female representation in the workplace is a challenge for any Government, unless it is bold. The Scottish Government’s initiative, “Partnership for change 50:50 by 2020”, is a step in the right direction, but when we see the statistics on female representation on boards of public and private organisations, we can see that it is not enough. There is no female chief executive officer in any of Scotland’s top companies and only one in four company directors is female. In the public sector, only 28 per cent of chief executives are women. When we compare those figures to the fact that women make up 52 per cent of Scotland’s population, we should be embarrassed as a nation that women are not offered the same opportunities as men. The reasons for that are social and economic, and they go back decades, if not centuries.
It is less than 100 years since women won the right to vote, and we are still underrepresented in public and political life. The Engender briefing for today’s debate shows that although there has been an increase in the proportion of female Government ministers, members of Parliament, and local authority chief executives, the total of each is no more than 25 per cent. We know there is still a lot of work ahead, so regardless of party affiliation and political or religious beliefs, we should all work together as one to overcome the social and economic problems that leave many women behind.
As we have heard, the global gender pay gap is not expected to close until 2186—in 169 years—and means that our daughters, their daughters, their daughters and possibly even their daughters will still be paid less than men for the same work. Research tells us that the UK gender pay gap will close by 2069.
The gender pay gap does not reveal the many other ways in which women lose out in the work place. Women are more likely than men to be employed in part-time roles and tend to be socialised into taking on unpaid roles such as caring for children and elderly relatives. It is estimated that globally women spend an average of 4.5 hours per day on unpaid work. The difference is even greater in the developing world. It is thought that in India, for example, women undertake 6 hours of unpaid work each day, with men carrying out less than 1 hour. Where women do participate in the world of work, they tend to be concentrated in the low-paid and lower-skilled roles that are often referred to as the five Cs—cleaning, catering, clerical, cashiering and caring work. Research also shows that only one in five people working in science, technology, engineering and maths jobs is a woman.
Occupational segregation is unfair not only to women who find that opportunities are closed to them, but to all. It is damaging to our cultures and societies that women cannot express themselves whole-heartedly or aim to achieve better for themselves or their children.
I take this opportunity to highlight some fantastic female role models in my home area of Renfrewshire. We have women running our airport, our college and our council, and taking on the most daring of challenges to raise money for charity. So, in closing, I praise Amanda McMillan of Glasgow airport, Audrey Cumberford of West College Scotland, and Renfrewshire Council’s Sandra Black and Provost Anne Hall.
Eradication of FGM and all other forms of so-called honour-based violence – 1st February 2017.
I thank the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities for her motion highlighting the important work that is being done to tackle and end female genital mutilation and so-called honour-based violence, and for bringing the motion to the chamber to allow us to debate the issue. Speaking on behalf of Scottish Labour, I am happy to confirm that we will support the Government’s motion and the Conservative amendment. I ask for support for our amendment. It might be small in detail, but it is hugely significant with regard to meeting our shared ambitions.
It is with regret and sadness that I note that we require this debate and that we need to have an international day of zero tolerance for female genital mutilation. I feel regret and sadness knowing that medieval, barbaric and horrific acts of violence and mutilation are still carried out in the 21st century, primarily against young women and children. There will be few countries, if any, in the world that are not affected in some way by female genital mutilation or honour-based violence.
Therefore, it is right that the Scottish Parliament helps in the global fight to shine a light on such behaviours and to raise awareness of the dangers of the violence and cruelty that are involved in FGM and honour-based violence, in the hope of eradicating them.
I am sure that members across the chamber felt anger when reading the article entitled “An Agonising Choice” that was published in The Economist last June and which called for a new approach that supports minor forms of FGM. The author tried to argue that allowing minor forms of FGM that cause no long-lasting harm is better than “being butchered in a back room by a village elder”.
Accepting that proposal would be a backwards step and would send the wrong message—that the abuse and mutilation of a child through FGM is somehow acceptable.
Campaign groups across the UK were right to quickly condemn the article, and The Guardian reported that the article gave ammunition to supporters and practitioners of FGM, who could claim that some in the west were on their side. Scottish Labour—and, I am sure, members across the chamber—will never give those ideas the time of day. Instead, we will continue to stand on the side of the women, girls and families who are affected by FGM, and endeavour to bring an end to this barbarity.
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 125 million women and girls are affected by FGM. The incidence of FGM tends to be concentrated in pockets of the middle east, across central Africa and, increasingly, in south Asia. Inspiration in tackling FGM can be taken from the work of non-governmental organisations in communities across the world.
