In June 2018, FCE made an announcement that we were awarded £5000 by the Scottish Government to develop a local project to tackle the under-representation of disabled, minority ethnic or transgender women as voters, political activists and representatives in Fife.  We named this project as ‘Fife Women and Inclusion in Politics’.

At the time, we asked for help from women who have community development experiences.  Three workers from Fife Council Community Learning and Development volunteered and they are Dominique Robertson, Jo Ross and Kate Stewart.   Along with Nina Munday, our Manager, these four women became the core working group.  Putting aside their political differences, this working group agreed on one goal – enabling marginalised women to make a difference.

The first thing we did, was to hold a project launch at the Adam Smith Theatre (Kirkcaldy) on 21 August.  At the launch, Nina explained the background of the project.  We also had women talking or singing their personal stories.  This launch set the style for all future events i.e. fun, informative, informal and supportive.  Another feature that women asked us to continue for future events was to have fruits and cakes, a healthy balance.

The next event was championed by Dominique who explained the history of women achieving equal voting rights in Scotland, the UK, Ireland, France and Poland.  The presentation took place at The Centre, Leven on 09 October.  Here is a copy of the presentation Overview suffragettes 9 Oct 18.

On 13 November, the women came back together in Torryburn Community Centre, to learn about the roles women play in politics.  Jane Baxter spoke about her personal journey.

 Jo then led the discussion on the following questions, after an enlightening political quiz:

(i) What does it mean to be a woman?
(ii) What does it mean to be a Politician?
(iii) Where does politics happen?

The most anticipated session ‘Dismantle barriers for disabled / minority ethnic / trans women in politics and society’ took place on 04 December in Cupar County Building.  To mark the passing of one of our supporters Marie Macrae, Dominique led a beautiful tribute.

Kate then had the delightful job of introducing our three speakers: Chantal, Lesley-Ann and Michelle.

Speakers panorama

Individually, the speakers shared the barriers they experienced.  A summary of key points are as follows:

• Feeling inferior
• Identity crisis – stigma carries on through life
• Mental health
• Mistrust of system
• Being treated as a problem
• Being stereotyped
• Difficulty in maintaining relationships
• Dependence on benefits
• “Whisper in the Village”
• Decline of physical health
• Suppressing needs
• The need to be oneself – not a choice
• Lack of understanding of medical professionals
• Able to gain employment but sustaining employment can be difficult
• Constant mis-gendering – intentionally and unintentionally
• Isolation at workplace

The speakers also suggested some solutions on how these barriers could be tackled:

• Self-learning
• Volunteering
• Actively integrating oneself
• Having an ambition e.g. dreaming of being a musician
• Look for allies
• Genuinely promote equality in the workplace

Afterwards, the women concentrated on the planning of the final event ‘ALL Women Connected’ to take place on 16 March 2019, ensuring that this event will address the issues raised by the speakers.

Chantal also kindly gave us a preview of her performance for the final event.  You could learn a few moves by watching this video.

Before the final event on 16 March we managed to squeeze in two visits to watch some important debates: the Scottish Parliament on 07 February and Full Council Meeting at the Fife House on 21 February 2018.

Our final event of the programme was “All Women Connected” – celebrating the success of the project, highlighting the themes and points that were consistent throughout the sessions. It also looked to the future of the group and what direction it will take.

Keep posted for the next chapter in the Fife Women and Inclusion in Politics story.