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Girls & Women

Scotland Unveils Radical To-Do List to Become World Leader in Gender Equality


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Gender equality is not only in itself one of the UN’s Global Goals — it is also fundamental to achieving so many of the other 16 goals, too. While half the world is held back by systematic inequality, we’re all losing out. So it’s up to all of us to stand up and speak out, whenever and wherever we identify inequality. Join the movement by taking action here to empower women and girls around the world. 

Scotland is already doing some really excellent things in the mission towards making the world better — from tackling period poverty to ensuring quality infant health.

And it doesn’t look like that trend is going to stop any time soon, after Scotland kicked off 2019 by unveiling a series of proposals that would make the nation a world leader in gender equality. 

The National Advisory Council on Women and Girls has published its first annual report, including 11 recommendations covering everything from education, to child care, to the legal system. 

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The report, published on Friday, includes lots of great proposals under the subsections of leadership, accountability, creating conditions.

Among the recommendations made by the council are two “Daddy months” of use-it-or-lose-it paid paternity leave; 50 hours of free child care per week for all children between six months and five years old; and improving access to justice “for women and girls experiencing men’s violence.”

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The council was established by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in 2017, inspired by Barack Obama’s White House Council on Women and Girls. It’s made up of 16 members, and is led by independent chairwoman Louise Macdonald, who’s also CEO of the national youth charity Young Scot. 

“Gender equality is a must-have for Scotland — not a distant dream,” Macdonald writes in her foreword in the report. 

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“Our view as a council is that it will be achieved through systematic change — and that change needs to be a story of agency and hope,” she continues. “We absolutely believe that gender equality is possible — through our common endeavour.” 

She writes: “It is up to all of us to set the expectation that we can do this and create a movement that demands change for the greater good.” 

According to Macdonald, the barriers and issues that the council encountered in their research are “wide and deep” — and range from day-to-day misogyny, harassment, and violence, to the need to value women’s work, to the disproportionate impact of austerity. 

“But fundamentally — this is about power,” she adds. “Who has it. Who doesn’t. Who is willing — and who is unwilling — to share it and to give it up.” 

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The recommendations in the report also include: 

  • Creating a world-leading process for complainers of sexual violence.
  • Criminalising serious misogynistic harassment, and filling gaps in existing laws.
  • Creating a consistent and inclusive model to ensure that women experiencing domestic abuse have sufficient access to expert legal advice and legal aid. 
  • Bringing in quotas for local and national candidates for all political parties in time for the 2021 Holyrood elections (that would mean the devolution of specific powers from Westminster, according to the Guardian).
  • Creating a resourced media body in Scotland to hold the media to account and provide guidance on gender equality.

The report also calls for the creation of a What Works? Institute, which would test methods for how to change public attitudes to gender equality; how to bring equality into the education system; and to gather data on how the media impacts attitudes towards women and girls. 

The Commission on Gender Equality in Education and Learning would go in-depth on what improvements could be made for the education system — particularly from early years to secondary — to help alleviate gender inequalities. 

The idea would be to identify ways of changing cultures and school behaviour — including teacher-training — to create a safe and nurturing gender-neutral education and learning in all settings.” 

That would include finding ways to break down stereotypes that push women and girls into specific areas of study and occupations. 

The recommendations made in the report have emerged from collaboration with council members and experts, including senior women in Scotland. 

“We know from the growth of global movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp that there is a real appetite for radical change for equality for women and girls,” said Macdonald in a statement. “The first minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls vision is for Scotland to be recognised as a leading nation in the pursuit of gender equality.” 

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“While our work is primarily focused on Scotland, I believe our story will resonate with women and girls across the UK and beyond,” she added, highlighting that the council’s recommendations focus on “systematic change, because changing the system would lead to changing behaviour and that leads to changes in attitudes and culture.” 

But it’s important to highlight that the recommendations aren’t just for government — everyone can get involved, from the private sector and businesses, to individuals. 

“As well as the specific recommendations in this report, we are also calling on everyone in Scotland to act differently,” adds Macdonald in her foreword. “Because this is not just about what we do — but how we do it. Each of us taking personal responsibility and committing to no longer being a bystander whenever we encounter gender inequality.”

“As a council, we believe this is one of the most urgent fundamental issues of our time,” she continues. “And we also believe every one of us can make a difference. No one has the ‘right answer’ — but we will find solutions faster together.” 

The report also opens with the manifesto for the council, which is so worth a read: 

For generations, our history has been written by one gender. One perspective, one vision, one half of the population. Half of history is missing. For years, we’ve been striving for change. But now is the time to change for good. To design a future where gender inequality is a historical curiosity. With the voice of everyone we want to create a Scotland where we’re all equal — with an equal future. Together, we are generation equal.

Sturgeon will reportedly give her first response to the report on Wednesday, at a meeting of the council.