The work of Sponsored Arts for Education—SAFE—Kenya is an illuminating example of that. Female genital mutilation is illegal in Kenya, but is still widely practised in rural areas across the country as a rite of passage. SAFE Kenya has taken a community-based approach to tackling that gender-based violence, with three projects that are aimed at changing the cultural practices that normalise FGM. Before SAFE Kenya started working in the Loita hills in Kenya, the rate of FGM in the region was 98 per cent. After the promotion of an alternative rite of passage, the rate has dropped by 20 per cent.
The practice of FGM and honour-based violence is driven by the deep-rooted unequal power relationship between men and women across the globe. Education is key to tackling FGM and honour-based violence. A grass-roots approach that aims to alter cultural views on FGM might be a slow process, but it is a necessary one and an effective means in the fight to eradicate FGM across the globe.
It is important to teach young boys and men that FGM is an extremely dangerous procedure that is not a religious requirement, a prerequisite for marriage or a rite-of-passage ritual. It is quite simply an unnecessary, barbaric act that violates women’s and girls’ human rights.
It is estimated that 24,000 people living in Scotland were born in FGM-practising countries, and that 12 women in the United Kingdom each year lose their lives to honour killings.
All women and girls, in communities the length and breadth of Scotland, must feel safe, respected and equal. It is the duty of this Parliament to make that ambition a priority.
Although we must continue to support the victims of FGM in Scotland, we must also contribute to the global campaign to eradicate the practice of FGM. The United Nations international day of zero tolerance for female genital mutilation is a prime opportunity for the global community to use the power of its collective voice to show its strength in condemning FGM as a barbaric act.
In closing, I repeat our support for both the Government motion and the Conservative amendment. I ask that we recognise the role that faith leaders, who are well respected by their communities, can play in eradicating FGM and honour-based violence.
The Scottish Government’s national action plan is an important aspect of its commitment to ending FGM in a generation. I am happy to work with the cabinet secretary and the minister to take that plan forward.
I move amendment S5M-03761.2, to insert after “long term”:
“; further recognises that faith leaders of communities potentially affected by FGM and so-called honour-based violence have a role to play in working to change cultural attitudes”.
Paisley for City of Culture 2021 – 7th December 2016 – Scottish Parliament
As we have heard, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli is quoted as saying
“keep your eye on Paisley”,
and I am glad that the Scottish Parliament is doing that today.
I thank George Adam for lodging the motion and helping to promote the Paisley bid for 2021 UK city of culture. I am proud to support Paisley, which is a town that I have represented for nearly 10 years as a councillor and as an MSP.
Renfrewshire as a whole has a long history, from the 6th and 7th centuries, when St Mirren was said to have established the Paisley settlement, through to the time of the house of Stuart in the 14th and 15th centuries, and on to the industrial revolution in the 1800s, which made Paisley known as a centre for textiles across the world. That rich history is the basis of the bid for 2021 city of culture.
People take great pride in Paisley, and they have continued the legacy of Sir Thomas Coats to make the town great. I congratulate Councillor Mark Macmillan—he is in the public gallery today—on his leadership of Renfrewshire Council and on his initiative to rally the town behind the grand idea of the bid. Councillor Macmillan has already announced his retirement from local politics as of May next year, but I am sure that he will continue to play a strong role in ensuring that Paisley wins the bid.
There are many famous and celebrated people from music, art and literature who have placed the town on the cultural map and, in his motion, George Adam referenced a few of them.
We also have a hidden set of Paisley champions: the women who helped to shape our history and the women who are spearheading the campaign for city of culture status. Paisley’s strong threadmaking traditions were supported by one of the largest female workforces in Europe, and the Govan rent strike hero, Mary Barbour, was originally from nearby Kilbarchan. Paisley has a heritage of strong women, and a noted rebellious side.
Today’s strong Paisley women include Jean Cameron, the director of the 2021 bid, who is leading the charge to change Paisley for the better; Amanda McMillan, one of only two female managing directors of European airports, who is helping to shape and boost our local economy; and strong political women who have represented the area, such as Trish Godman, Wendy Alexander and Mhairi Black.
A love of and pride in Paisley’s culture and heritage are woven into the fabric of the people of the town. I cannot think of any other town or city that is more deserving of the status of UK city of culture. I finish with the Benjamin Disraeli quotation that I started with:
“keep your eye on Paisley.”