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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
A Week for the Lassies

Iím probably quite well recognised for my strong feelings about women/gender in society Ė at work, at home, at leisure, in relationships, on company boards or as community workers say. Regular readers will have seen plenty of evidence that I get frustrated by stereotypical attitudes and sometimes downright misogynist ones.

Iím depressed and discouraged by media that promote the biggest chainsaws and the loudest cars between Ė or sometimes with - images of sexualised impossibly thin women.

But Iím also the more enthused and delighted when I see women speaking up and out for themselves. Weíre not one big autonomous group any more than men are. We arenít just interested in being mothers, having a good health system, the state of our schools and maternity leave.

We are interested in exactly the same range of subjects and sectors that men are and respond just as strongly to the policy decisions we support or condemn. Women donít want to be perceived in some kind of special, separate, virtual reality. We want to be recognised and respected as equal members of society, no more and no less.

I put a question to the First Minister at FMQs last week (24 April) asking what the government is doing to help close the gender equality gap. You can see the session here:

University of the West of Scotland

So having the opportunity to introduce probably our best known Scottish woman of all, Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister, to a lecture room full of interested but undecided voters was fantastic.

The venue was the campus of the University of the West of Scotland in Hamilton, in my constituency. Donít imagine for a moment that it was all students. Far from it; I didnít spot more than perhaps ten. The demographic was far wider than that. There were some children along with their parents and plenty of pensioners plus every age and ilk between. Plenty of women, Iím glad to say, and I wanted to encourage them to ask questions.

About a third of the 200+ people there described themselves as Ďundecidedí on the vote early on. By the end, on a card poll, the balance had shifted to 75% in favour of independence.

The questions covered everything from nursery schools to pensions, health to engineering, the military to passports, and Nicola answered 31 of them during that two hours.

National Union of Students Womenís Conference

What an exciting, engaged, no holds barred bunch of women at this event. On Saturday last, I was hugely impressed by the 80 or so women students from colleges and universities across Scotland who attended.

Stacey Devine, who is NUS Scotland Womenís Officer, says: ďOur Conference is committed to providing women a respectful, safe space in which women can plan campaigns, celebrate feminism and have their voice heard. Womenís Conference is the only space in the year where women arenít silenced.Ē

Stacey Devine, NUS Scotland Womenís Officer

Let me sound a word of warning here that returns to my earlier comments: there were a bunch of individuals who tried to hijack the Conference hash-tag by posting disrespectful, hateful, racist, homophobic, misogynist, even inciting race and sexual violence comments on Twitter. This isnít just vile behaviour. Itís intimidating, threatening and abusive.

But while all of that certainly emphasised the critical importance of challenging this kind of behaviour in the public domain, it also highlights just what a power base women in Scotland have.

The Conference was filled with women who are committed to building a better, fairer, more compassionate society. They were animated by a real spirit of purpose and drive. Theyíre some of the folk that are going to make an independent Scotland a fantastic place to be.

Good news for local old folk

I was thrilled to bits to hear that Stonehouse Old Folks Welfare Committee has been given a £6,750 grant.

The grant, paid under the Big Lottery Fund Awards for All scheme, will allow the committee to hold a series of eight social events during the afternoon or evening. Older folk will be invited to live music and song, dancing, talks, films and bingo plus an outing to the seaside.

This kind of award means that a smaller, community based group gets the chance to a share of the cake. That makes an enormous difference to peopleís quality of life and it means that local projects get an injection of cash that allows them to have events they couldnít otherwise afford.

I put forward a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating the Committee on the award which lots of MSPs supported. I think everyone loves to see elderly folk enjoying the opportunity to have some special entertainment.

And the young folk too

I thought I might be in for an easy ride when I met us with a group of primary school children at the Scottish Parliament. Iíd invited the kids from Chatelherault along to see the building, have a tour around it and find out a bit more about just what goes on in here.

Well, I thought, theyíre only young. Theyíll ask me straightforward questions about how many hours I work and what I do at lunchtimes.

How wrong I was!

If these 10 to 11 year olds are typical of Scotlandís children, then weíve an even better future than Iíd anticipated because they are interested, engaged, lively, questioning and irrepressible.

They asked about everything from what would happen to visiting granny in Manchester to whoíd represent Scotland across the world.

Thanks to all those children. It was a great experience and I think they enjoyed it too.

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