16 Days of Activism: How we are working to end violence against women and girls
As this year’s United Nation’s 16 Days of Activism campaign comes to a close, I want to say thank you to everyone who campaigned, showed solidarity and spoke out against violence against women and girls around the world.
Over the last 16 days, I had the privilege of attending events with White Ribbon Scotland, Zero Tolerance and Scottish Women’s Aid, all of whom are working hard to raise the profile of gender based violence and to provide invaluable support to those who are affected by this violence in our communities.
Anyone who knows me will know that this is an issue very close to my heart. It was an honour to open the annual violence against women and girls debate in the Scottish Parliament, titled ‘Hear Me Too’ to highlight the importance of us all standing together united against violence against women and girls.
This was also a moment to reflect on those who have lost their lives to domestic abuse and it was extremely important for me to pay tribute to Fiona and Germain Drouet, parents of Emily Drouet, who were watching in the public gallery. Emily, a promising and ambitious 18 year old girl, was found dead in her student accommodation having taken her own life. She had been experiencing domestic abuse by her boyfriend.
Fiona has campaigned tirelessly to tackle gender based violence on campuses and provide better support for students. Her on-going contribution in this area has been phenomenal. This tragic case reminds us that no institution is immune from the scourge of gender based violence and highlights the important role we all must play in standing up to this behaviour. We must send the clear and unequivocal message that this behaviour is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.
As a Government we are working hard to end this violence. One year on from the publication of our Equally Safe Delivery Plan, which outlines what we intend to achieve, we published an update report to highlight the progress we have made and I am pleased with what we have achieved so far.
Earlier this year, we passed the Domestic Abuse Act; a watershed moment in which the destructive impact of coercive and controlling behaviour is recognised by law. We have also provided £1.5 million in additional funding to Rape Crisis Centres and expanded the delivery of the Rape Crisis Sexual Violence Prevention Programme in schools, to increase understanding of consent and healthy relationships. This programme will now be available in every local authority in Scotland. These are just some of the achievements upon which we will build on over the next year.
During the 16 days of activism, the Scottish Government hosted an event with key partner organisations to discuss a Scottish approach to tackling online hate crime and misogyny. We hope to build on the discussions that were had and take forward actions to improve our approach in this area.
I had the opportunity to highlight the role the media has to play in shaping the wider societal attitudes towards violence against women and girls. We have all seen the deeply unfortunate and sometimes misogynistic coverage of women in our media, but we have also witnessed some truly excellent coverage of these issues. I was delighted to attend the Zero Tolerance ‘Write to End Violence Against Women’ Awards where I was able to highlight the crucial role the media can play in helping to shine a spotlight on violence against women and girls. It was a great night with many well-deserved winners. However, the challenge we face is to make best practice in this area the norm in the future. We will work more closely with Zero Tolerance to organise a more in-depth event, looking at the role the media can play in tackling violence against women and girls.
It was a busy 16 days but it was inspirational and rewarding to know that so many organisations are committed to tackling this head-on. There is no doubt that we still have work to do, but by continuing to work together, we can realise our ambition of preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls. We are working towards creating a Scotland where all our citizens are equally safe and this gender based violence is consigned to history.