Women may have won the vote but they still struggle to be heard. It’s been frustrating to watch mainly men, representing political parties, slog out the questions in a generally polarised, aggressive way. Not always – but it has certainly been the main prism through which the hugely important question of our country’s future has been directed through.
This may, in part, explain the striking gap in support for independence between men and women. At this stage, polls show that 49% of men say they will vote no but a 62% of women say they will vote no. It’s pretty evident that building women’s support for independence is fundamental to the outcome of the referendum.
Women for Independence (WFI) doesn’t want to embark on this discussion in the manner of a boxing match. It seems obvious that if women are not entirely persuaded to support independence – we need to know why. So, the most important and very first thing WFI will do is listen. And create a space where all women’s voices can and will be heard – no matter their views. Yes, we want a yes vote. But we want more. We want to mobilise women in pursuit of their own independence as well as that of the nation .
We’re a diverse, broad and inclusive bunch of women – growing as I write (230 at last count). We’re a big, messy group! We have big, messy meetings and discussions. We’re vibrant, grassroots and a real movement. Something I’ve been hungry for.
We’re all volunteers. No-one is paid and we all contribute. We have set ourselves ambitious goals. And – we’re autonomous. We support the broader Yes campaign but the fact that we’ve found each other demonstrates that there’s a gap and we can fill it.
Women For Independence is as broad as it sounds. We want to include all women who support independence and reach out to those who are not sure and those who at this stage remain unconvinced. We want to talk about what kind of Scotland we want to live in without dictating to women what that should look like. So, we’re full of women of different political hues and none. Some may want a republic, some may want a low tax economy. We won’t be developing a ‘programme’. I’ve never enjoyed myself so much!
We need to change the tone of the debate on independence and political discussion in general. People shouldn’t be feart of expressing contrary opinions in case the media cry “split” or “crisis”; or your contemporaries cry “sell out”. That approach subverts genuine and illuminating democratic discussion. We want to challenge that. Yes, we have hugely varying views on a whole lot of things (some of which we don’t know yet!) – BUT is it not time for everyone in political debate to say, “So what”?
If you only talk to folk that agree with you, how do you develop your own opinions, how do you change anything? We believe that independence, and just the very possibility of it, opens up infinite potential for new ideas and new confidence. We want to seize this time in Scotland’s history for women to take control, on an equal basis, of the big decisions and our future.
Better for women
We are agreed that independence needs to be better for women. How that looks will be a significant and interesting discussion our group will have. We’ll discuss the concerns and aspirations of the women we listen to. We want to find out what “better” means to them. And we will strive tirelessly to make sure their voices are heard. For too long , women have had to struggle in communities, workplaces, trade unions, political parties, the media – everywhere – to even earn the right to speak. Well, we’re just going to do it – and no-one will stop us.
What we will do
Any woman who wants to get involved can. Our website is now live: www.womenforindependence.org . And we’re on Twitter @WomenForIndy. There’s also a Facebook Community Page http://www.facebook.com/women4independence?ref=notif¬if_t=page_new_likes
Things are in an exciting flux – it’s a great time to join. What we do can and should be influenced by the women who get involved and the women we listen to. We envisage a network of women conducting our ‘Listening Exercise’ across the country. Once, we have listened, and maybe learned quite a lot, we will try to persuade women to support independence.
We’re having a launch event on 30th. September in Stirling – that promises to be different too!