Sunday 15 March 2020

Standing together for women's equality on International Women's Day

Aberdeen Trades Union Council hosted an excellent International Women’s Day event on Saturday 7th March.

Organised by Fiona Napier, Laura McDonald and Morag Lawrence, ATUC Exec members, the event began with a stall in St Nicholas Square. This attracted loads of interest from passers-by many of whom had their photos taken with placards committing to women's equality.

Dressed as suffragettes, the three organisers really looked the part. WASPI women also came along as they continued their campaign for transitional measures to protect women whose state pension age was moved from 60 to anything between 63 and 66.

Four women speakers then spoke about women’s achievements, the challenges ahead and how, standing side by side with each other, we can tackle these for the generations to come.

Kate Ramsden
UNISON's Kate Ramsden spoke about equality in the workplace, slamming the gender pay gap 50 years after the Equal Pay act. However she also spoke of women's achievements in the workplace, and the power of the collective, pointing to the successful equal pay strike in Glasgow and other action by women union members across Scotland and the UK.

Kate called on women to use International Women Day to energise us for the fight ahead – “a fight for equality not just for ourselves but for our daughters and also for our sons.

“To remind ourselves that when we stand together we can challenge discrimination of all sorts. And when we believe in ourselves we can win.”

WASPI women, Linda Carmichael then spoke about the ongoing fight for transitional protection for women whose pensions age was moved from 60, causing severe hardship to many who had planned their retirement based on their expectation of receiving their state pension at 60.

Barbara Gorgoni
Barbara Gorgoni, spoke of the challenges of getting more women to enter careers based on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), where women are still hugely unrepresented.

Citing the inspiration she felt as a teenager on reading the autobiography of Nobel prize-winning Italian neuroscientist Rita Levi Montalcini, Barbara spoke of the barriers preventing young girls considering STEM careers, and the importance of overcoming those.

"There is a duty on women already working in STEM to go out there and talk about their work but also about themselves, have lots of conversations about their career, life, family, etc. 

"Don’t just talk to girls about their looks, let’s ask them what they’re interested in, what do they like doing at school, let’s give them something interesting to talk about!"
Alison Evison
Aberdeenshire councillor and president of CoSLA, Alison Evison urged women to step forward to stand for elected office and to give active support to sisters who do.

She spoke of the importance of women as councillors, MSPs and MPs, bringing our experiences to the issues being dealt with across the political arena, especially those which mainly affect women.

"This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of international action on gender equality and the adoption of the Beijing Declaration at the United Nations. Let’s mark this anniversary by working together for gender equality in our political systems," urged Alison, calling for us all to consider standing in the next local elections in 2022.

" The door to political representation was unlocked by our suffragette forerunners. The door has been pushed ajar by female political leaders since then. Let’s now push that door wide open and bring about the gender equality we seek.”

Sean McVeigh
The event then moved to the ATUC office for food and talks by Sean McVeigh from Cfine on period poverty and their work to make sanitary products free and accessible in communities and schools, and Florence Igboayak, author of The Period Comic, aimed at promoting open discussion of periods with children.

Molly McLachlan performed one of her amazing poems about her mum and what she has taught her growing up. Then Fiona Jane Brown showed her brilliant short film “No Ladies Please” about the storming of the men only Grill Bar by women attending the 1973 STUC Congress in Aberdeen. And by storming of course I mean they went in for a drink and a sing song. Fairly riled up the regulars mind you!

Also on show was some of the amazing  arpilleras from the 'Sewing Resistance' Chilean craftivism exhibition, currently on at University of Aberdeen,  generously loaned to us by the university.  Many thanks to Patience Schell, Chair of Hispanic Studies and her students.

Linda Carmichael
Laura McDonald

Molly McLachlan
Morag Lawrence, Kate Ramsden
Alison Evison and Fiona Napier