Lee Chalmers: Scotland's Women Stand comes to Parliament

I’m excited to be sharing this next step in the Scotland’s Women Stand movement. Our event at the Scottish Parliament will be an inclusive and dynamic day, devoted entirely to inspiring and energising women’s participation in politics and democracy. 

The programme for the day will see women from all of Scotland’s political bodies speaking with passion about their experiences of both the challenges and rewards of elected office. 

There will be workshops to energise and support the political ambitions of our women participants, whether to stand for elected office or get more politically involved in other ways. But most of all, the day’s events will be about the 400 women gathered together: how we can energise and inspire one another. There will be opportunities to connect with not only organisations in attendance, but also from women of all ages and backgrounds.

We know that the experience of coming together in this way creates a special kind of energy – one that sparks change. 

We know this because we’ve done it before and seen the real, positive impact it has had. The Parliament Project, my organisation, has taken this approach across the UK, holding events and running support circles. Many women who attended have credited these events with sparking their motivation to get involved in politics, and even run for elected office. Some of these women stood for election, some are now in elected posts across the country, and some are on a path to stand in the near future. 

This approach was taken at our event in June 2018, 100 for the 100th, and two fantastic participants that day took inspiration from that event to pursue political paths to election. One of these women, Mary O’Neill, cited the atmosphere at the event as a driving force behind getting involved in her party’s branch and getting elected to a key branch post. Here’s what Mary has said of her experience of the event: 

“I quickly began to have some feelings of togetherness. I believed that I was in the right place, where I could freely participate in sharing my opinions or thoughts. It was very inspiring to be with individuals with similar mindset and I felt so privileged to be part of the large group of women from such different walks of life. The June event played the key role in bringing me to the main stream from the marginalised. It encouraged me to believe that I could be among those women who will take office by 2022. For the first time I was acknowledged and affirmed that no matter your background is, you can still participate in politics.”

Mary O’Neill was elected as her Branch Equality Officer and is now committed to many political activities in her party’s local branch. 

We do not doubt that bringing 400 women together in Scotland’s iconic Parliament building, at an event infused with the intention to create change, will be a powerful and significant experience for everyone in attendance. 

When women come together with a shared purpose, things happen. 

Our goal of having gender equality in political representation is within reach, and we can get there by pooling our collective energy and talent to make it a reality. 

If you are a woman in Scotland reading these words, I really hope that you will join us on the 7th of September. Come contribute to the positive energy of women coming together and bringing their hope, passion and commitment to making the world a better place. I invite you to be a part of this change. It can’t happen without you.